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Cablegate: Nigeria: Ambassador Lagon's Visit to Abuja

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DE RUEHUJA #0293/01 0441455
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131455Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2083
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 8733
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 000293

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR G/TIP, DRL, PRM, AF/W, INR/AA
ENERGY FOR CAROLYN GAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM KWMN ELAB SMIG NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: AMBASSADOR LAGON'S VISIT TO ABUJA


1. (U) SUMMARY: During a January 22 visit to Abuja,
Ambassador-at-Large for Trafficking and Director of the
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, Mark Lagon,
emphasized the importance of increased prosecutions of
traffickers, the protection of victims, and the prevention of
human trafficking. Ambassador Lagon met with officials from
the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in
Persons (NAPTIP), the Minister of Labor, the Chief Justice of
Nigeria, representatives from the Ministry of Women's
Affairs, the American Bar Association Africa Initiative
(ABA-Africa), and representatives of international
non-governmental organizations working on trafficking issues
in Nigeria. Discussions highlighted the need for increased
capacity in the judiciary, technical assistance for
investigators and prosecutors, stronger punishment for
perpetrators, and the political will to encourage the GON to
allocate more resources for the protection and rehabilitation
of victims of trafficking. END SUMMARY.

------
NAPTIP
------
2. (U) During a roundtable discussion with key members of
NAPTIP -- including Executive Secretary Carol Ndaguba;
Director of Investigations Muhammad Babandede; Director of
Prosecutions Shada Haruna; and Director of Public
Enlightenment Olufunmiladun Aiyegbusi -- Ambassador Lagon
praised the GON as a role model for establishing NAPTIP,
making Nigeria the only African country with an agency
dedicated to combating trafficking in persons. Ambassador
Lagon then inquired about the challenges NAPTIP faces in
prosecuting and convicting alleged traffickers. Babandede
said that lack of funding for investigators to gather
evidence creates an obstacle for prosecutors. Babandede
explained how exploitation must be clearly evident to prove
someone is guilty of trafficking because Nigerian judges are
reluctant to convict unless a victim had already reached the
destination and was forced into prostitution or domestic
slavery. Adding to the difficulty is the requirement for
victims to testify in person, which often does not occur due
to fear of retribution. Cultural traditions in Nigeria also
contribute to the problem. Most parents are willing to send
their children off in search of a better life and do not
realize the conditions in which their children will end up.

3. (U) Societal attitude is still a major obstacle in the
fight against human trafficking according to Ndaguba. The
judiciary and other law enforcement agencies do not always
understand that human trafficking is a real problem. She
said that NAPTIP is sometimes referred to as the agency that
"pesters prostitutes." Haruna explained that although NAPTIP
works in coordination with the Nigerian Immigration Service
(NIS) and Nigerian Police Force (NPF), there is some
resentment toward NAPTIP for taking work and credit away from
other law enforcement agencies when arrests or rescues
happen. Babandede acknowledged that NAPTIP needs to give
more credit to NIS and NPF for the work they do. Ambassador
Lagon inquired about what the USG could do to build political
will within the GON to take a tougher stance on trafficking
and provide additional resources for the protection and
rehabilitation of victims. Ndaguba suggested more advocacy
from the USG and messages delivered to President Yar'Adua and
members of the National Assembly. (Note: Ndaguba mentioned
U.S. Representative Chris Smith's (D-NJ) visit and subsequent
letter to the former administration requesting the dedication
of more resources to anti-trafficking efforts. End Note.)

-----------------
MINISTRY OF LABOR
-----------------
4. (U) Minister of Labor, Dr. Hassan Muhammad Lawal, took his
meeting with Ambassador Lagon as an opportunity to express
his concerns about the ill treatment of Nigerian migrants by
foreign governments. The Minister said that people should
not be treated like criminals for seeking a better life.
Ambassador Lagon agreed but added that people who exploit
others with promises of a better life and then force them
into servitude or prostitution need to be punished. Noting
that poverty and illiteracy are key factors, Lawal
acknowledged child labor as a serious issue in Nigeria, but
said that in many cases parents willingly send their children
away with strangers thinking they will be provided education

ABUJA 00000293 002 OF 003


and jobs. As families grow and parents are unable to feed
their children, they believe they are doing the right thing
by sending the children away to work or go to school. Lawal
emphasized the need to create more awareness among families,
especially in the rural areas, and to educate them on the
realities of trafficking. The Minister also said that more
resources, an increase in personnel, and additional training
were needed for the Ministry to monitor the entire country
adequately.

---------------------------
MINISTRY OF WOMEN'S AFFAIRS
---------------------------
5. (U) Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women's
Affairs, Y.N. Giwa told Ambassador Lagon that the Ministry
has the mandate to coordinate all activity concerning women
and children and that the priorities in combating trafficking
are sensitization and advocacy, especially in local
government areas. Director of Women's Affairs, Maimuna Nasir
Ajanah, reinforced the fact that lack of education (for girls
in particular) and poverty are the leading causes of
trafficking in Nigeria. In response to Ambassador Lagon's
query about the steps needed to eliminate trafficking, Deputy
Director of Child Development for the Ministry, Macjohn
Nwaobiala, stated that the National Assembly must begin to
appreciate the magnitude of the problem in order to increase
available resources. Nwaobiala further explained that the
judiciary, in addition to becoming more conversant on the
laws relating to child labor and trafficking, must deliver
harsher sentencing in order to deter perpetrators and crack
down on recruiters.

6. (U) Ambassador Lagon asked about the Ministry's efforts in
regards to combating trafficking. According to Giwa, the
Ministry works closely with NAPTIP, labor organizations,
local faith based groups, and NGOs such as Women Trafficking
and Child Labor Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF) on
rehabilitation programs and shelters. Giwa said the Ministry
also coordinates regional efforts to establish community
committees geared towards the empowerment of young people and
organizes a children's newsletter to educate young people
about the perils of trafficking. When asked by Ambassador
Lagon what the USG could do to help, Giwa suggested capacity
building in the judiciary, technical assistance for law
enforcement, and stronger advocacy on behalf of their efforts
to convince the government and legislature to dedicate more
resources to anti-trafficking efforts.

------------
ABA - AFRICA
------------
7. (U) Reed Slack, Chief of Party for ABA-Africa, shared with
Ambassador Lagon his views on the biggest challenges Nigeria
faces in dealing with trafficking. Slack said that
trafficking is both a cultural and economic issue. Due to
the endemic poverty, many young people feel they have no
other alternatives to migrating and are easily deceived into
believing they will be better off wherever they go. Slack
also explained that it is culturally acceptable for children
to be sent away to live with extended family members in
different cities or countries. Unfortunately, these same
family members often end up selling the young children or
forcing them into prostitution, domestic servitude, or street
hawking.

8. (SBU) Ambassador Lagon inquired about the capacity and
capability of the different agencies working on trafficking
issues. According to Slack, there needs to be more
coordination amongst government ministries, law enforcement
agencies, NGO's, and the international community in order to
fight trafficking adequately. He also confirmed the need for
capacity building within the judiciary and technical
assistance for law enforcement agencies. Slack further
stressed the need for a country-wide survey to collect real
data that reflect the gravity and specifics of the
trafficking problem in Nigeria. Slack also described the
database project ABA is implementing for USAID which will
provide a single source of information for all agencies and
parties involved in anti-trafficking efforts.

---------------------------
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

ABUJA 00000293 003 OF 003


---------------------------
9. (U) Representatives from the International Organization
for Migration (IOM), the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and
the ECOWAS TIP Division joined Ambassadors Sanders and Lagon
for a working lunch to discuss ideas for advancing the fight
against human trafficking. Both representatives from the ILO
and ECOWAS highlighted the need for a national action plan
formulated by the federal government. All were in agreement
that a strong and specific directive from the President would
motivate relative agencies, the judiciary, and the
legislature to begin actively working on anti-trafficking
issues in a cohesive manner. Ambassador Sanders suggested
that the new administration may not realize the need for a
national action plan and that all parties involved should
make the effort to reintroduce the issue with the federal
government. Ambassador Sanders also said she would discuss
trafficking in persons with the First Lady of Nigeria in a
future meeting, as the First Lady is creating an NGO that
deals with women's issues, healthcare, and education.

------------------------
CHIEF JUSTICE OF NIGERIA
------------------------
10. (U) In a joint meeting with the Chief Justice of Nigeria,
Idris Kutigi, and representatives from the National Judicial
Institute (NJI), Ambassador Lagon pressed for more
convictions of perpetrators of trafficking, harsher
sentencing, and stricter enforcement of punishment.
Administrator of NJI, Mr. T.A. Oyeyipo, told the Chief
Justice that judges need to better understand the concept of
trafficking and how it differs from smuggling. Members of
NJI also said that reform is needed in the way victims and
evidence are handled. Due to the difficulty in getting
victims to testify in person, NJI suggested video
conferencing or taped statements be admitted into evidence.

11. (U) Ambassador Lagon has cleared this cable.
SANDERS

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