THE National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in collaboration with the Network Against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labour (NACTAL) have secured the release of 15 trafficked Nigerian girls rescued in Mali.
The girls, one of them with a three-year-old boy and two pregnant, were released with the support of Action Against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants in Nigeria (A-TIPSOM).
A-TIPSOM is a project being implemented in Nigeria by the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policy (FIIAP), and sponsored by the European Union (EU).
Speaking during the arrival of the girls on Sunday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, NAPTIP Director-General Fatima Waziri-Azi explained that the rescue was achieved through collaborative efforts.
Waziri-Azi who was represented by Head of NAPTIP’s Intelligence and International Corporation Unit Angela Agbayekhai, said the process started through the information the agency got from NACTAL.
“You will agree with me that it is not just Mali that these children of ours have been, but we are happy today that we have been able to bring back these number of girls. It is our hope and plan that we will bring back more of these children, because we have so many of them still out there in Mali.
“Today we have 15 of them with a child of three years, a male child. A fact-finding team who went to Mali in 2017 estimated that there are about 20,000 Nigerians still trafficked there,” the DG said.
Mali is a major transit route for trafficking and the agency added that it would continue to work with relevant stakeholders to rescue more trafficked persons and reunite them with their families.
A 2021 trafficking in persons report on Nigeria published by the U.S Department of State observed that the government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.
“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…increased collaboration with foreign governments on international trafficking investigations,” the report said.
It also noted that for the period under review, NAPTIP did not have resources to carry out sufficient proactive anti-trafficking operations in much of the country, and that the agency’s officers remained concentrated in state capitals, hindering identification and investigation of trafficking in many rural areas.