NAPTIP, two others secure release of 15 Nigerian girls trafficked to Mali

Photo source: Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mali

The National Agency for the Prohibitation of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in collaboration with the Network Against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labour (NACTAL) have secured the release of 15 out of over 300 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 is being sponsored by the European Union (EU).

Speaking during the arrival of the girls on Sunday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, the NAPTIP Director General, Fatima Waziri-Azi, stated that the return of the girls was achieved through collaborative effort.

Represented by Angela Agbayekhai, Head, Intelligent and International Corporation Unit, NAPTIP, the director-general said the process started through the information the agency got from NACTAL, an NGO working in partnership.

“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.

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“These ones brought back today is a drop in the Ocean of the numbers of these Nigerians. This is a good start, NAPTIP D-G will work with the ministers concern to bring back as many as possible.

“Bringing them back was not difficult, we had on ground an NGO we work with based in Mali, we gathered information, share intelligence and it was easy to put them together,” Ms Waziri-Azi said.

Abdulganiyu Abubakar, the NACTAL President, stated that the whole process was made possible based on the partnership they have with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the 16 West African countries.

He said that NACTAL have implemented different mechanism in the 16 ECOWAS countries for the protection of children.

Mr Abubakar said that there is no country in the region that have a formidable platform in terms of child protection mechanism like Nigeria.

He said that the partnership with ECOWAS countries on child protection mechanism led to the formation of West Africa Coalition Against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (WACTISOM).

“It is this initiative of WACTISOM that led to the identification of these young Nigerian girls; our partners in Mali have written to us about these 15 girls in their custody who are victims of trafficking.

“They have all escaped from their traffickers and want to return back home and we immediately contacted NAPTIP and A-TIPSOM. Mali is a major transit country for trafficking in persons,” he said.

Ugoh Ogbunide, the Technical Advisor on Partnership, A-TIPSOM, said her organisation provided support for the return of the girls.

Meanwhile, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Bamako, Mali, has said that between January to December, 2021, with the help of the Police rescued and repatriated about three hundred (300) of these victims of trafficking.

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The Embassy in a statement earlier this month, said the collaboration also led to the arrest of thirty (30) of the traffickers, all of them Nigerians, who are currently in jails in Bamako, Kayes and Kenieba Regions.

“Part of the efforts of the Embassy of Nigeria in Mali is addressing the overwhelming increase in the spate of trafficking of Nigerian nationals especially the young girls (ages 13 -25) to Mali, for prostitution and other criminal activities,” the statement reads.

“The major routes for the trafficking are Lagos, Cotonou, Lomé and parts of Burkina Faso before arriving in Mail. On arrival in Cotonou, the victims are usually issued with Nigerian Embassy, Mali counterfeit Consular identity cards to evade arrest.

“Most security personnel along these routes are complicit, playing critical roles in protecting the trafficking syndicates and victims and assisting them to reach their final destinations. Other key actors in the trafficking rings are the transport companies plying the Cotonou – Bamako routes, as well as some unscrupulous members of the Nigerian community in Mali.

“It is common to find these victims unaccompanied but managed by the bus drivers until they are delivered to proxies in Mali, who then facilitate local transportation to send the victims to their final destinations.

“Most of the girls are sourced by criminal gangs across communities in Nigeria. The common enticing story is to bring the girls to work as stylists and bar attendants in Mali with attractive salaries.

“Some are also told that Mali is only a transit country en-route Europe. On arrival in Mali, victims are made to work and repay their sponsors 1,500,000 CFA, (about US$2,700.00), to regain freedom.

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“The fee could however, rise to between 2,000,000 CFA (about US$3,600.00) to 2,500,000 CFA (about US$3,500.00) due to fines and levies on the victims. It is also instructive to note that some syndicates specialize in recruiting and moving the girls from Nigeria to Mali and afterwards, sell them to new owners.

“On this note, the Embassy is collaborating with the Malian authorities, particularly the Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Police, as well as other agencies including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with a view to addressing the issue. Between January to December, 2021, the Embassy, with the help of the Police rescued and repatriated about three hundred (300) of these victims of trafficking.

“Similarly, the collaboration also led to the arrest of thirty (30) of the traffickers, all of them Nigerians, who are currently in jails in Bamako, Kayes and Kenieba Regions.

“It is important at this juncture, to state categorically, that the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Bamako, Mali has zero tolerance for human trafficking, and will continue to work with the Malian security operatives to ensure that this evil vice of trafficking young Nigerians is squarely addressed.

“Finally, the Embassy will continue to actively engage with relevant authorities in Mali, particularly the Police and Ministry of Justice to ensure that anyone caught in the act, must face the full wrath of the law.”

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