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Trafficking in Human Beings and Smuggling of Migrants: Key Challenges and Ways Forward

The CLEEN Foundation with support from the United Nations Women (UNWomen) and the Italian Government has launched a novel project titled: “Preventing forced migration and trafficking of women and girls in Nigeria: Build resilience, promote sustainable development”. The project specifically aims at enabling a gender-sensitive policy environment that addresses forced migration and trafficking and increasing gender-sensitive information and awareness-raising in source migration trafficking sites. The project also broadly seeks to support and strengthen the gender-responsiveness of interventions by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and other relevant government agencies.  

CLEEN Foundation, under the above-mentioned project, will be responsible for implementing key activities in Edo and Lagos States that contributes to the following major outcomes: 

• An enabling gender-sensitive policy environment that addresses forced migration and trafficking is in place, whose design and implementation is influenced by women and girl’s rights organizations in source migration trafficking sites. 

• Increased gender-sensitive information and awareness-raising in source migration-trafficking sites contribute to the prevention of women’s irregular migration and trafficking.

To this end, the Foundation has embarked on active collaborative engagement with various government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies including NAPTIP and law enforcement institutions such as the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Immigration Service; civil society and community representatives in both project states. The intervention will involve the conduct of gender audit of protection services within existing shelters and safe homes and other services by front-line service providers. This will form the basis for the development of specialized tools and training to enhance gender-responsive service delivery for security, health, and justice sector agencies and training for community-based women’s organizations to enhance their advocacy and communication capacities in the two project states. 

During the inception meeting which took place online on Wednesday 25th June 2020, the CLEEN Foundation commended the activities of government agencies charged with the mandates towards the prevention of forced migration and trafficking of women and girls in Nigeria, prosecution of enablers and traffickers and enforcement of extant relevant laws. The organization also appreciated the collective measures taken by international development organizations and national agencies in the fight against endemic issues of forced migration and human trafficking in Nigeria. Different stakeholders welcomed the project and committed to supporting the CLEEN Foundation and UNWomen to achieve the objectives of the project. 

The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria, which has become the subject of global discourse also comes with implications for human trafficking and forced migration as Nigeria continues to contribute the largest share of persons trafficked and or forcefully immigrated. The country remains a source, transit, and destination point on human trafficking. The latest Global Slavery Index (2018) Report ranks Nigeria as 32/167 of the countries with the highest number of slaves – 1,386,000. Accordingly, we call on all critical stakeholders working to curb the rate of forced migration and human trafficking, to remember the plight of women and girls subjected to trafficking, as they remain a substantial number of victims of human trafficking and forced migration. 

While we commend the government for several interventions undertaken to address these concerns so far, we urge the Federal and state governments to show greater commitment in formulating more gender-sensitive policies and establishing gender-sensitive protection services for trafficked women and girls. CLEEN will continue to work collaboratively with key stakeholders in ensuring that the project outcomes are achieved.

In light of concerns raised, we make the following recommendations:


1. The Federal and State Governments should:

a) Domesticate the VAPP Act, 2015, and the Child Right’s Act 2003 for greater protection of women and girls in Nigeria.     

b) Improve coordination among law enforcement actors, including NAPTIP, the Nigerian Immigration Service, Police, and others.

c) Embark on vigorous investigation and prosecution, and convict traffickers and impose stringent sentences to serve as a deterrent.

d) Support NAPTIP to achieve its mandate particularly in providing adequate victim care and expanding protection shelters.


3. Law Enforcement Agencies:

a) Should be professional, gender-sensitive, and proactive in enforcing the relevant protective laws.

b) Should work with endemic communities to engender communal trust, awareness creation, and partnership aimed at preventing further trafficking of women and girls and forced migration.

c) Oversight bodies of the law enforcement agencies should monitor the conduct of security personnel and commit to applying accountability measures in the event of any rights violations of trafficked women and girls by state security actors.

d) Equip Gender Desk offices across the state commands and strengthen Anti-trafficking units.

e) Increased female representation across law enforcement institutions.


4. The Media

a) It should ensure adequate, accurate, and balanced reporting of the efforts of the government and citizens in the fight against human trafficking and forced migration of women and girls in Nigeria.

b) Be professional in their conduct and comply with their codes of conduct for transparent media coverage and avoid fake news, misinformation, and disinformation 


5. Nigerian citizens:

a) They are encouraged to observe and report perpetrators and enablers of human trafficking and forced migration of women and girls in their communities.

b) Avoid spreading fake news, disinformation, or misinformation on human trafficking.

c) Shun the social and cultural norms that promote forced migration and human trafficking of persons especially women and girls.

The CLEEN Foundation (formerly known as Centre for Law Enforcement Education in Nigeria) was established in 1998 as a leading non-governmental organization (NGO) to promote public safety, security, justice, research, and advocacy in Nigeria. CLEEN Foundation has Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights based in Banjul, The Gambia, and was awarded the 2019 Human Rights Award by the National Human Rights Commission. CLEEN is currently the CSO representative on the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee at the national level. We are grateful to the UNWomen and the Italian Government for supporting this project. 

May God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Benson Olugbuo, Ph.D

Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation

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