Cablegate: Tip: Court Delivers First Conviction Under

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary. The High Court in Benin City delivered the
first conviction under the 2003 Human Trafficking
Prohibition Law last week. Sarah Okoya was found
guilty of attempting to procure persons for
prostitution, attempting to organize foreign travel for
prostitution, and deceitfully inducing persons to
travel out of Nigeria. The judge sentenced Okoya to
three years' imprisonment, eleven years less than the
maximum penalty. The conviction was an important
symbolic step in Nigeria's efforts to combat
trafficking. It both reflects and reinforces the
gradual change in attitude toward trafficking as a
serious crime, and hopefully will pave the way for
future convictions. End summary.

2. On November 18, the high court in Benin City
delivered the first conviction under Nigeria's Human
Trafficking Prohibition and Law Enforcement Act of
2003. According to a press release from the National
Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons
(NAPTIP), Sarah Okoya was found guilty on six counts
each of attempting to procure persons for prostitution,
attempting to organize foreign travel for persons for
prostitution, and deceitfully inducing persons to
travel out of Nigeria. The Edo State chief judge
sentenced Okoya to thirty-six months' imprisonment.

3. According to the verdict, Okoya convinced six girls
to travel with her under the pretext that she had jobs
for them in Spain. Her defense was that the girls'
parents agreed to let them go with her. The party
travelled only as far as Cotonou, Benin, before Okoya
was arrested and she and the girls were returned to
Nigeria by the Nigerian Embassy. NAPTIP brought
charges against her September 29, 2004.

4. The court could have sentenced Okoya to a fourteen
year prison term. The judge, however, declined to
sentence Okoya to the maximum ten-year term for
deceitful inducement, saying she did not agree with the
penalty provisions in that section of the law.
According to newspaper reports, the judge also said
that if Okoya had succeeded in trafficking the girls
into prostitution, she would have faced the full brunt
of the law because that offence "undermines the
integrity of the society and brings an international
disgrace to Nigerians." The judge noted that
trafficking is now a topical international issue and
took the opportunity to warn parents about the new
trafficking prohibition law.

5. Shadrach Haruna, head of the NAPTIP Legal and
Prosecution Department, told Poloff the court case
received significant coverage in the Benin City media.
Coverage in papers with national circulation, however,
has been limited. Haruna said NAPTIP currently is
prosecuting five other trafficking cases. He and other
officials hope the Okoya conviction will demonstrate
Nigeria's commitment to combatting traffficking and
help pave the way for additional convictions.

6. Comment. Achieving this first conviction was an
important milestone for NAPTIP in demonstrating the
brunt of the anti-trafficking law. That the chief
judge presided over the case also is a sign of the
court's seriousness. The judge's comment that the
penalty for deceitful inducement to travel was too
severe was somewhat unfortunate, but overall, the
verdict was a good one. Additionally, the judge's
admonishment to parents hopefully will make another
dent in the common perception that it may be in the
family's best interest to send children away. It also
suggests parents might be held liable. The emerging
realization that trafficking reflects poorly on Nigeria
internationally may help combat the crime, especially
given the current heightened attention government and
society are focusing on improving Nigeria's image
abroad. End comment.


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