The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has appealed to judges and prosecutors on diligent prosecution of traffickers and Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cases.
The Director-General of the agency, Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi, made the plea on Thursday in Abuja at the opening session of a two-day Judge’s and Prosecutors Conference on Human Trafficking.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference was organised by the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) with support of NAPTIP.
NAN also reports that FIIAPP is a Spanish foundation providing in Nigeria the Action Against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (A-TIPSOM) project, funded by the European Union.
Waziri-Azi said that diligent prosecution became necessary for the agency to secure more convictions, adding that trafficking was on the high side in the country.
According to her, the objective of the conference is to create a platform where the agency can interact with judges and prosecutors on issue of human trafficking.
The director-general added that the issue of human trafficking had changed overtime, from lower operations to a bigger one, saying there was need for the law enforcement agencies to revolve around the changes.
She said “so, this is a platform which we started and we intend to sustain it to interact with judges and prosecutors across the country on how to effectively investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking.
“We are all aware that there is certainly an upsurge of the cases of human trafficking, off course with the emergence of COVID-19, we have seen a lot of internal trafficking issues.
“One of the strategies of NAPTIP which we give priority to is enhance investigation and prosecution of high profile corruption cases and we cannot achieve this without working with the justices (judges).
“It is our hope that at the end of the conference, better dispensation of justice will be seen, but it may not be something that will happen immediately, it is something that will happen progressively.”
According to the D-G, since inception of NAPTIP, the agency has recorded a total number of 513 convictions, of which, 16 were achieved in 2022.
Waziri-Azi added that this did not really match the target with the enormity of trafficking cases in Nigeria, but expressed optimism that the conference would open up more conversations toward achieving more.
She called on states to emulate the FCT which recently designated special judges to handle SGBV cases.
Earlier, Mr Rafael-Rios Molina, A-TIPSOM Team Leader in Nigeria, disclosed that the essence of the conference was to involve prosecutors and judges basically in the target of fighting traffickers and smuggling of migrants.
He said that with A-TIPSOM determination on the fight against the menace, it was an opportunity to involve every stakeholder that would assist in winning the fight.
Molina added that the target was also to get more convictions, stressing that A-TIPSOM would continue to support government.
Justice Salisu Abdullahi, the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute (NJI), commended the synergy between NAPTIP and the institute.
He said that the synergy had recorded significant progress and would continue to move in that direction as the conference would open up the knowledge base of the judicial officers.
Abdullahi said the conference could not have come at a better time than now, given the critical role the judiciary had been playing in resolving emerging challenges faced in resolving trafficking in persons.
He said that the theme of the conference “Appreciating the Current Trends of Human Trafficking Offences in Nigeria: Focus on the judiciary” was deliberate, as it sought to further enlighten judges on the trend of trafficking and challenges.
He further said that a firm grasp of the issues would in turn enhance the performance of the courts and timely adjudication of trafficking in person’s matters that was on the rise. (NAN)