To effectively tackle this organised Crime, there is the need for a Solid Legal Framework, Sound Policy Framework and Effective Operational Strategy.
In most countries, anti-trafficking issues are diffused into several components of various national legislations. For Instance; before the enactment of the Malawian Trafficking in Persons Act (2015), the national authorities commonly used the crime of abduction to prosecute trafficking cases, defined in Section 259 of the Penal Code (1930) as a situation where any person by force compels or by any deceitful means induces another person to go from any place.
In the case of children, section 79 of the Malawian Child Care, Protection and Justice Act (2010) was used to prosecute perpetrators of Child Trafficking. The specific offence of trafficking in persons was introduced in 2009 in Mauritius through the Combating of Trafficking in persons Act (2009). Before this time, the Child Trafficking Act (2005) was used to prosecute trafficking of minors (alone) for sexual exploitation.
Similarly, the offence of trafficking in persons was introduced in South Africa in 2013 through the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2013. Before the introduction of this law, trafficking cases were prosecuted with other offences. This was the case in several other countries that now have as specific legislation on trafficking in persons.
In Nigeria too, like other countries, prior to the enactment of the Anti-trafficking law, human trafficking issues were diffused into several components of Nigeria’s federal legislations; Sections 34 – 39 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution which emphasizes the rights to the dignity of human persons and other fundamental human rights;
Relevant Sections of the Nigeria’s Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1990), functional in Southern Nigeria which criminalizes rape and sexual assault;
Relevant Sections of the Nigeria’s Penal Code Act, (1960) functional in Northern Nigeria which criminalizes rape and sexual assault;
Relevant Sections of the Nigerian Labour Act, Chapter 198; Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1990) etc.
Infusing human trafficking into general legislations shrinks the recognition of the full dimensions of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and hence do not provide comprehensive and specific penalties to address all offences related to TIP as indicated in the UN Trafficking Protocol. This has also constituted a major hindrance in the prosecution of perpetrators of human trafficking, sexual, domestic and gender based violence in many countries of the world.
This results in serious setback in prosecution hence the strong recommendation for a specific national legislation and legal framework to provide a comprehensive guide in the prosecution of human trafficking cases.
The UK, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and several other Commonwealth Countries have adopted national legislations on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) for a better coordination of the fight against TIP.
Nigeria has been a model among nations in the fight against TIP mainly because it was one of the first not only to ratify the UN Trafficking Protocol, but it was also among the foremost states to establish a focal Agency to coordinate the country’s anti-trafficking efforts (NAPTIP).
Nigeria’s specific legislation on Trafficking in Person (TIP), forced labour and sexual exploitation is the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Enforcement and Administration TIPPEA Act (2015).
Other relevant legislations in combating TIP, include: Nigeria’s Criminal and Penal Codes, Federal Child’s Right Law 2003, Child’s Rights Laws of various state governments; in over 25 states and Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015.
The enormous task of tackling TIP, Forced Labour and Sexual Exploitation can be easier with a solid legal framework, sound policy development implementation, and effective operational strategies.
The eradication of Trafficking in Persons in the society should be a collective responsibility. It is therefore expected that all Agencies of government, States and Local Governments in the Federation, Private Sector as well as the general public should be engaged to make a commitment in the fight.