Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi, the Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), has called on Judges to serve punishment worth the gravity of offences in trafficking cases.
The D-G made the call in a statement in Abuja by Mr Vincent Adekoye, the Assistant Public Relations Officer of the agency.
It stated that Waziri-Azi made the call at the opening session of a two-day capacity building workshop of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJN), in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute (NJI).
The D-G appealed to Judges across the federation to place same measure of sanction on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cases.
She stated that human trafficking offenders and perpetrators of SGBV should be served with sentencing commensurable with the magnitude of offences committed, to send signals and serve as a deterrent.
She noted that some of the offenders often went home with light sentencing in the past, adding that the agency had recorded cases of repeat offenders and this posed great danger to the society.
According to her, Judges have indispensable roles to play in the eradication of human trafficking, curtailing of rapes and minimising cases of SGBV.
She stressed that it was important for the judges to be adequately acquainted with the provisions of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 (TIPPEA).
“The aim of the Act as stated in section 1 is to provide an effective and comprehensive legal and institutional frame work for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of trafficking offenders and other related crimes.
“The Act is also to promote and facilitate national and international cooperation. I am pleading with you all my Lords, the Judges to always consider the stiffer penalties and convictions that are commensurable with the magnitude of crime.
“This is very important as it serves as deterrent and it will assuage the trauma of the victims.”
She enumerated some of the operational challenges faced by the agency to include low reportage, the relationship between suspects and victims, lack of cooperation from the source/vulnerable communities.
Others are difficulty of procuring witnesses from remote areas, unavailability of lawyers to take up civil cases on behalf of victims on Pro-Bono basis, and this is making it difficult for victims to get compensation from their traffickers.
Waziri-Azi also disclosed that the agency had secured conviction of 519 traffickers, rescued and counselled 17, 727 victims.
It also sponsored 17 victims to higher institutions out of which 3 were employed in the service of the agency.
Others according to her, are establishment of 20 State Task Forces across the Country and increased partnership with diverse stakeholders with a reloaded advocacy and sensitisation.
The statement also reported Justice Ibrahim-Tanko Mohammed, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, as saying that SGBV against women were severe human rights violations that must be addressed with all seriousness.
According to him, the roles of female judges in the adjudication of gender based issues cannot be over emphasised.
The statement also disclosed that at the first technical session, Justice Amina Augie, Justice of the Supreme Court, and the female judges were angered by reasons victims of human trafficking and other abuses were in pitiable traumatic state.
Augie stressed that victims had continued to nurse the wounds inflicted on them by heartless traffickers.
Having been exploited, the traffickers are often pampered erroneously or unintentionally with light sentencing.
She pleaded with judges who presided over such cases to consider the plight and exploitation of victims in deciding the cases of human trafficking and domestic violence.
Augie urged the judges to overlook some of the salient technicalities which often denied victims adequate justice, and commended NAPTIP DG for her tireless efforts in the fight against human trafficking in Nigeria.
The female Judges, however, called for synergy among law enforcement agencies in tackling such cases in the country.
They also called for advocacy and awareness, to reduce the vulnerability of the people and get the Judges informed properly on all emerging counter trafficking legal frameworks.
The statement disclosed that the workshop was attended by judges, prosecutors, development partners, including Action Against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants and other stakeholders. (NAN)