Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Nigerian trafficking victims are recruited from rural and, to a lesser extent, urban areas within the country; women and girls for domestic servitude and sex trafficking, and boys for forced labor in street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarrying, agriculture, and begging. Young boys who attend Koranic schools, commonly known as Almajiri children, are often moved between Kano, Kaduna, and Sokoto and subjected to forced begging. Nigerian traffickers rely on threats of voodoo curses to control Nigerian victims and force them into situations of prostitution or labor. Nigerian women and children are taken from Nigeria to other West and Central African countries, as well as to South Africa, where they are exploited for the same purposes. Children from West African countries—primarily Benin, Ghana, and Togo—are forced to work in Nigeria, and many are subjected to hazardous labor in Nigeria’s granite mines. Nigerian women and girls—primarily from Benin City in Edo State—are subjected to forced prostitution in Italy, while Nigerian women and girls from other states are subjected to forced prostitution in Spain, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Russia. Nigerian women and children are also recruited and transported to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, where they are held captive in the sex trade or in forced labor. Nigerian gangs subject large numbers of Nigerian women to forced prostitution in the Czech Republic and Italy, and the European Police Organization (EUROPOL) has identified Nigerian organized crime related to trafficking in persons as one of the largest law enforcement challenges to European governments. Nigerian women are trafficked to Malaysia, where they are forced into prostitution and to work as drug mules for their traffickers. West African women travel through Nigeria to destinations in Europe and the Middle East, where they are subsequently subjected to forced prostitution. In 2013, international observers reported that the terrorist organization, Boko Haram, had recruited and used child soldiers as young as 12-years-old, as well as abducted women and girls in the northern region of Nigeria, some of whom it later subjected to domestic servitude, forced labor, and sex slavery through forced marriages to its militants. Observers also reported that children were used at checkpoints in Borno state by a citizen vigilante group.
The Government of Nigeria does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government demonstrated an increase in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts by increasing the number of trafficking investigations, prosecutions and convictions and by providing extensive specialized anti-trafficking training to officials from various government ministries and agencies. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) increased protection efforts by developing a formal referral mechanism for victim protection, increasing the capacity of its shelters, and identifying and providing services to a larger number of victims. Despite these efforts, the government has yet to pass draft legislation that would restrict the ability of judges to offer fines in lieu of prison time during sentencing and, with the exception of receiving training from NAPTIP, the Ministry of Labor did not make any new efforts to address labor trafficking during the reporting period. Additionally, despite the growing number of Nigerian trafficking victims identified abroad, the government has yet to implement formal procedures for the return and reintegration of Nigerian victims.
Recommendations for Nigeria:
Pass and implement the draft anti-trafficking bill, which would amend the anti-trafficking law to give prosecutors more authority and restrict the ability of judges to offer fines in lieu of prison time during sentencing; continue to vigorously pursue trafficking investigations, prosecutions of trafficking offenses, and adequate sentences for convicted traffickers, including imprisonment whenever appropriate; take proactive measures to investigate and prosecute government officials suspected of trafficking-related corruption and complicity in trafficking offenses; ensure that the activities of NAPTIP receive sufficient funding, particularly for prosecuting trafficking offenders and providing adequate care for victims; continue to provide regular training to police and immigration officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and young females traveling with non-family members; fully integrate anti-trafficking responsibilities into the work of the Nigerian Police Force and the Ministry of Labor; develop a formal system to track the number of victims repatriated from abroad, and upon repatriation ensure they are aware of available protective services; and ensure NAPTIP effectively interacts with and receives support from other government agencies that have a stake in addressing human trafficking.
The Government of Nigeria maintained strong anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2003 Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act, amended in 2005 to increase the penalties for trafficking offenders, prohibits all forms of human trafficking. The law prescribes penalties of five years’ imprisonment or a fine not to exceed the equivalent of approximately $645 or both for labor trafficking offenses; these penalties are not sufficiently stringent, because the law allows convicted offenders to pay a fine in lieu of prison time for labor trafficking or attempted trafficking offenses. The law prescribes penalties of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses or a fine of the equivalent of approximately $1,250, or both. For sentences that include only a fine, penalties are not sufficiently stringent. In March 2014, the Senate passed a bill that would amend the anti-trafficking law to give prosecutors more authority and restrict the ability of judges to offer fines in lieu of prison time during sentencing; the bill was awaiting approval by the House and the President at the end of the reporting period.
The government reported that NAPTIP initiated 314 trafficking investigations, completed 43 prosecutions, and achieved 42 convictions during the reporting period. Another 170 prosecutions remained pending at the end of the reporting period. All prosecutions occurred under the 2003 Trafficking Act, and prison sentences upon conviction ranged from four months’ to 10 years’ imprisonments. Of the 42 convictions, 28 resulted in prison sentences without the option of paying a fine. The Nigerian Police Force reportedly prosecuted 25 suspected traffickers and secured 6 convictions; however, complete data regarding these cases was unavailable. The government also collaborated with law enforcement agencies from Cote d’Ivoire, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom on investigations involving Nigerian nationals during the reporting period. The government investigated and initiated a prosecution against a senior government official who allegedly committed a labor trafficking offense against two child victims; the case remained pending at the close of the reporting period. The government also convicted another government official for committing a labor trafficking offense against a 12 year-old girl trafficking victim from the Republic of Benin. The government did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses; however, corruption at all levels of the government remained a pervasive problem.
The government conducted extensive training sessions throughout the reporting period. NAPTIP, in collaboration with the Ministry of Women Affairs and international organizations, provided specialized training to approximately 420 government employees, including judges, prosecutors, and officials from NAPTIP, the Nigerian Police Force, the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, the National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. These programs offered specialized training on social media, witness protection, identification and investigation of trafficking cases, criminal intelligence, gender-based violence, trial and prosecution of trafficking cases, migration policy, and counseling of victims.
The Government of Nigeria increased efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year. The government and NGOs identified 777 trafficking victims within the country, including 187 victims of sex trafficking, and 539 victims of labor trafficking. Another 51 individuals were identified as victims of trafficking-related crimes. This is a significant increase from the 480 victims identified in the previous reporting period. All victims identified by NAPTIP received initial screening and assistance by NAPTIP, after which 265 were referred to government-run care facilities for further medical care, vocational training, education, and shelter. The government has formal written procedures to guide law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel in proactive identification of victims of trafficking among high-risk populations. Police, immigration, and social services personnel received specialized training on how to identify victims of trafficking and direct them to NAPTIP. In July 2013, NAPTIP developed a National Referral Mechanism for Protection and Assistance to Trafficked Persons in Nigeria, which provides formal guidelines for law enforcement, immigration officials, and service providers to improve protection and assistance to trafficking victims.
In 2013, the Government of Nigeria allocated the equivalent of approximately $11.2 million to NAPTIP, a slight decrease from the 2012 budget of $11.9 million. NAPTIP spent roughly one-fourth of its operational budget, or the equivalent of approximately $453,000, on victim protection and assistance during the reporting period. State governments also contributed the equivalent of approximately $149,000 to support NAPTIP’s efforts during the reporting period, and an additional $2.4 million to support state anti-trafficking efforts. NAPTIP operated nine shelters specifically for trafficking victims with a total capacity of 313 victims, an increase in capacity from the previous reporting period. Through these shelters, NAPTIP provided access to legal, medical, and psychological services, as well as vocational training, trade and financial empowerment, and business management skills. Victims who required additional medical and psychological treatment were provided services by hospitals and clinics through existing agreements with NAPTIP. All shelter staff received basic training in victim care, and NAPTIP funded additional specialized training for 30 counselors. NAPTIP shelters offered short-term care, generally limiting victims’ stays to six weeks, though victims were allowed to extend their stays under special circumstances. If victims needed longer-term care, NAPTIP collaborated with NGO-run shelters, which provided such care. Victims in NAPTIP shelters were not allowed to leave unless accompanied by a chaperone. NAPTIP paid a monthly stipend of the equivalent of approximately $2,500 to a local NGO-run shelter and provided limited funding, in-kind donations, and services to NGOs and other organizations that afforded protective services to trafficking victims. On occasion, state and local governments also provided in-kind assistance through training and technical support to NGOs.
Despite the growing number of Nigerian trafficking victims identified abroad, the government has yet to implement formal procedures for the return and reintegration of Nigerian victims; consequently, many victims are not afforded adequate care upon their return to Nigeria. This is of particular concern, as some European countries deny Nigerian victims’ attempts to seek asylum or to access European victim programs on the basis of the perceived availability of adequate victim services in Nigeria. Per provisions of the 2003 Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act, Nigerian authorities ensured that identified trafficking victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked. On occasion, authorities initially detained individuals involved in prostitution or other unlawful acts before they were identified as trafficking victims. Once identified, NAPTIP worked with security services to remove victims from custody and provide them care. Officials encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, and NAPTIP reported that 32 victims served as witnesses or gave evidence during trial in the reporting period. All victims were eligible to receive funds from the victims’ trust fund, which was financed primarily through confiscated assets of convicted traffickers. During the reporting period the equivalent of approximately $20,000 was disbursed among 47 victims for purposes ranging from vocational training to school tuition, although not necessarily in equal amounts. The government provided a limited legal alternative—short term-residency that could not be extended—to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.
The Government of Nigeria sustained efforts to prevent human trafficking through campaigns to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers of trafficking. NAPTIP’s Public Enlightenment Unit continued to conduct extensive national and local programming through radio and print media in all regions of the country to raise awareness about trafficking, including warning about fraudulent recruitment for jobs abroad. The objective of these and several related programs was to sensitize vulnerable people, sharpen public awareness of trends and schemes traffickers use to lure victims, warn parents, and encourage community members to participate in efforts to prevent trafficking. NAPTIP also carried out advocacy visits with community leaders, opinion leaders, traditional and religious leaders, and government officials at both the local and national levels.
During the reporting period, the Government of Nigeria increased coordination between NAPTIP and various relevant ministries through newly formalized victim referral mechanisms and training efforts. NAPTIP held its annual stakeholders’ workshop, which included representatives from key government agencies, NGOs, international organizations, and civil society, to set program priorities to implement the five year national action plan for 2012-2017. NAPTIP also trained more than 90 labor officers on identifying and investigating forced labor cases. However, the Ministry of Labor took no additional steps to address labor trafficking or to decrease the demand for forced labor. The government did not make any discernible efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts. NAPTIP officials assisted other African governments and the Netherlands with their anti-trafficking efforts through training courses, joint intelligence sharing, and mutual legal assistance. It also hosted a regional consultation on the right to an effective remedy for trafficking victims, in collaboration with an international organization. The government, with foreign donor support, provided anti-trafficking training to Nigerian troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government also provided mandatory human rights and anti-trafficking training to all diplomats prior to departing to their foreign postings.