As part of events that commemorated the International Day against Human Trafficking in Nigeria, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), has opened a legal hub in Edo State to provide free, timely, and confidential legal aid to victims of trafficking in Nigeria.
This initiative is funded by the United Kingdom Home Office project on ‘Strengthening Direct Assistance for Victims of Trafficking in Nigeria through a Victim Centred Approach’ and the launch of the project has come in collaboration with various legal actors, including the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the Ministry of Justice, the Nigerian Bar Association, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, as well as the academia.
Alongside opening the pilot facility in Edo, the United Nation’s migration agency has conducted awareness-raising sessions in Delta and Lagos States and plans to establish legal hubs in these states by the end of the year.
IOM will provide training and equipment to the bodies that will be responsible for the management of the facilities in the three states. The Nigerian Ministry of Justice will manage the facility in Edo State, while Lagos and Delta legal hubs will be hosted by the University of Lagos and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), respectively.
Ms. Bertha Nguvulu, IOM Nigeria Counter-Trafficking Project Officer, stated that “currently, prosecution of traffickers in Nigeria is focused primarily on criminal cases; the legal hubs will bring together all actors involved in criminal, as well as civil proceedings, for victims of sexual and labour exploitation seeking legal redress in the country”.
Since 2002, based on a Cooperation Agreement, IOM has been supporting the efforts of the Government of Nigeria to manage migration through assisted voluntary returns, and counter-trafficking, among others. The migration agency has assisted the return of over 20,500 victims of trafficking to Nigeria, and over 70% of these Nigerian returnees have reported some form of abuse along their migration journey.
The Government of Nigeria has on its part continued to give more attention to migration management in order to reduce irregular migration and fight trafficking in persons, evidenced by the recent creation of the office for diaspora matters, NiDCOM, the additional responsibilities given to Agencies which oversee issues of trafficking in persons, migration and IDPs (NAPTIP, NCFRMI), continuous dialogue with the European Union, and the planned projects under the 10th & 11th European Union Development Fund (EDF).