The National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) says it has rescued, sheltered and rehabilitated at least 17,727 victims of human trafficking since its inception 19 years ago.
According to the agency, of the 17,727 victims, 13,026 are females, 4,727 are males with 8,935 being children and 8, 818 adults.
The Director General of NAPTIP, Fatima Waziri-Azi, who made the disclosure at the 37th Session of the State House briefing organized by the Presidential Communication Team held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, called on the Federal Government to increase and regularize funding for the agency.
According to Waziri-Azi, of the 8,005 arrests in the past years, the agency has only secured 511 convictions, as she blamed the low conviction rate on the refusal of victims to cooperate during investigations.
She further disclosed that there are 261 ongoing cases in various courts nationwide.
She said: “The agency has so far rescued, sheltered and rehabilitated over 17,727 victims of human trafficking. 4,272 are males while 13,026 are females. Children also form the bulk of that number amounting to 8,935.
“NAPTIP has also rescued 15,992 and 1,805 non-Nigerians in the past years. They hail from China, Lebanon, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Central African Republic, Ghana, Benin Republic, Guinea, Conakry, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chad, Ivory Coast and Mali.
“The 394 victims who have gone through our shelters between January 2022 to date received medical support, psycho-social support and legal assistance.
“NAPTIP has also sponsored 16 VoTs to universities across the country. Three of such graduates are now officers of NAPTIP.”
On why the agency has only secured a little over 500 convictions despite arresting over 8,000 human traffickers, Waziri-Azi explained that most of the victims were uncooperative with the agency because their families were being threatened and in some circumstances their traffickers are close relatives.
“One of the challenges we have is victims not wanting to cooperate with us, because the traffickers are most times, family members.
“You hear stories of sisters trafficking sisters, brothers trafficking brothers, uncles trafficking nieces and nephews; even husbands trafficking their wives and children.
“International law stipulates that you don’t force victims to cooperate with the system. What you do is encourage them, and for us in NAPTIP, when we come, we debrief them, ‘Okay, tell me the name of your trafficker.’ And they say ‘Oh, I don’t remember.’
“The simple fact is that these people are being threatened. Most of them are threatened personally. Some of them, their families have been threatened.
“And like I said in my presentations, sometimes your trafficker might not force you to take oaths in Nigeria, because they don’t want you to suspect anything. But when you get to the destination country, they make you swear oaths there.
“So they have their own foreign shrine, where they will make you swear oaths. And for those that don’t operate in the oath realm, they now video you nude and keep threatening you that, ‘if you report, we will expose you,’’ Waziri-Azi said.
The NAPTIP boss noted that the best the agency could do is sensitize the public and encourage trafficked victims to report to its operatives and bases closest to them.