Scripta Varia

Nigeria - Agatha Okeke

Ending the Scourge of Human Trafficking and Allied Crimes in Nigeria


Human trafficking in Nigeria has remained a major security and human rights challenge. The country is a major source, transit, and destination for women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.[1] Conscripted mostly from rural areas or poor families, Nigerian trafficking victims comprise largely of women and girls used for domestic servitude and enforced prostitution, and male minors subjected to forced labour, street vending, and such other slavish occupations.

Women and children are trafficked from Nigeria to other Western, Central and Northern African countries, as well as to South Africa, where they are subjected to various forms of human exploitation. Other destinations for Nigerian women and girls who are victims of trafficking include different parts of Europe, Middle East, and Central Asia, where they are held captive in the commercial sex industry or forced labour.

Creation of NAPTIP[2]

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) was created on 14 July 2003 by the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2003 as response to and checkmate the ugly scourge of trafficking in persons in Nigeria. It is a fulfilment of the country’s international obligation under the Trafficking in Persons Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Convention (UNTOC).

Nigeria became a signatory to the Transnational Organized Crime Convention and its Trafficking in Persons Protocol on 13 December 2000. Article 5 of the Trafficking Protocol enjoins States Parties to criminalize practices and conduct that subject human beings to all forms of exploitation, which includes in the minimum sexual and labour exploitation.

The Trafficking in Persons Act 2003 was an outcome of a private member bill sponsored at the National Assembly by the Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF), a non-governmental organization founded by Mrs. Amina Titi Atiku Abubakar, the wife of the Vice-President of Nigeria at that time.

The Bill was passed by the National Assembly on 7 July 2003, and Presidential Assent given on 14 July 2003. The law, which is operational throughout the country, created NAPTIP as a specific multi-disciplinary crime-fighting Agency and the nation’s focal institution to fight the scourge of trafficking in persons in the country using the four pronged approach of Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership.

The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 went through an amendment in 2005 in a bid to further strengthen the Agency. However, in 2015, as a result of the new trends in the crime of trafficking in persons and the need to further strengthen the institutional framework, the Act was repealed and the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 was enacted. The new Act received Presidential assent on 26 March 2015.

Functions of the Agency Under the Act[3]

The functions of the Agency are to:

1. Enforce and administer the provisions of this Act.

2. Co-ordinate and enforce all other laws on Trafficking in persons and related offences.

3. Adopt effective measures for the prevention and eradication of trafficking in persons and related offences.

4. Establish co-ordinated preventive, regulatory and investigatory machinery geared towards the eradication of trafficking in persons.

5. Investigate all cases of trafficking in persons including forced labour, child labour, forced prostitution, exploitative labour and other forms of exploitation, slavery and slavery-like activities, bonded labour, removal of organs, illegal smuggling of migrants, sale and purchase of persons.

6. Encourage and facilitate the availability and participation of persons who voluntarily consent to assist in investigations or proceedings relating to trafficking in persons and related offences.

7. Enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement agents and other partners in the suppression of trafficking in persons.

8. Create public enlightenment and awareness through seminars, workshops, publications, radio and television programs and other means aimed at educating the public on the dangers of trafficking in persons.

9. Establish and maintain communications to facilitate rapid exchange of information concerning offences under this Act.

10. Conduct research and strengthen effective legal means of international co-operation in suppressing trafficking in persons.

11. Implement all bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions on trafficking in persons adopted by Nigeria.

12. Strengthen co-operation and conduct joint operations with relevant law enforcement and security agencies, international authorities and other relevant partners in the eradication of trafficking in persons.

13. Co-ordinate, supervise and control.

14. Protect, assist and rehabilitate trafficked persons.

15. All functions and activities relating to investigation and prosecution of all offences connected with or relating to trafficking in persons.

16. Adopt measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds, property, funds or other assets derived from trafficking in persons or related offences.

17. Conduct research on factors responsible for internal and external trafficking in persons and initiate programs and strategies aimed at the prevention and elimination of the problem.

18. Facilitate rapid exchange of scientific and technical information concerning or relating to trafficking in persons.

19. Collaborate with government bodies both within and outside Nigeria whose functions are similar to those of the Agency in the areas of:

i. Movement of proceeds or properties derived from trafficking in persons and other related offences.

ii. Identities, location and activities of persons suspected of being involved in trafficking in persons and other related offences.

iii. Exchange of personnel and other experts.

20. Establish and maintain a system for monitoring trans-border activities relating to trafficking in persons in order to identify suspicious movements and persons involved.

21. Deal with matters connected with the extradition and deportation of persons involved in trafficking in persons and other mutual legal assistance between Nigeria and any other country in trafficking in persons, subject to the supervision of the Minister.

22. Initiate, develop and improve special training programmes for personnel of the Agency and relevant law enforcement agents charged with the responsibility of detecting offences created under this Act.

23. Carry out such other activities as are necessary for the efficient discharge of the functions conferred on it under this Act.

Powers of the Agency Under the Act[4]

The Agency has the power to:

i. Investigate whether any person, body or entity has committed an offence under this Act or the offence of trafficking under any other law.

ii. Enter into any premises, property or conveyance for the purpose of conducting searches in furtherance of its functions under this Act or under any other law.

iii. Arrest, detain and prosecute offenders under this Act or any other law on trafficking in persons in Nigeria.

iv. Trace, seize, detain or retain the custody, for the purpose of investigation and prosecution, of any property which the Agency reasonably believes to have been involved in or used in the commission of offences under this Act or any other law.

v. Seal up premises upon reasonable suspicion of such premises being involved with or used in connection with offences under this Act.

vi. Seek and receive information from any person, authority, corporation or company without hindrance in respect of the enforcement of any of the provisions of this Act.

Crimes Under the Act:[5] The Act prohibits and criminalizes the following:

Ø Acts of Trafficking in Persons

Ø Importation and Exportation of Persons

Ø Procurement of Persons for Sexual Exploitation

Ø Abuse, Procurement or Recruitment of Persons under 18 years for Prostitution or other forms of Sexual Exploitation

Ø Procurement or Recruitment of Persons under the age of 18 years for Pornography or Brothel

Ø Foreign travel which promotes Prostitution or Sexual Exploitation

Ø Procurement or Recruitment of Persons for use in Armed Conflicts

Ø Procurement or Recruitment of Persons for Organ Harvesting

Ø Buying or Selling of Human beings for any purpose

Ø Forced Labour

Ø Employment of Children as domestic workers and inflicting grievous harm

Ø Trafficking in Slaves

Ø Slave dealing.

Enforcement of the Act[6]

Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015, criminalizes all manner of trafficking and prescribes a minimum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a minimum fine of one million naira for sex and labour trafficking offenses. Where the offence of sex trafficking involves a child, the minimum penalty increases to seven years’ imprisonment. The punishments imposed by the Act for trafficking offences are no doubt stringent enough, however ineffective enforcement continue to hamper full realization of the objectives of the Act. Paucity of resources and jurisdictional bottlenecks also continue impede the full enforcement of the law.

According to NAPTIP in 2017 the Agency has recorded 654 investigations, 24 prosecutions, and 23 convictions for trafficking offenses. Most of the convictions recorded where predicated on prosecutions under the new 2015 Act. Prison sentences upon conviction ranged from 18 months’ to 14 years’ imprisonment; of the 23 convictions, 22 resulted in imprisonment without the option of paying a fine.

NAPTIP, in collaboration with international partners, provided specialized training to approximately 243 government employees, including judges, prosecutors, NAPTIP officials, and other law enforcement on victim identification; investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases; counseling; and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.

Protection of Persons Against Trafficking[7]

Efforts by the Nigerian Government to protect citizens from falling victims of human trafficking yielded positive results with identification of about 1,128 potential trafficking victims in the current year. NAPTIP provided initial screening for all victims and referred all identified victims to government facilities for medical care, vocational training, education, and shelter. It also referred 302 victims to NGOs for additional care.

NAPTIP maintains nine shelters for trafficking victims, with capacity for over 300 persons. NAPTIP provides legal, medical, and psychological services for inmates of the shelters; as well as vocational training, financial empowerment, and business management skills. Trafficking victims repatriated from foreign countries also take advantage of these for rehabilitation.


Through robust awareness raising campaigns, NAPTIP has endeavoured to educate the public about the dangers of human trafficking and the modus operandi of human traffickers. NAPTIP has also organized stakeholders’ meetings in states and communities with high incidence of human trafficking. To reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, several states continued to outlaw soliciting commercial sex, and judges convicted four individuals for knowingly soliciting or patronizing a sex trafficking victim.


Human trafficking is a profound socio-legal challenge, which thrives mainly in poverty afflicted societies. A critical strategy for curbing the menace of trafficking in persons, is by giving new economic hope to the hopeless victims or potential victims who invariably believe that they have no alternative for survival than to succumb to the pressure and compulsion of enforced prostitution and labour.

The legal regime in Nigeria against trafficking in persons is quite comprehensive. However, the law can only attain limited effectiveness, except government decisively deals with the nagging problem of corruption that has aggravated human suffering in the country, and thrown many, especially the most vulnerable of society – women and children – into a situation of desperate hopelessness, thus becoming very easy preys for human trafficking syndicates.

In any event, in the short term, NAPTIP must be encouraged and sufficiently resourced to effectively discharge its onerous function under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.




[1] US Department of State – 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report.
[3] Section 5 Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
[4] Section 6 Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
[5] Chapter IV Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
[6] US Department of State – 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report.
[7] US Department of State – 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report.
[8] Ibid.




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