BEING A TEXT OF SPEECH DELIVERED BY AJIBOLA ABAYOMI, THE PRESIDENT, JOURNALISTS INTERNATIONAL FORUM FOR MIGRATION (JIFORM) ON THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN NIGERIA TO MARK THE 100 DAYS IN OFFICE OF DR FATIMA WAZIRI-AZI, THE DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE NATIONAL AGENCY FOR PROHIBITION OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS (NAPTIP) ON DECEMBER 22, 2021.

Ajibola Abayomi

Protocol,

I am highly honored to be invited to speak on the ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN NIGERIA as part of this important event marking the 100 days in office of Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi, the Director General of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), who is an astute Associate Professor of Law, a mother, and a true believer in the fight against human trafficking both in and beyond Nigeria, 

This meeting is another opportunity for us appraise to migration matters particularly the fight against Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) given the commendable efforts of the NAPTIP aimed combating human trafficking in the country. It therefore pleases us as media practitioners to note that despite the challenges facing the agency, it has indeed made bold attempts to deliver on all areas of its mandates.

I am not just saying this to flatter the DG and her team, truly, it has been 100 days of consolidation on war against TIP and SOM with determination and renewed zeal.

On behalf of the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM), with over 350 journalists across the continents, out of which we have over 160 Nigerian journalists on the platform we have nurtured since 2018 as the rallying point for Journalists focusing on migration reportage in Nigeria and across the globe with special focus on TIP and SOM matters, I congratulate the DG and her entire team for sustaining the flying colours of the NAPTIP founded in 2003 till date.

Distinguished guests, the JIFORM over the years has become a global force apart from facilitating local training for the media and stakeholders in Nigeria, we have taken the lead to draw the attention of African media by initiating the maiden African migration summit with first edition held in Ghana between February 25-26 year as well as the maiden West African Media Migration summit in Lome between June 21-23, 2021. Since 2019, we have been organising the global summit on migration and the third edition is slated for Toronto, Canada between February 25-March 6, 2022. All these serve as platforms for training and upgrading of stakeholders’ knowledge on migration and TIP issues. 

I must thank the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Nigeria and in other nations for consistent support to the JIFORM as well as the Lagos State government for the encouragement. Mr Celestin Frantz, the IOM Chief of Mission, Nigeria, the 20 years of your agency in this country is more than multiple blessings to humanity and we shall carry on the message of media best practises across the world. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria and Ministry of Labour and Employment, NAPTIP, the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, and others we appreciate the mural support as well.  2022 as being exemplified in the body language ofthe NAPTIP DG is a year of capacity building and purposeful partnership and we are ready for the challenge.

JIFORM is impressed about the efforts of the NAPTIP that led to the review of the Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPLEAA), as amended in 2015 such that removed the option of fine and criminalized sex and labor trafficking with prescription of more than two years imprisonment for offenders.

In the last three months, we have monitored with excitement a well-focused Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi who has shown leadership both within and outside the agency with accelerated capacity building for the NAPTIP staff, improved collaboration with the media and other agencies. These steps have further elaborately boosted the pedigree and the image of the establishment.

The DG, very impressive is your stance and support for Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) through various activities you have initiated and the encouragement for victims of trafficking and sexually abused persons to speak up. We commend the various engagements of the NAPTIP under your leadership leading to the signing of Anti-Human Trafficking pacts Nigeria had signed with Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to further frustrate and make the West African corridor too hot for human traffickers.

You have also affected the media community for good by facilitating a training workshop for the Nigerian journalists and the media corps of the NAPTIP on TIP and SON in Keffi, Nasarawa State earlier this month, with this singular act, you have broken the six years jinx in your agency on capacity building for the media. We need more of that to strengthen the knowledge base on TIP.

This is a testimony that you are interested in the career progression of journalists in Nigeria. I won’t be mistaken therefore to safely conclude at this juncture that you are a prayer answered DG for the NAPTIP. However, it is not yet Uhuru, lots need to be done to curtail human trafficking.

The tasks ahead are enormous because human trafficking has assumed a dangerous dimension. All hands must be on deck to stop the menace at all costs. For every trafficked victim in Nigeria, a potential president, governor, professor of law, journalist, medical doctor, and others with great futures ahead of them are being delayed and destroyed. That we must not allow it to continue.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to add bite to the fight against human trafficking, the role of the media is very crucial as the watch dog of the society and the member of the fourth estate of realm. The intervention of the media through purposeful advocacy is not only limited to the traditional duties; to inform, entertain, educate, interpret, persuade, and expose all sides of every issue to set agenda and to propel development of all facets of life without fear, bias, or favour however training and retraining of the journalists at intervals is one of the needed tools to strengthen partnership with the NAPTIP for better result.    

We must bring all these to speed to sustain the fight against human trafficking classified by the United Nations as the second largest crime network against humanity valued at $150 billion and the third rated criminal act in Nigeria according to the 2021 Trafficking Report of the US Department of State that placed the country on the Tier 2 Watch List.

Human trafficking exploits our people for profit, violates their human rights. Traffickers are linked to criminal networks organizing forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, slavery, removal of organs or harvesting of human parts, all these are inimical to our progress as a nation. Hence the need for the media to up the ante on public enlightenment to prevent the act, expose those behind the crime and call for various support for the victims through rehabilitation and reintegration. They are brothers and sisters, and they deserve another chance to live a better life.

We cannot and must not live in self-denial. This is a call to duty for the Nigerian journalists and other stakeholders to salvage our country.  The media must closely work with the NAPTIP to ensure that the ranking of Nigeria put at 32 out of 167 on human trafficking nations list is further reduced more so that we are said to have one of the highest numbers of citizens being used as slaves totaling 1,386,000 around the world as stated in the US State Department report as well.

As journalists we must share the burden confirmed by the NAPTIP that the highest number of trafficked children in Nigeria are girls between the ages of 12-17. This submission further calls for more proactive actions against the TIP and SOM by the media to save our younger ones. 75% of those who are being trafficked are trafficked across states, while 23% are trafficked within states in the country. We need not to be told that human trafficking is a serious crime that must be handled with all seriousness by all of us.

With the reports on the suffering of most young Nigerian trafficked women in the Arabian nations like Saudi Arabi, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon and others as exposed at the heat of covid-19 pandemic in 2019 where over 1000 Nigerian were repatriated by the Federal Government from Saudi Arabia alone is indeed an eye opener that apart from the irregular routes traffickers in conjunction with some quacks and job recruiting agencies have perfected network of deceits luring our people to human trafficking through the regular migration channels as well. JIFORM has reported several heart breaking stories in the media as didactic for many of our people and we are willing to do more.

Given the above narrative, the media must be provoked to evoke the pains of the survivors by highlighting the challenges the trafficked victims face in the hands of their abusers to elicit reactions and get justice in return. Similarly, the media have a duty to sustain quality reportage with human face and should always keep it at the front burner, by doing the followings not just as journalists but as advocates against human trafficking.

•       By being sensitive to telling the TIP and SON stories with care devoid of damage, sensationalism, exaggeration, incite hatred, hate speech, perpetuate stereotypes, and stick to the right terminologies.

•      Give cover to the victims and protect their identities that could expose them to their abusers.

•      The media have a duty to always sensitize the public especially the young ones using the social media tools to disabuse their minds against the antics of the traffickers through the internet and must use the right images for illustration. The pictures of the trafficked victims must not be displayed in the open for personal and safety reasons. There must be cover against stigmatisation especially for the women and children.  

•      The media must be cautious of advertisements providing information for services/jobs that can sometimes result in exploitation of trafficked people abroad. There must be deliberate policy to investigate information as contained in the adverts of such nature. 

•      The intervention of the media also includes sharing of discreet information with the NAPTIP, the police and other security agencies to prevent incident of human trafficking and the arrest of the offenders.

MEDIA INTERVENTION AND DUTY TO GOVERNMENT

The media as the voice and the hope of the society have a duty to set agenda to influence government policies to turn around the pull and push factors fueling human trafficking and irregular migration. 

Like the late American President, Abram Lincoln said “he that has something to say will never be afraid of debate.” As media practitioners, we must be ready to debate issues to add value to people’s lives and change perception of governance.

Government must be told the home truth on the need to make the environment conducive for the youths to access affordable education, health facilities, jobs, and there must be social security to reassure the citizens that the nation cares for its people. Such efforts will help to curtail the antics of the traffickers exploring the pull factors to lure the unsuspecting victims. The government of the day must know that volatile political environment, continued hike in tariffs, high cost of living, insecurity and joblessness are the direct drivers of migration giving rooms for human trafficking to thrive through the push factors. We must not allow the criminals to capitalise on the ignorance and poverty in the land to kill the joy of our people.

WAY FORWARD FOR WAR AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING

For the war against human trafficking to be more meaningful in Nigeria with the NAPTIP as the lead agency, the media must champion the following advocacies.

1.      The Federal Government must increase allocation to the NAPTIP such that it can be able to fully fund its logistics, recruit more hands to enable visibility in the 774 local governments areas in the country beyond the present zonal and state office arrangement of the agency.

2.      Because of the sensitive nature of human trafficking, NAPTIP should be arm bearing and uniformed agency as continued reliance on the Police, and the Department of State Services (DSS) for its security and operations not good enough. The other security agencies have overlapping responsibilities limiting the numbers of men that can be attached to the NAPTIP for effective operation.

3.      It is obvious that a role should be carved out for the NAPTIP at both exit and the entry routes across the Nigerian border posts in conjunction with the Nigeria Immigration Service, to make the agency more involved in border mobility through which many Nigerians are being trafficked.

  1. Government should reevaluate the NAPTIP closed shelter policy and ensure authorities take a victim-centered approach by building more care centers and rehabilitation units for the victims. 

5.       Efforts should be made to track the illicit funds being the proceeds of human trafficking flowing from overseas and from Nigeria to other nations too to further crimple human traffickers and such money should be plough back into the rehabilitation of victims of the crime.

6.      There should be more collaboration between the NAPTIP and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to adequately monitor the activities of job recruiting agencies in Nigeria to forestall labour trafficking and exploitation both within and outside the country at intervals.

7.       For the Justice administration to be more effective in Nigeria there is need for facilitation of training for judges on the anti-human trafficking laws specifically with provision for garnishee orders allowing global confiscation of assets and funds belonging to the convicted human traffickers of Nigerians anywhere in the world in collaboration with international partners and countries. 

8.      At the Internally Displaced Persons camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, the Federal Government should support NAPTIP to carry out thorough and independent investigations against the security personnel and the officials of Committee on Joint Task Force (CJTF) members and make the culprits accountable for alleged trafficking offenses, including sex trafficking at the IDPs and unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers in northeast. 

9.   Increase the capacity of Nigerian embassies to identify and provide aid and assistance to victims abroad, including by providing replacement travel or identity documents free of charge. 

10.  Strengthen international law enforcement cooperation to prevent and investigate child sex tourism.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we must all be bordered at the spate of human trafficking in Nigeria, this assignment and battle are not for NAPTIP alone, all of us must be involved for the sake of our future being troubled by the criminals.

JIFORM will always be willing at short notice to mobilize the media machinery needed to strengthen the campaign in this direction. It is glaring that for us to win the war against human traffickers, Nigeria needs to make NAPTIP a stronger institution and we equally need strong leadership like Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi to steer the ship to a safe destination.

I thank you all for your attention.

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