Corrupt judicial and immigration officials in Nigeria are helping human traffickers in the country to act with impunity. This is the conclusion of the United States government in its latest report titled ‘2023 Trafficking in Persons Report: Nigeria’.
“The government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so…Corruption remained a significant concern in the judiciary and immigration services, and it contributed to impunity for traffickers…,” the latest U.S. trafficking report stated.
The U.S. government noted that corruption and complicity continued to contribute to impunity for trafficking offences in Nigeria despite the government’s efforts to improve law enforcement.
The report, which the U.S. Department of State released on Thursday, stated that while the Nigerian government demonstrated overall increased efforts to combat trafficking compared to the previous reporting period, it failed to fully meet the minimum standards for trafficking elimination in the country.
The report also stated that corruption remained a major issue in the judicial and immigration agencies, contributing to traffickers’ impunity and accused the Nigerian government of failing to investigate or prosecute any members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) for prior forced recruitment or use of child soldiers; potential sex trafficking in government-run IDP camps continued.
“Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action and perpetuating impunity for trafficking crimes,” stated the report. “The government reported investigating two officials for involvement in trafficking crimes – a member of the National Immigration Service and a member of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.”
It added, “The government reported one investigation of sexual exploitation by a government official initiated during the previous reporting period was settled out of court, and two other investigations initiated in the previous reporting period against members of the CJTF for alleged sex trafficking of IDPs are awaiting trial.”
The U.S. government also mentioned that the lack of proper training of some local judges, compared to the federal and state judges, contributed to the corruption and misapplication of relevant trafficking laws.
It said the local judges did not have the prerequisite knowledge of anti-trafficking law, which hindered the government’s ability to hold traffickers accountable.
“Local judges did not have the same standardised training requirements as federal and state judges, which contributed to corruption and misapplication of the law. Some judges were unfamiliar with the anti-trafficking law, which hindered the government’s ability to hold traffickers accountable,” the report explained, stressing that “despite numerous previous allegations, the government did not report investigating any CJTF members for child soldiering recruitment or use.”
In highlighting the country’s achievements, the report stated that the Nigerian government initiated investigations into 1,242 cases, including 511 sex trafficking cases, 282 labour trafficking cases, and 449 cases of unspecified forms of trafficking; initiated prosecutions of 78 suspects, including 67 suspects for sex trafficking and 11 suspects for labour trafficking, and continued prosecuting 35 suspects for unspecified forms of trafficking “from previous reporting periods.”
The U.S. Department of State further revealed that Nigeria convicted 97 individuals, 50 for sex trafficking, six for labour trafficking, and 41 for unspecified forms of trafficking.
“This compared with convicting 13 individuals in the previous reporting period. Of those convicted, 94 were convicted under the 2015 TIPLEAA and three were convicted under violence against persons laws,” it noted.
The report made recommendations to the Nigerian government to strengthen its resolve and system to tackle trafficking and corruption, urging it to hold complicit officials as well as individuals affiliated with the government – including security officials and CJTF members – criminally accountable for trafficking offences, including for the sex trafficking of IDPs and past forced recruitment or use of child soldiers.
The report also recommended strengthening “efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as children in religious schools, IDPs, returning migrants, and children in domestic service,” including facilitating “training for local, state, and federal judges on human trafficking and the 2015 anti-trafficking law, specifically the provision prohibiting the issuance of fines in lieu of imprisonment in collaboration with international partners.”