Valerie is a 26-year-old Nigerian lady who was rescued from the hands of a Nigerian criminal gang in Abidjan where she was forced into prostitution. She was lured by traffickers from Nigeria with the promise of a job opportunity in Côte D’Ivoire, only to have her phones seized upon arrival. She was subjected to all forms of inhumane treatment and compelled to pay a huge sum of money before she could regain freedom. Fortunately, during an operation led by the Nigerian Community in Abidjan, she was rescued, and her case has been handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) which together with the Nigerian Embassy is working to facilitate her repatriation to Nigeria to reunite with her family.
According to the Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for West and Central Africa, Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés “Trafficking in persons is among the most lucrative criminal markets in the world. Collaborative investigations with other law enforcement agencies within Africa and with third countries are crucial in preventing and combating this crime.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the risks for already vulnerable groups of individuals, including women and girls. It has also diverted law enforcement resources in investigating and responding to cases of Transnational Organized Crime including trafficking in persons with increasing risks that the return of victims of trafficking to their countries of origin may be delayed.
The OCWAR-T project is an ECOWAS support project, commissioned by the German Government and co-funded by the EU. The project is implemented by GIZ, in collaboration with UNODC, UNDP, Mines Advisory Group, International Centre for Migration Policy Development and Enhancing Africa’s response to Transnational Organized Crime. OCWAR-T supports the ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania in reducing Transnational Organized Crime by strengthening national and regional structures; supporting capacities in fostering evidence-led policy and decision-making and efforts in enhancing criminal investigation and prosecution, improving small arms control, and reducing human trafficking.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (2020), female victims continue to be particularly affected. In 2018, it was documented that for every ten victims detected globally, about five were adult women and two were girls. About one-third of the overall detected victims were children, both girls and boys, while 20 per cent were adult men.
Under the auspices of the Organized Crime: West African Response to Trafficking (OCWAR-T) project, the UNODC facilitated a Joint Operation Mission of the Ivorian Transnational Crime Unit (TCU), the Nigerian Police Force Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) which took place from 17 to 22 March 2022. The operation was a follow-up to the OCWAR-T Peer Exchange exercise which was held in Abidjan in November 2021.
The personnel from Nigeria observed the Ivorian Transnational Crime Unit (TCU) conduct a live operation in a case of trafficking in persons (TIP) involving Nigerian victims and suspects in the Yopugon Gesco district of Abidjan. The operation saw twenty-seven (23 female and 4 male) persons being arrested, while seven persons were suspected of being involved in a Nigerian Transnational Organized Crime TIP syndicate. The Nigerian police and NAPTIP supported the Ivorian TCU in the interviewing of the victims and suspects, especially to bridge the language barrier. The interviews confirmed that the victims were lured from Nigeria to Côte D’Ivoire with promises of legal livelihoods but were subjected to prostitution after their arrival. Others trafficked themselves in search for ‘’greener pastures’’. Investigations by both countries uncovered a trafficking network, including transporters moving victims from Nigeria, via transit locations to Côte D’Ivoire.
To strengthen the collaboration between Côte D’Ivoire and Nigeria, UNODC facilitated a meeting between the Nigerian delegation and the Ivorian TCU and the Ambassador of Nigeria to Côte D’Ivoire. H.E. Ambassador Martin S. Adamu (Nigeria Ambassador to Côte D’Ivoire) stated that the Nigerian Embassy to Côte D’Ivoire supports Nigerian citizens in the country including victims of trafficking with repatriation to Nigeria.