Nigeria is grappling with an alarming increase in human trafficking cases, particularly involving residents of Lagos, according to Prof. Fatima Waziri-Azi, Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). The warning comes as NAPTIP officially handed over the Countering Human Trafficking Office in Lagos State to the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the agency. The office, situated at the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Agency (LNSA) headquarters in Oshodi, is a crucial initiative funded by the United States government and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, implemented in collaboration with NAPTIP and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Prof. Waziri-Azi highlighted a concerning trend, noting a significant rise in cases of Lagos State indigenes being trafficked out of Nigeria. Five years ago, such cases were nearly absent from NAPTIP’s database. However, in 2023 alone, their shelter in Lagos rescued a staggering 498 victims of human trafficking, including both Nigerians and non-Nigerians. Of particular concern were the 34 Lagos indigenes rescued from external trafficking, underscoring the urgent need for intervention. The Director-General stressed the importance of strengthening partnerships, especially with Lagos, as it has been a historical hub for both internal and external trafficking.
DG NAPTIP commends LNSA and LSTF for their collaboration.
She called for increased collaboration with the UNODC to combat human trafficking more effectively in Nigeria. Emphasizing the gravity of the situation, Prof. Waziri-Azi urged proactive measures, stating, “If we must tackle the scourge of human trafficking in Nigeria, we need to strengthen our partnership with Lagos.” Acknowledging the critical role of awareness and education, she advocated for channeling resources into prevention efforts, highlighting that early intervention, attitude changes, and awareness serve as deterrents for perpetrators.
The Director-General also commended the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Agency (LNSA) and the Lagos State Task Force on Human Trafficking for their collaborative efforts over the years, resulting in the interception, rescue, and arrest of human trafficking perpetrators. Lawal Pedro, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, emphasized the collaborative effort as a significant milestone in the government’s fight against human trafficking. Pedro, who chairs the Lagos State Task Force on Human Trafficking, outlined the initiative’s aim to create an environment that enhances rescue, referral, and reporting between NAPTIP, the state task force, and LNSA.
UNODC country rep says they support the task forces.
Stressing the importance of addressing human trafficking at the grassroots level, he defined human trafficking as the recruitment, transport, harboring, or receipt of people through force, fraud, or deception for exploitation. Danilo Campisi, Deputy Country Representative for UNODC, highlighted their support for various State Task Forces on human trafficking, including capacity building and the provision of office equipment. He emphasized the significance of the newly established office in coordinating responses between NAPTIP, the State Task Force, and LNSA for the identification, prevention, and reporting of human trafficking cases in Lagos State.
Dr. Ifalade Oyekan, General Manager of LNSA, expressed gratitude to donors and partners for making the office’s establishment possible. He noted that the partnership with NAPTIP, initiated two years ago, aimed to strengthen the agency’s operations in combating human trafficking. With the commissioning of the new office, he anticipates strengthened operations and collaborative efforts to minimize human trafficking. U.S. Consul General in Nigeria, Mr. Will Stevens, emphasized the critical role of the newly established office in strengthening Nigeria’s response to human trafficking.
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Recognizing the importance of consolidating efforts and expertise, he reiterated the commitment to collaboration, information sharing, and continuous improvement in anti-human trafficking efforts. As Nigeria grapples with the escalating challenge of human trafficking, the collaborative efforts of government agencies, international organizations, and the local community are crucial in addressing and curbing this heinous crime. The establishment of the Countering Human Trafficking Office in Lagos State marks a significant step forward, signaling a united front against this pervasive issue.
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