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Activists Push Nigeria to Prosecute Human Traffickers

Two participants hold banner during ability awareness march, July 29, 2021. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)

Nigeria is marking this year's World Day Against Human Trafficking with a march in the capital to raise awareness of the issue. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says Nigeria is a major source, transit, and destination country in Africa for human trafficking but has a poor conviction rate for those arrested.

Some 200 participants, including officials, partners, nonprofit organizations and victims of human trafficking took part in the Abuja awareness march Thursday.
It was part of the week's activities ahead of the World Day Against Human Trafficking, July 30.

Human trafficking victim Yetunde Abraham was among those marching.

"I'm happy because I'm back in my country," said Abraham. "It has been a difficult time the life I get … when I traveled down to Libya, I got to know that this world is not the way that it seems. People were being raped, killed, a lot that I cannot tell."

Like thousands of victims trafficked each year, Abraham was tricked by a close relative with a juicy offer in Germany.

Nigerian Human Trafficking Victims Rebuild Their Lives After Returning Home
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She succumbed to the bait and was trafficked to Libya for prostitution in order to make money for her traffickers. She was there for six years.

The United Nations says Nigeria remains a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking in Africa. To address this problem, Nigerian authorities set up a National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, in 2003.

NAPTIP has rescued over 17,000 victims and convicted some 550 offenders, a very low percentage compared to incidents of the crime.

NAPTIP's public enlightenment officer, Josiah Emerole, explains why conviction is not so easy.

"The issue of poor prosecution is not just a Nigerian thing, like I told you earlier, trafficking is a clandestine crime, and you must prove that such a crime has been committed," said Emerole. "You must present the victim who has been trafficked and the victim has to be ready to face the judge to say yes this happened to me."

Josiah Emerole (Middle) Public Enlightenment officer at NAPTIP walking with other participants during the Abuja awareness march, July 29, 2021. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)
Josiah Emerole (Middle) Public Enlightenment officer at NAPTIP walking with other participants during the Abuja awareness march, July 29, 2021. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)

Emmanuel Gabriel, who founded Symbols of Hope, a nonprofit helping trafficked victims like Abraham rebuild their lives, says authorities must improve their record of prosecution.

"I think it's a very, very poor number," said Gabriel. "It's high time we wake up and stop deceiving ourselves, let's face the reality. Today if you don't give justice to victims of human trafficking tomorrow, it will be your own son or daughter.”

There are at least 1.4 million victims of human trafficking living under coercion, exploitation and humiliation in Nigeria, according to the International Organization for Migration. Authorities say those who are speaking up, such as Yetunde Abraham, are instrumental in developing and implementing measures against perpetrators.