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UN agency raises concern over 1.4m victims of trafficking in Nigeria

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Some trafficked victims rescued recently in Port Harcourt by NAPTIP officials

• NAPTIP urges affected persons to speak out
The United Nations (UN) International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said there are at least 1.4 million victims of human trafficking in Nigeria living under coercion, exploitation and humiliation.

IOM Chief of Mission in Nigeria, Franz Celestine, said the number of people being trafficked in Nigeria and across the globe is on the rise and that Nigeria, being a country of origin, transit and destination, has some of the highest number of persons who have been subjected to very inhumane treatments.

Celestine, in an opinion piece made available to The Guardian in commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking, said the demand for cheap labour and commercial sex is a major driver for trafficking rings across borders and within countries taking advantage of economic, social and political vulnerabilities to exploit their victims.

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He called on stakeholders to look into the plight of millions of children, women and men suffering from human trafficking and gross human rights abuses with the aim of giving them a voice and making them powerful agents of change.

He said: “In 2018, the Walk Free Foundation estimated that almost 1.4 million individuals were living in modern slavery in Nigeria. Research also shows that two-thirds of Nigerian victims of trafficking are victims of domestic human trafficking. Criminals of such a highly profitable business model have devised ways to hide their traces and increase gains.

“This year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons themed, ‘Victims’ Voices Lead the Way’ highlights the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking. Sadly, often unheard, victims and survivors’ voices are key to developing and implementing strategies, policies, and measures to prosecute perpetrators. In worst cases, they face revictimisation and punishment for seeking help for the crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers.”

The IOM chief also noted that although government, through the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NAPTIP), has taken some laudable step to tackle human trafficking, there is still much to be done to end the ugly scourge.

Also, at a walk to mark World Day Against Human Trafficking in Abuja, NAPTIP Director General, Basheer Garba Muhammed, said it is only when the voices of victims count that a more strategic and unified action will yield better results and victims would be relieved of the traumatic experiences they have passed through.

He said victims are not criminals. Therefore, their voices must be amplified as a necessary step to tackling the menace and saving others from become victims and reducing revictimisation.

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