By Cecilia Ologunagba
Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister Budget and National Planning, says the Federal Government is considering providing special intervention funds for victims of human trafficking in the 2018 budget.
Udoma said this when he received the Director-General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Ms Julie Donli, on Thursday in Abuja.
The minister said the visit was timely as the ministry had begun the preparation for the 2018 budget and the ministry would consider the request of the agency in providing special intervention funds for it.
“We can now reflect some of your requirements in the 2018 budget, but I think you should work closely with your supervising ministry (Ministry of Justice).
“You need to work with your ministry to get your needs included in the budget when submitting to the Budget Office,’’ he said.
Udoma, however, assured the agency of the ministry’s support to address its challenges.
The minister said the priority of the administration was to invest in Nigerians, adding that it is the reason the government inaugurated the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“Investing in our people is not just Nigerians here, it is for Nigerians everywhere because we have a responsibility for the welfare of every Nigerian.’’
He commended the agency for living up to its responsibility in addressing issues of trafficking in the country.
Earlier, Donli spoke on the challenges hindering the agency to perform its mandate effectively.
“Our challenges are enormous; our funding is inadequate for this kind of job we are expected to do.
“The envelope system cannot work for us. We need to be classified as a proper security agency because our job is similar to that of EFCC.
“ There is no absolute difference between the EFCC and NAPTIP in terms of operations and job description,’’ she said.
According to her, NAPTIP has nine zonal commands in the 36 states of the federation and it requires a lot of funding.
Donli expressed worry over the state of the agency’s operational vehicles, adding that they were donated to the agency by donor agencies over 10 years.
“There was Presidential order in 2014 to sort it out and over N309 million was approved and it was supposed to spread over the 2015 and 2016 budget.
“We have not really had our own vehicles, the ones we have are old and rickety and our officials are using their own vehicles to work.’’
Besides, the director-general decried lack of funds in rehabilitating and repatriation of victims as well as prosecuting those involved in the act.
“There is need to provide special intervention funds for us to facilitate the rescue and repatriation of traffickers victims from various parts of the world, especially Africa.
“We have no fewer than 5,000 victims awaiting rescue from Mali alone; every day we get people coming from Libya, Spain, Italy; every day they come in their hundreds and we are at dilemma.
“Coming to prosecution, we ought to have more cases of conviction.
“Right now, we can only boost of 323 cases, over the years, we have rescued 10,685 victims, we cannot prosecute them,’’ she lamented.
She solicited the support of all stakeholders in achieving the mandate of NAPTIP.
“Also, we encourage people to report cases of human trafficking just to help us trace assets of traffickers as well.
“The law gives us the power to trace and seize the assets of traffickers through the court for the benefit of the victims of trafficking,’’ Donli said