Benin and Nigeria pledge to fight child trafficking

Cotonou / Abuja, June 9, 2005 - UNICEF congratulates the Governments of the Republic of Benin and the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the signing today, in Cotonou, of a "Cooperation agreement to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons with emphasis on trafficking in women and children.”

This agreement aims to develop a common front to prevent, fight and suppress trafficking, particularly of children and women. It seeks to protect, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of trafficking into their original environment and promote friendly cooperation between both countries to reach these objectives. The document provides notably for a joint security surveillance team that will patrol the borders of both countries.

The signing of this agreement today marks an important step forward in the fight against child trafficking and illustrates the determination of the Republic of Benin and Nigeria to join forces against trafficking in persons.

Cross border trafficking in children within the ECOWAS sub region has been on the increase recently with a large inflow into Nigeria. The Benin/Nigeria connection is particularly strong due to geographical and cultural closeness. Many children leave for Nigeria to work, naively hoping to find Eldorado.

The need for a cooperation agreement between the two countries was highlighted in September 2003 when about 300 Beninese children were discovered working in quarries in Abeokuta in Nigeria. The repatriation of these children contributed to strengthening the collaboration between the two neighbouring countries to address the issue of child trafficking. With the support of the UNICEF Benin and Nigeria offices, three meetings were subsequently held between the two countries:  in March 2004 in Lagos, June 2004 in Cotonou and April 2005 to Abuja. These meetings enabled amongst other things, to prepare the Cooperation Agreement signed today and to establish a Joint Committee against trafficking in persons.

“As child trafficking is now a cross border issue, initiating international cooperation through such bilateral agreement is important to obtain better results. We hope that the Benin-Nigeria agreement will be an example for other countries,” said Ayalew Abai, UNICEF Nigeria country Representative.

The joint Committee will meet in Ouidah, Benin, on 9-10 June 2005 to finalize and adopt a joint plan of action against trafficking in persons.

According to Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF Representative in Benin, “this new era of strengthened cooperation between the Republic of Benin and Nigeria to fight trafficking in persons must rapidly lead to concrete actions. Every day, we face the dramatic consequences of this scourge for the victims and for the development of both countries. This agreement will enable a stronger mobilization to eradicate trafficking, especially child trafficking”.