New U.S. publication says Nigerian security officers sexually exploited Internally Displaced Persons

Nigerian security operatives have been indicted for sexually exploiting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in government-owned camps in northeastern Nigeria, a new publication said.

The Trafficking in Persons Report, released by the United States Department of State, revealed that, Nigeria has not met the minimum requirements for the elimination of human trafficking.

The report, presented by U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was set in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report sends a strong message to the world that global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and enduring discriminatory policies and practices, have a disproportionate effect on individuals already oppressed by other injustices,” Mr Blinken gave in his opening address at the launch of the report.

More so, the report added that though the government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, it has demonstrated improvement in its efforts despite COVID-19 pandemic.

“These efforts included convicting more traffickers and sanctioning the majority of perpetrators with significant prison terms; prosecuting officials suspected of being complicit in trafficking crimes; improving intra-governmental coordination on anti-trafficking operations; launching nine new state task forces; and for the first time, the Ministry of Defence acknowledged service members sexually exploited internally displaced persons (IDPs),” the report read.

The reports further notes the failure of the government to meet minimum standards, citing the abuse of two children at an IDP camp by officers of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Borno State and continuous reports of sex trafficking in government-run IDP camps. It also highlighted corruption in the judiciary and immigration services as a concern.

The report covered prosecution, noting an increase in convictions, citing laws in effect such as the Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPLEAA), as amended in 2015. It described the penalties for the crimes as “sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping.”

Under protection, the report noted the government’s efforts to identify victims, in spite of poor welfare services provided for them.

“In total, the government – including NAPTIP, NPF, and ETAHT efforts – identified approximately 499 victims and 812 potential victims, according to official, NGO, and media reporting,” the document said.

The report recommends that the government hold complicit individuals criminally accountable for trafficking offenses, enhance coordination on law enforcement efforts and prosecute suspects while respecting the rights of the accused.

It also urged the government to educate more of the population on human trafficking indicators by increasing awareness programmes as well as implementing the country’s 2021-2025 draft anti-trafficking national action plan in coordination with CSOs partner governments, and the private sector.

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