Nigeria

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 2 Watch List

NIGERIA: Tier 2 Watch list

The Government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by investigating, prosecuting, and convicting traffickers; conducting anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials; and repatriating some Nigerian trafficking victims identified abroad. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. During the reporting period, credible observers reported for the first time that some elements of the Nigerian security forces (NSF) used children as young as 12 years old in support roles, and NSF continued to detain and arrest children for alleged association with Boko Haram, some of whom may have been forcibly recruited. The Nigerian military also conducted on the ground coordination with the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF), non-governmental self-defense militias that continued to recruit and use children—possibly unwillingly and mostly in support roles—and at least one of which received state government funding. Government officials—including military, police, and federal and state officials—were involved in widespread sexual exploitation of Borno State women and girls displaced by Boko Haram, at times forcing women and girls in IDP camps to provide commercial sex acts in exchange for food. Furthermore, despite identifying a large number of labor trafficking victims, the government only convicted two labor traffickers and it decreased funding for the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP), including its budget for victim services. Therefore, Nigeria was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NIGERIA

Cease NSF elements’ use of children; cease provision of financial and in-kind support to armed groups that recruit and use children; vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers—including complicit officials, labor traffickers, and those who recruit and use child soldiers—and impose sufficiently stringent sentences; cease detaining former confirmed or suspected child soldiers, and ensure such children are not penalized for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; implement programs for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former child combatants that take into account the specific needs of child ex-combatants, and work with NSF and CJTF to implement these plans; increase funding for NAPTIP, particularly to provide adequate victim care; continue efforts to provide regular training to police and immigration officials to identify trafficking victims and screen for trafficking among vulnerable populations; provide pre-departure information for migrants on how to find assistance if exploited abroad; expand ongoing police and immigration training to include identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and young females traveling with non-family members; increase efforts to identify trafficking victims among IDPs, investigate cases, and implement preventive measures; increase efforts to investigate allegations of child forced begging in Quranic schools; continue to integrate anti-trafficking responsibilities into the work of other law enforcement agencies, especially the Nigerian police force; fully integrate anti-trafficking responsibilities in the work of the Ministry of Labor; and increase the capacity of Nigerian embassies to identify and provide assistance to victims abroad, including by implementing a mechanism that allows embassies to reissue passports to trafficking victims who lack identity documents.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, but there were increased reports of government complicity in human trafficking. The Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act, as amended in 2015, criminalizes all forms of trafficking and prescribes a minimum penalty of five years imprisonment and a minimum fine of one million naira ($3,290) for sex and labor trafficking offenses; the minimum penalty for sex trafficking increases to seven years imprisonment if the case involves a child. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Enforcement of the law remained ineffective in many parts of the country, and while officials made efforts to address trafficking cases, insufficient resources and jurisdictional problems between state and federal governments hampered efforts.

NAPTIP reported 654 investigations, 24 prosecutions, and 23 convictions for trafficking offenses, compared with 507 investigations, 32 prosecutions, and 24 convictions the previous reporting period. It was unclear how many investigations were pending and how many had been dismissed at the end of the reporting period. Most convictions took place under the 2015 amended anti-trafficking law, although some judges also convicted traffickers under the 2003 anti-trafficking law and its amendments and other laws for employing a child with force, fraud, or coercion; transporting or attempting to transport women and girls abroad for exploitation; and knowingly soliciting or patronizing a sex trafficking victim. 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. Despite a 2015 amendment that removed judges’ ability to sentence traffickers to pay fines in lieu of prison time, Nigerian courts penalized one trafficker with the option of a fine or imprisonment. Furthermore, despite the identification of 599 forced labor and child labor victims, the government only convicted two labor traffickers. The government only convicted one trafficker for child forced begging, despite the prevalence of the practice. The government conducted joint investigations or cooperated with authorities from eight countries on 19 cases involving Nigerian nationals during the reporting period, compared with cooperating with foreign governments on 43 cases in the previous reporting period.

Corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces and there were reports of official complicity in trafficking offenses. The government took few steps to investigate or prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. In April 2016, an international organization reported that more than half of the areas surveyed to assess the treatment of IDPs in Maiduguri—including IDP camps, settlements, and host communities—reported instances in which camp authorities, including government officials and security forces, forced or coerced women to exchange sex acts for food or freedom to move in and out of IDP camps. A second NGO also reported sexual exploitation of IDPs by camp officials. In response to these allegations, the president instructed the inspector general to create a special panel to investigate cases of sexual exploitation reported by the second NGO, which resulted in the arrest of seven government officials and two CJTF members for alleged sexual misconduct towards IDPs, including sex trafficking. The investigations were ongoing at the end of the reporting period.

During the reporting period, NSF elements used children as young as 12 years old rescued or arrested during military operations in support roles such as cooks, porters, cleaners, messengers between barracks and between camps, and guards. Reports also indicate NSF interrogated children in detention for later use as collaborators to identify Boko Haram members among newly arrested persons. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions for child soldiering offenses, including of government officials complicit in such offenses. NAPTIP investigated two officials allegedly complicit in trafficking offenses. In one case, an official attempted to take a domestic servant with him to the United States but NAPTIP did not find indicators of trafficking; the second investigation was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. A Nigerian official reported some immigration officials knowingly facilitated the issuance of falsified passports to enable traffickers to make minors appear 18 years of age for foreign travel; the government did not report investigating these claims. The government did not report if it continued the prosecution from the previous reporting period of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official who allegedly facilitated a trafficking crime abroad.

The government conducted extensive training throughout the reporting period. 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. NAPTIP developed and distributed a manual to law enforcement agencies on identifying trafficking victims and referring cases to NAPTIP and conducted train-the-trainer training on the procedures across agencies. In addition, it assisted 14 countries with their anti-trafficking efforts through training courses, joint intelligence sharing, and mutual legal assistance. The government dismissed the director general of NAPTIP in February 2016 and did not nominate a replacement until March 2017. While in the interim the agency had an acting director, the lack of permanent leadership hampered the agency’s effectiveness.

PROTECTION

The government maintained efforts to identify trafficking victims but decreased funding for victim protection. It identified 1,128 potential trafficking victims: 529 sex trafficking victims, 426 child labor victims—some of whom were forced, including 261 children in domestic servitude—and 173 adult forced labor victims, an increase from 943 victims identified in the previous reporting period. The Nigerian guards brigade intercepted a convoy of 69 children between 6 and 10 years old allegedly destined for forced begging in a Quranic school. Nationwide, NAPTIP officers were often concentrated in state capitals, inhibiting efforts to identify victims and investigate trafficking in rural areas. 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. The government had formal written procedures to guide law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel in proactive identification of trafficking victims among high-risk populations, and NAPTIP trained police, immigration, and social services personnel with specialized training on identifying trafficking victims and directing them to NAPTIP. Additionally, the government’s national referral mechanism provided formal guidelines for law enforcement, immigration officials, and service providers to improve protection and assistance to trafficking victims, both within Nigeria and abroad. In partnership with an international organization, NAPTIP developed and disseminated guidelines on implementing the national referral mechanism for caregivers and service providers.

The government allocated approximately 1.69 billion naira ($5.56 million) to NAPTIP in 2016, which was a significant decrease from 2.5 billion naira ($8.22 million) allocated in 2015. As of December 2016, the national assembly had only reported disbursing 1.27 billion naira ($4.17 million) of the 2016 funding to NAPTIP, and NAPTIP required approximately 1.3 billion naira ($4.27 million) for personnel costs alone. The national assembly allocated an additional 208 million naira ($683,760) to NAPTIP in 2016 specifically to assist trafficking victims and other vulnerable people in eight states; it was unclear how much of this funding was disbursed during the reporting period. Because this amount was significantly less than the 581 million naira ($1.91 million) allocated for victim protection in 2015 and the government identified more trafficking victims than the previous reporting period, it was unclear how NAPTIP maintained the same quality of victim services. Although NAPTIP is mandated to care only for victims of trafficking crimes under the 2015 anti-trafficking law, the government often referred victims of other crimes to NAPTIP, which reduced its capacity to care for trafficking victims. NAPTIP continued to operate nine shelters specifically for trafficking victims, with a total capacity of 313 people. Through these shelters, NAPTIP provided access to legal, medical, and psychological services, as well as vocational training, financial empowerment, and business management skills. These shelters were also available to Nigerian trafficking victims exploited abroad upon repatriation, but it was unclear if authorities referred any such victims to these shelters. NAPTIP had agreements with certain hospitals and clinics to provide additional medical and psychological treatment for victims, as needed. NAPTIP shelters offered short-term care, generally limiting victims’ stays to six weeks, although victims could extend their stays under special circumstances; both men and women received specialized care. If victims needed longer-term care, NAPTIP collaborated with two shelters operated by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and NGO-run shelters. Victims in NAPTIP shelters were not permitted to leave without a chaperone, reportedly for security. Additional shelters existed and provided services to vulnerable children and victims of crime, including trafficking, although it is unclear if any trafficking victims received those other services during the reporting period. Foreign victims had access to the same services as domestic victims. In contrast with previous years, NAPTIP did not report providing funding, in-kind donations, or services to NGOs and other organizations that afforded protective services to trafficking victims. Nigerian embassies in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Togo provided repatriation assistance to Nigerian trafficking victims identified in those countries. At least one Nigerian embassy, however, required trafficking victims to pay for passport reissuance fees—as many victims had received falsified passports from traffickers or had their passports stolen—and prove their citizenship with documentation victims often did not have, such as a birth certificate or old passport number, which caused delays in repatriation.

Although provisions of the anti-trafficking law prohibit the penalization of identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, the government arrested and detained children for alleged association with Boko Haram, some of whom may have been forcibly recruited. During the reporting period the military began cooperating with an international organization to release children in military detention, some of whom were child soldiers, and released 876 by October 2016. However, it continued to detain child trafficking victims removed from or allegedly associated with Boko Haram, including at least 78 ex-child combatants, who did not receive trafficking victim care. NSF detained, reportedly for prolonged screening, some women and girls following their release from forced marriages and sexual slavery by Boko Haram militants. NAPTIP authorities sometimes deemed adults in prostitution, who claimed to be working voluntarily, trafficking victims and detained them in shelter facilities against their will. Officials encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, and NAPTIP reported 43 victims served as witnesses or gave evidence during trial in the reporting period, 10 more than in the previous reporting period. While the government did not have long-term legal alternatives to prevent the removal of victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution, it guaranteed trafficking victims temporary residence visas during any criminal, civil, or other legal action. The victims’ trust fund, which was financed primarily through confiscated assets of convicted traffickers, was available to all victims. During the reporting period, the government allocated an additional 2.5 million naira ($8,220) to the fund and disbursed 5.6 million naira ($18,410) to an unknown number of trafficking victims for various purposes, including vocational training and school tuition, although not necessarily in equal amounts; this is comparable to 5.6 million naira ($18,410) disbursed among 25 victims the previous reporting period.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent human trafficking. NAPTIP continued to conduct awareness campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of human trafficking and how traffickers operate. It also conducted stakeholder and town hall meetings in areas with particularly high incidences of trafficking. The inter-ministerial committee on trafficking continued to meet, but in contrast with previous years did not take any significant anti-trafficking action. The government had a national action plan and a (2012-2017) strategic plan to implement the national action plan, and NAPTIP implemented some of the plan’s objectives during the reporting period; the government began drafting a new national action plan in 2017. The government did not provide sufficient protections for workers employed in the informal economy—including children working in agriculture, domestic work, and artisanal mining—rendering such workers vulnerable to trafficking. The Ministry of Labor and Productivity continued to implement the national policy and action plan on labor migration and manage the licensing requirement for all private labor recruitment agencies. NAPTIP conducted anti-trafficking awareness campaigns in areas where trafficking victims were known to originate to educate the public about the dangers of human trafficking. The government did not report providing pre-departure information to migrants on how to obtain assistance if exploited abroad, and authorities identified Nigerian trafficking victims in more than 29 countries during the reporting period. 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.

In response to reports that government officials sexually exploited female IDPs, including in IDP camps, the government deployed 100 female police officers to the Borno State IDP camps during the reporting period. NAPTIP officials reportedly screened for trafficking in IDP camps in Borno State; it was unclear in how many camps NAPTIP screened and how regularly, however, and the agency did not report identifying any trafficking victims in IDP camps during the reporting period. The Borno State government made public announcements of the prohibition against the recruitment and use of child soldiers but continued to provide financial and in-kind resources to one of the CJTF self-defense militias, which according to credible observers continued to use and recruit children. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel and, with foreign donor support, to Nigerian troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Nigerian trafficking victims are recruited from rural areas—especially the country’s southern regions—and, to a lesser extent, urban areas. Women and girls are victims of domestic servitude and sex trafficking and boys are victims of forced and bonded labor in street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarrying, agriculture, textile manufacturing, and begging. Many of the more than 9.5 million young boys studying in Quranic schools, commonly known as Almajiri, are subjected to forced begging. Traffickers operate “baby factories”—often disguised as orphanages, maternity homes, or religious centers—where women are held against their will, raped, and forced to carry and deliver a child. The children are then sold, sometimes with the intent to exploit them in forced labor and sex trafficking. Nigerian traffickers take women and children to other West and Central African countries—including Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cabo Verde—as well as to South Africa, where they are exploited in forced labor and sex trafficking. Nigerian women and children are recruited and transported to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, and held captive in the commercial sex industry or forced labor, including forced begging in Morocco. West African children are subjected to forced labor in Nigeria, including in granite and gold mines. Women from West African countries transit Nigeria en route to Europe and the Middle East, where they are subjected to forced prostitution. Nigeria’s ports and waterways around Calabar are transit points for West African children subjected to forced labor in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.

Authorities identified Nigerian trafficking victims—often exploited by Nigerian traffickers—in more than 29 countries during the reporting period. Officials report an increase in Nigerian women and girls subjected to sex trafficking within Nigeria and throughout Europe, including in Italy, Austria, and Russia; an international organization estimated 80 percent of all female Nigerian migrants in Italy are or will become sex trafficking victims. Nigerian sex traffickers operate in highly organized criminal webs throughout Europe, and many sex trafficking victims begin to work for their traffickers in exchange for leaving sex trafficking themselves. Nigerians are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Finland. During the reporting period, Spanish and Moroccan officials dismantled a Nigerian-led criminal group that subjected at least 39 Nigerian women and girls to sex trafficking in southeastern Spain. Nigerians are increasingly exploited in Libya; lured by the promise of reaching Europe, traffickers keep victims in “control houses” or “prostitution camps” located on the outskirts of Tripoli and Misrata and subject them to sex trafficking and—to a lesser extent—domestic servitude until they can repay travel debts; before victims repay the debt, traffickers sell them again. During the reporting period, ISIS captured at least seven Nigerian women and girls in Libya and exploited them in sexual slavery; some of the victims had been transiting Libya en route to Europe. Before departure for work abroad, many Nigerian women participate in a traditional ceremony with a juju priest; some traffickers exploit this tradition and tell the women they must obey every order or a curse will harm them, which prevents victims from seeking assistance or cooperating with law enforcement. Some victims’ parents encourage them to obey their traffickers and endure exploitation to earn money. During the reporting period, authorities observed criminal gangs—some of whom might have had ties to so-called student cults—partner with organized crime networks to transport Nigerians to Europe for exploitation.

Reports indicate government officials and security forces committed sexual exploitation—including sex trafficking—and such exploitation is a major concern in nearly all of the 13 IDP camps and local communities in and around Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, which hosts IDPs affected by the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram. “Gatekeepers” in control of some IDP camps, at times in collusion with Nigerian policemen and soldiers, reportedly force women and girls to provide sex acts in exchange for food and services in the camps; in July 2016, an NGO reported camp leaders, policemen, soldiers, and vigilante groups exploited 37 women and children in sex trafficking among seven IDP camps in Maiduguri. In July 2016, a Nigerian research organization surveyed 400 IDPs in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states, and 66 percent said camp officials sexually abused women and girls, some of which constitutes sex trafficking. Various NGOs and news outlets continued to report that children in IDP camps are victims of labor and sex trafficking, and some alleged government officials managing the camps are complicit in these activities.

During the reporting period, Boko Haram continued to forcibly recruit and use child soldiers as young as 12 years old and abduct women and girls in the northern region of Nigeria, some of whom it subjected to domestic servitude, forced labor—including in suicide attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad—and sexual slavery through forced marriages to its militants. International organizations continued to express concerns about the arrest and detention by the Nigerian government and security forces of children for alleged association with Boko Haram. Authorities arrested more than 1,365 children between January 2015 and October 2016 for their or their parents’ alleged association with Boko Haram and did not report screening them for trafficking. Among the more than 1,365 children detained, 455 remained in detention as of December 2016, including 78 boys aged 13-17 whom NSF determined to be combatants; in one case, authorities kept 58 children in military detention for four months. The government prohibited the recruitment and use of child soldiers, but NSF used children as young as 12 years old in support roles such as messengers, porters, and guards. Credible observers reported NSF interrogated children in detention for later use as collaborators to identify Boko Haram members among newly arrested persons. The Nigerian military also conducted on-the-ground coordination with elements of the CJTF —a self-defense militia involved in fighting Boko Haram that is not part of the Nigerian government—including the Government of Borno State-funded, Maiduguri-based CJTF. An NGO noted the term CJTF is now used to describe a number of self-defense vigilante groups operating in northeast Nigeria, some of which have tenuous ties to the Maiduguri-based CJTF. Credible observers, including NGOs and an intergovernmental organization, reported CJTF continued to recruit and use children, possibly compulsorily, and used children as young as 12 years old mostly to man check points, conduct patrols, spy, and apprehend suspected insurgents.