– CSO Urges Nigerians to Disregard Spurious and Malicious Allegations Against Agency
The attention of Citizens Watch Advocacy Initiative (CWAI) has been drawn to the spurious, frivolous, malicious and the regurgitation of fabricated and concocted allegations targeted at the corporate image of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) management by an online news platform – Sahara Reporters.
This report was made few days ago and CWAI, as a civil society and champions of accountability, transparency and good governance regime in Nigeria over the years, are compelled to issue this statement after a clinical verification and investigation of the alleged reports on the proactive leadership and rebranded agency of government that has become a toast of both local and international donor partners as a result of a repositioned, focused and transparent management of NAPTIP like never before.
CWAI’s worry stems from the fact that these mischief makers and agent provocateurs donning the garb of whistleblowers hide under the umbrella and cloak of anti-corruption war to persecute their perceived enemies and people with contrary views, because, in Nigeria, a mere allegation is presumed to be a guilty verdict in the court of public opinion.
In a press statement issued by the Executive Secretary of CWAI, Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele, the organization stated that of great concern is the contents of the allegations authored by some faceless and disgruntled elements with direct attack on the person and office of the Director-General, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, who has been lauded and applauded globally because of the agency’s numerous achievements, under her leadership, to meet with international best practices.
CWAI, ordinarily and logically, would have ignored such baseless allegations, but due to the respect accorded our donor basket sponsors from both local and international, who are on daily basis working assiduously with the mandate given to NAPTIP.
CWAI therefore decided to put the records straight and let Nigerians know the succinct truth that the alleged reports were padded with unverifiable insinuations, malicious and personal heresies published by Sahara Reporters with no recourse to the ethics of balanced reportage in line with global best practices in Journalism.
For the purpose of clarity and fairness, the allegation of award of contracts for the renovation of the Abuja and Benin Shelters of the agency, for the upgrade of the agency’s shelters for victims of trafficking in persons, was actually for three locations, namely: FCT, Abuja, Lagos and Benin Shelters respectively. This was awarded under the 2018 Appropriation Act. A visit to the above locations by CWAI reveals that the jobs were actually carried out in line with the global standards, thereby transforming the facilities to modern structures, unlike the comatose state it was before – inhabitable for human standards.
CWAI also found out that the recent onslaught against NAPTIP management may not be unconnected with the series of disciplinary measures and recent transfers carried out to enhance greater productivity by the Director-General. This was aimed at enhancing efficiency, effectiveness and productivity in line with President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s agenda and her mandate to reposition the agency. As reports indicate, a handful of officers had resisted the posting and normal routine transfer for capacity building and further knowledge acquisition within the agency, while some threatened to get back at the system.
CWAI states categorically that it is on record that the procedures for the award of these contracts followed due process and the final job completion certificates were daily signed by the officers in charge of those shelters. There was nothing like splitting any contract, because they were actually three separate contracts. Knowing full well that the amount approved for the three projects was grossly inadequate, the NAPTIP D-G, in her determination to give the facilities a face-lift, approached the authorities of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), a sister government agency, to compliment the efforts of the Agency by bringing it up to international standard through the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as practiced all over the globe.
Our organization also found out that concerning the allegation of N100 million appropriated for workshops under the 2017 budget, the funds was not released in full, the truth is that it was a capital project, which was awarded on the framework for the Safe Return/Repatriation and Reintegration of Victims of Human Trafficking/Child Labour following due process to a consultant. The first workshop was held in Calabar and more than 70 persons from all relevant governmental and non-governmental agencies, as well as the United Nations system and some foreign embassies were at the workshop. The international organizations only catered for their representatives and they were just eight persons. NAPTIP, through the consultant, conducted a second technical workshop in Keffi, Nasarawa State, to fine-tune the document and other instruments, the workshop was attended by over 25 persons and lasted for four days. The consultant duly reported in his work and satisfied the laid down regulations, while funds were never paid into the account of the NAPTIP Director of Research and Programme Development, so he has no reason to retire any amount or to forge tickets and hotel bills as maliciously alleged by the online platform, all in a bid to cast aspersions and smear the management of NAPTIP.
From CWAI’s investigations, that these elements have taken it upon themselves and are hell-bent on tarnishing the good work presently taking place at NAPTIP. In view of the foregoing, CWAI therefore diligently implores the general public to disregard and discountenance the highly illogical concoction that was served as a multi-million Naira contract fraud to a seemingly online platform, just to grab undue attention and headline in order to ridicule the image of NAPTIP and its management and put it in negative public perception.
But, as champions and agitators of transparency, good governance and accountability in the country, we at CWAI are aware that such deeply embedded surreptitious efforts and clandestine motives by disgruntled elements are aimed at demonizing, denigrating and blackmailing the present leadership of NAPTIP. This is glaring, because of the result of management’s deliberate avowed vision and mission to rebrand and reposition NAPTIP for effective service delivery. CWAI has watched closely the events of the past few days and monitored the court of public opinion and has come to the conclusion that it is in favour of NAPTIP.
CWAI’s independent evaluation of NAPTIP by its coalition partners and co-travellers in the boat of CSOs shows clear alignment with corporate transparent leadership, institutional capacity building and good governance stance on issues paramount to the growth and development of NAPTIP. CWAI further observed that immediately the present management assumed the mantle of leadership, it witnessed a cesspool of diligent and deliberate reorganizational transformation to a global brand. And to back up its philosophy, the Director-General instituted a template and constituted a think-tank to increase the visibility of the agency, launching it out globally as a foremost counter trafficking agency.
This has increased the partnership base of the agency, thereby bringing in more stakeholders on board, and creating of units in tandem with global standards like reforms units and rapid response unit, including the unveiling and promotion of NAPTIP brands, which is a unique milestone never witnessed before since the inception of the agency. The NAPTIP management, under the leadership of Dame Donli, renovated the headquarters building, increased surveillance and proactive operational activities with an open door policy and the conviction of no fewer than 500 persons (many cases still pending in courts and investigation of many still on-going) and over 1800 victims passed through the NAPTIP shelters, given psychosocial support, provided skills, education, medical supports, empowerment and reintegrated most to their family and the society at large.
Through thorough investigation, CWAI realized that the present leadership hosted the First INTERPOL Global Conference on Human Traffickers and Migrant Smuggling in Africa. The 6th edition of the conference was attended by delegates from over 100 countries. However, NAPTIP employed three survivors of human trafficking as staff of the agency, they were rescued and trained in various universities in Nigeria and one of them had a 2.1 grade level. It was during this leadership that NAPTIP commenced an aggressive grassroots sensitization programme in all villages across the country on the dangers of human trafficking, including advocacy to state governors, traditional leaders and community leaders across the country on the harmful effects of trafficking and the setting up of State Task Forces on human capital in four states of the federation and presently working on other states.
NAPTIP has engaged actors in the aviation sector and the establishment of anti-human trafficking awareness signage at strategic points at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport and others, including joint operation with British Police at the Heathrow and Gatwick airports, a feat no other African country has achieved yet.
However, it has set up the Nigeria Sexual Offenders Register with the support of Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC) to name and shame sex offenders and in collaboration presently with ECOWAS Parliament on the need for collective regional efforts to curb human trafficking menace in our sub-region. Consequently, it has commenced the sensitization of commercial sex operators, law enforcement agencies and members of border communities in the Republic of Benin and Togo borders.
NAPTIP has created the sexual and gender based violence unit to tackle the increased cases of rape and domestic violence in the country. It has, as well, sponsored victims in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. It has also handled the evacuation of thousands of stranded victims of human trafficking and irregular migration from Libya, including rescued stranded Nigerian girls from Saudi-Arabia, Cairo, Omar and Lebanon as we write. It has recently concluded work with the Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) on the infusion of trafficking in persons issues into the curricula of primary and secondary schools in Nigeria, a development that Nigerians from all walks of life have applauded.
CWAI, therefore affirms, that knowing full well that human trafficking, sexual and gender based violence, just like other societal ills, are two hydra-headed monsters with the tendency of fighting back. In view of this, the latest attack on NAPTIP did not come to us as a surprise. This is against the backdrop of the increasing number of high profile human trafficking and sexual offences related cases handled by the agency at the moment, in addition to the publication of the contents of the sexual offenders register, a different concept never envisaged until now.
The organization therefore, condemns in strong terms, the intemperate castigation and malicious publication aimed at NAPTIP. CWAI, after a clinical and thorough investigation, including strategic civil society engagement, therefore urges the media to be vigilant and not to be hoodwinked by fifth columnists in this direction and to disregard and discountenance the innuendoes orchestrated by traducers, rabble-rousers and mischief makers, peddling falsehood about the management of NAPTIP.
In conclusion, CWAI urges well-meaning Nigerians to be wary of the antics of such reports and disregard same and consider them as mere hoax and hog-wash. The organization urges NAPTIP’s present management to remain focused and steadfast on the delivery of her mandate to Nigerians through proactive leadership qualities of accountability, transparency and good governance practice which the management has been known for. Furthermore, CWAI has no hesitation to pass a vote of confidence on NAPTIP management’s tenacity, doggedness and forthrightness in stemming the tide of human trafficking, gender and sexual based violence. Hence CWAI calls on development partners, stakeholders and Nigerians to continue to partner with NAPTIP on a long term initiative for the betterment of the country.