ECOWAS AND IOM ORGANISE SENSITIZATION PROGRAMME ON BIOMETRIC IDENTIFICATION

Director-General National Agency For The Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons(NAPTIP) Dame Julie Okah-Donli
By Sandra Chukwunyere

As the spate of human trafficking and other forms of criminality across borders continue to escalate, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have organised a three-day programme aimed at sensitising members of the public on the new national biometric identity card introduced by ECOWAS .The event which took place recently at Seme Border (Nigeria’s boundary with Republic of Benin) was attended by officials of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and a civil society group known as Free Movement & Migration and others.The Comptroller of Immigration Service in charge of Seme Border; Mr. Dominic Asogwa while commenting on the event, said it was put together essentially to sensitise people and advocate for the new national biometric identity card introduced by ECOWAS with a view to informing everyone who wants to travel to any of the ECOWAS countries to possess the card which  will help tremendously to eliminate the issue of non-possession of international passport as the biometric identity would take care of such a challenge.According to Asogwa, the biometric identity card which is going to take the shape of driver’s license will help in the free migration of people without international passport being endorsed by anybody without being harassed.”So the programme is an initiative to sensitise people on what is coming up with the hope that ECOWAS would interface with Governments of member countries so that the identity card project could be implemented and mass produced for citizens of ECOWAS countries.Comptroller Asogwa  added that the biometric identity card when operational would also help a lot to checkmate the smuggling of migrants or trafficking of persons within the corridor because it had been discovered that most people who have been trafficked or smuggled do not have identity card and usually pass through unauthorized routes.”With the biometric identity card, it will be easy to monitor genuinely the movement of persons within the sub region and as a critical lead agency, the Nigeria Immigration Service is saddled with the responsibility of knowing who is going where, in line with Section 2A of the Immigration Act of 2015 as amended.””We can control the movement of people both in and out of the country and we do this either by presenting International passport or ECOWAS travel certificate but the process is now going to be more simplified with the introduction of the biometric identity card.Speaking at the event, the Director-General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) Dame Julie Okah-Donli began by appreciating the supportive role the Nigeria Immigration Service had often extended to NAPTIP.   She disclosed that sister law enforcement agencies at the borders have stepped up inter-agency collaboration in the area of prompt referral of cases to NAPTIP.  “This is highly commendable” she remarked.Commenting on the activities of her Agency, the Director-General said “NAPTIP as we all know, is an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria mandated by law to coordinate all efforts to eradicate the crime of human trafficking.”She added that the Agency was created by the Act of National Assembly in 2003 as Nigeria’s response to protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons especially women and children.”It is a multi-disciplinary crime fighting agency whose specific duties include the coordination of all efforts at fighting the crime of human trafficking, investigating of all cases relating to human trafficking, arrest and prosecution of suspects, rehabilitation, protection of victims of human trafficking as well as public enlightenment and research among others.”According to Okah Donli, the law which established the Agency permits other law enforcement agencies to collaborate by arresting or helping to arrest suspected human traffickers and rescuing victims and referring the matter to NAPTIP as the only Agency with statutory mandate to investigate and prosecute all cases of human trafficking.The NAPTIP boss reminded participants at the sensitisation that human trafficking is a global phenomenon that has assumed a clear and present danger to nations of the world especially Nigeria which is considered a source, transit and destination.  It is estimated that about 30million people are held in slavery across the world and that human traffickers reap a whopping sum of about N150billion annually.The Director-General emphasized that there is an urgent need for a change in strategy and tactics by all the agencies charged with border management as “thousands of Nigerians especially young boys and girls are trafficked through Nigeria’s borders every year to places like Benin, Togo, Cote d’voire, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali apart from those trafficked to other parts of Africa and the world at large.She pointed out that the emerging trending now is the mass movement by air to places like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Dubai where most of the girls are used for false domestic servitudes, slavery labour, forced prostitution in the most horrendous conditions.She has therefore posited that “we must take steps to mitigate the porous nature of our borders through the deployment of technology and regular patrols.The ECOWAS Protocol on free movement of persons passing through International borders stipulates that a person must possess a minimum of valid International passport or ECOWAS traveling certificate.The Director, Free Movement & Migration, Mr. Albert  Siaw-Boateng who spoke to WATCHOUT said that he was happy that the various law enforcement agencies at the border were brought together with a view to sensitising them on the challenges of policing the borders especially with respect to human trafficking.ReplyForward
Director, Free Movement & Migration, Albert Siaw Boateng

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