The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says widespread impunity is making human trafficking more profitable for criminals than smuggling small arms.
The crime amounts to $150 billion a year, and promises high profit and low risk for traffickers.
It came as the organisation launched the Blue Bus project, a one-stop-shop where vulnerable migrants and community members can get information on the risks associated with human trafficking.
Through the project, people can also report cases, and get on-the-spot counselling.
The project targets many communities in the project States of Lagos, Edo and Delta.
The IOM Chief of Mission in Nigeria, Frantz Celestin, who spoke at the launch of the initiative in collaboration with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in persons (NAPTIP) and support of the Swiss Government reiterated that trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants are serious crimes which should not go unpunished.
“However, impunity is such that it is more profitable for criminals to traffic human beings than small arms.
“Scaling up efforts in the criminal justice response, including international cooperation, is of utmost importance to increase the number of investigations, prosecutions and, eventually, convictions,” he said.
According to him, sufficient, reliable data on trends and patterns of trafficking and smuggling are key elements in developing evidence-based responses.
He said while IOM, other UN agencies, and Civil Society Organizations have been providing support to the Government of Nigeria in collecting and analyzing data, “we need to redouble our efforts to stay two steps ahead of the criminals.”
He said IOM would fight side by side with NAPTIP “to disrupt these criminal elements,” adding, “Since 2001, IOM has been supporting the efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria to manage migration through capacity-building and technical assistance on migration matters, including migration health, assisted voluntary returns, and counter-trafficking.”
Director-General of NAPTIP, Imaan Sulaiman–Ibrahim said the Blue Bus Project builds on counter–trafficking experiences in Switzerland and Nigeria having a travelling idea that addresses the challenges and risks associated to human trafficking in the country through the newly established awareness-raising bus.
The DG said, “It is my desire that the Blue bus project takes our messages to all the States of the Federation as no State is spared in the crime of TIP and also to interact with high risk groups/individuals, providing the needed protection they require from falling prey to the antics of the traffickers.”