Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 - Nigeria

NIGERIA (Tier 2)

Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Trafficked Nigerians are recruited from rural, and to a lesser extent urban, areas within the country: women and girls for domestic servitude and sex trafficking, and boys for forced labor in street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarries, agriculture, and begging. Nigerian women and children are taken from Nigeria to other West and Central African countries, as well as South Africa, where they are exploited for the same purposes. Children from West African countries, primarily Benin, Ghana, and Togo, are forced to work in Nigeria, and many are subjected to hazardous labor in Nigeria’s granite mines. Nigerian women and girls, primarily from Benin City in Edo State, are subjected to forced prostitution in Italy, while Nigerian women and girls from other states are subjected to forced prostitution in Spain, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Russia. Nigerian women and children are recruited and transported to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, where they are held captive in the sex trade or in forced labor. Nigerian women are trafficked to Malaysia where they are forced into prostitution and to work as drug mules for their traffickers. Nigerian traffickers rely on threats of voodoo curses to control Nigerian victims and force them into situations of prostitution or labor. Nigerian gangs traffic large numbers of Nigerian women into forced prostitution in the Czech Republic and Italy, and EUROPOL has identified Nigerian organized crime as one of the largest law enforcement challenges to European governments.

The Government of Nigeria does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant effort to do so. During the reporting period, the government did not demonstrate sufficient progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Roughly a third of convicted traffickers received fines in lieu of prison time, and despite identifying 386 labor trafficking victims the government prosecuted only two forced labor cases. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP), established by the 2003 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law to coordinate and facilitate the government’s anti-trafficking agenda, did not increase its funding for protective services and its victim shelters offered limited reintegration services and were not always well-maintained. Despite documentation of a staggering number of Nigerians trafficking victims identified in countries around the world, the government inconsistently employed measures to provide services to repatriated victims. However, NAPTIP did execute its first joint law enforcement exercise with the Government of Mali which led to the arrest of trafficking perpetrators and to the rescue of Nigerian trafficking victims.

Recommendations for Nigeria: Ensure that the activities of NAPTIP are funded sufficiently, particularly for prosecuting trafficking offenders and providing adequate care for victims; increase investigations and prosecutions of labor trafficking offenses, and convictions and punishments of labor trafficking offenses; vigorously pursue trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions and impose adequate sentences on convicted trafficking offenders, including imprisonment whenever appropriate; train police and immigration officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and young females traveling with non-family members; provide mandatory training to all NAPTIP shelter counselors, specifically addressing key trauma issues unique to trafficking victims; increase the provision of educational and vocational training services to victims at all government shelters; develop a formal system to track the number of victims repatriated from abroad, and upon repatriation ensure they are aware of available protective services; ensure NAPTIP productively interacts with and receives support from other government agencies that come in contact with trafficking issues; and take proactive measures to investigate and prosecute government officials suspected of trafficking-related corruption and complicity in trafficking offenses.


The Government of Nigeria did not demonstrate adequate progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. After a severe reduction in prosecutions in 2010, the percentage of investigations of suspected trafficking offenses that resulted in court proceedings increased slightly in 2011; however the number of cases prosecuted remained low compared to the large numbers of trafficking investigations. Furthermore, sentencing of offenders was inadequate and, despite large numbers of identified forced labor victims, the government continued to neglect the prosecution of labor trafficking crimes. The 2003 Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act, amended in 2005 to increase penalties for trafficking offenders, prohibits all forms of human trafficking. The law prescribed penalties of five years’ imprisonment or a fine not to exceed the equivalent of $645 or both for labor trafficking offenses; these are sufficiently stringent, but the law allows convicted offenders to pay a fine in lieu of prison time for labor trafficking or attempted trafficking offenses, which is a penalty that is not proportionate to the crime committed. The law prescribes penalties of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses and a fine of the equivalent of $1,250, or both. For sentences that include only a fine, penalties are not sufficiently stringent.

NAPTIP initiated 279 new investigations during the reporting period, prosecuted 15 trafficking cases, and convicted 23 traffickers. Despite identifying almost 400 forced labor victims, NAPTIP only prosecuted two forced labor cases, in comparison with 13 forced prostitution cases. All cases were tried under articles within the 2003 Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act. Sentences ranged from six months’ to 14 years’ imprisonment and fines ranged from the equivalent of $63 to $316 – below the maximum fines to the equivalent of $645 to $1,250. Of the 23 offenders convicted, eight received a jail sentence with the option of a fine in lieu of time served, 13 offenders received jail time with no option of a fine, and two received both jail time and a fine. NAPTIP officials held workshops with federal and state judges to educate them on the trafficking in person’s law, the particular challenges faced in prosecuting this crime, and on the need to apply stricter penalties in trafficking cases. NAPTIP proposed draft legislation to the national assembly that would eliminate the option of handing down only a fine in trafficking convictions. The national assembly has yet to pass these amendments into law and judges continued to use fines in lieu of prison sentences. At the conclusion of the reporting period, 118 trafficking cases remained pending. NAPTIP’s funding levels have remained static for the past few years and the limited number of prosecutions indicates the Government of Nigeria needs to prioritize increased funding to the agency.

Although NAPTIP demonstrated an ability to obtain convictions from the prosecutions it initiated, a small number of investigations conducted during the year resulted in prosecutions, suggesting a need to enhance the investigation and prosecution skills of relevant officials. NAPTIP funded the training of 90 senior NAPTIP officials at the Nigerian Defense Intelligence School in Karu in March and July 2011, where they received training in basic security and intelligence skills necessary for any law enforcement officer. Throughout the reporting period, the government reported collaborating with law enforcement agencies in Germany, the United Kingdom, Greece, Sweden, France, Slovakia, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Italy on trafficking investigations involving Nigerian nationals. In some cases this cooperation led to the successful prosecution of a suspect in the host country; however, specific details on these cases was unavailable. The government did not initiate any investigations, pursue prosecutions, or obtain convictions of government officials for involvement in trafficking-related corruption during the reporting period, although such corruption was known to have occurred.


The Government of Nigeria made limited efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year, despite the government’s considerable resources. NAPTIP maintained a database of trafficking victims identified by the government and NGOs and reported a total of 949 victims identified within the country in 2011, including 386 victims of forced labor, 563 victims of sex trafficking, and 467 children. The government paid a monthly stipend of the equivalent of $2,500 to a local NGO and provided in-kind donations and services to NGOs and other organizations that afforded protective services to trafficking victims. It reported spending about one fifth of its operational budget, or the equivalent of $671,000, on victim protection during 2011. NAPTIP continued to operate eight shelters with the total capacity for 210 victims at a time; this constitutes a 50 percent decrease in capacity from 2010. NAPTIP claimed this reduction was intended to provide more comfortable accommodations for victims. Given NAPTIP’s ongoing reported difficulty in adequately staffing and caring for victims in shelters, this reduction of beds is worrisome, especially because the number of identified Nigerian trafficking victims continues to increase. During the reporting period, NAPTIP completed the relocation of its primary and largest shelter to a higher-capacity facility devoted solely to trafficking victims.

In November 2011, senior NAPTIP officials conducted a joint raid with Malian officials in order to rescue previously identified Nigerian sex trafficking victims in Bamako-based brothels. While screening mechanisms in Bamako remained limited, upon arrival in Nigeria victims were referred to local NAPTIP shelters for care; most victims chose to return to their homes after a brief stay in shelters. Within Nigeria, government officials continued to lack systematic procedures for identifying victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution. Authorities outside of NAPTIP – such as police and immigration officers assigned to other units – were not well-trained to identify victims. In one particular case, and for unknown reasons, Nigerian officials did not assist prosecutors, representing a Nigerian victim in a foreign country, in locating a Nigerian trafficker who was in Nigeria during the case proceedings. Nigerian diplomats in a neighboring West African country referred most of the Nigerian trafficking victims identified in that country to local NGOs rather than arranging for their repatriation to NAPTIP shelters in Nigeria. Despite the growing number of Nigerian trafficking victims identified abroad, the government has yet to implement formal procedures for the repatriation and reintegration of Nigerian victims.

Victims in NAPTIP’s shelters were offered counseling, legal services, and basic medical treatment, and victims who required specialized care received treatment from hospitals and clinics through existing agreements with these institutions. Some shelter staff, however, lacked previous training or professional experience in treating the trauma of trafficking victims, and the government did not provide such specialized training to staff members during the reporting period. Victims were allowed to stay in NAPTIP shelters for up to six weeks – a limit which was extended by up to four additional weeks in extenuating circumstances – during which time they received informal education or vocational training; after this time, those who needed long-term care were referred to a network of NGOs that could provide additional services, though few long-term options were available for adult victims. Victims were not allowed to leave the shelters without a chaperone, a practice that is known to risk re-traumatization of trafficking victims. Government officials adhered to the explicit provision of the 2003 Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act, which ensures that trafficking victims are not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked. Officials encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, and NAPTIP reported that 29 victims served as witnesses or gave evidence during trial in 2011. All victims were eligible to receive funds from the victims’ trust fund, which was financed primarily through confiscated assets of convicted traffickers. During the reporting period the equivalent of $21,500 was disbursed to 45 victims, although not necessarily in equal amounts and for purposes ranging from medical costs to school tuition. The government provided a limited legal alternative to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution; short term residency that could not be extended.


The Government of Nigeria sustained modest efforts to prevent human trafficking through campaigns to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers of trafficking. NAPTIP’s Public Enlightenment Unit continued to conduct national and local programming through radio and print media in all regions of the country to raise awareness about trafficking, including warning about the use of fraudulent recruitment for jobs abroad. The objective of these and several related programs was to sensitize vulnerable people, sharpen public awareness of trends and tricks traffickers used to lure victims, warn parents, and encourage community members to participate in efforts to prevent trafficking. In December 2011, NAPTIP and the Dutch national police agency signed a memorandum of understanding to use a “train-the-trainers” format to build the capacity of NAPTIP in combating trafficking. The government took no discernible steps to decrease the demand for forced labor and, in fact, cut its labor inspection force from 500 to 50. Additionally, labor inspectors at headquarters lacked any vehicles with which to monitor field conditions. In efforts to reduce participation in child sex tourism, the government arrested Nigerian nationals for child sex tourism in the Philippines during the reporting period. The government, with foreign donor support, provided anti-trafficking training to Nigerian troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

Associated documents

  • Document ID 1115896 Related / Associated
  • Methodology associated with Report on human trafficking (covering March 2011 to February 2012)

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