From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Expertise France has formally ended the implementation of the regional project to support the fight against trafficking in persons in six gulf of Guinea countries for a period of four years (2019-2023).

At the closing ceremony of the intervention in Abuja, on Thursday, Alessandra Bianco, Protection Expert for Expertise France, said the four-year intervention was a huge success across the six countries that benefited from the intervention.

She explained that Expertise France is the French Agency for International Technical Expertise whose mission is part of France’s Policy of cooperation, development aid, influence and economic diplomacy.

She added: “In 2019, Expertise France obtained funding from the European Union (EU) and France for the implementation of the regional project to support the fight against trafficking in persons in six gulf of Guinea Countries for a period of 4 years (2019-2023).

“The aim was to support the six partner countries, namely, Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Ghana and Nigeria, in strengthening their actions and capacities for a targeted and effective fight against human trafficking in line with priorities set by the stakeholders and partners.

“The project focused on four components, namely (i) institutional, operational and
preventive action consolidation, (ii) law enforcement, (iii) victim protection and (iv) regional cooperation. Through these four components, the project strengthen the capacities of the institutional systems and mechanisms to combat trafficking in persons.

“However, the fourth component, regional cooperation, boosted cross-border
cooperation and implement cooperation measures in accordance with existing bilateral and regional agreements, in partnership with ECOWAS.

“Similarly, our strategy of regional intervention fostered a unified approach, allowing us to tailor our responses to the unique needs of each country while fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing. Together, we bolstered institutional systems, enhanced law enforcement capabilities, and provided vital protection services to victims of

She specifically mentioned that Expertise France intervention in Nigeria yielded some tangible results. “We provided care and support to 660 victims and potential victims of trafficking, while sensitizing over 40,000 migrants or potential migrants on the risk of irregular migration over the period.

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“Furthermore, critical infrastructure, such as the reception centre for victims of trafficking in Ondo state and the renovated NAPTIP office in Akure, has been revitalized to better serve our communities. Additionally, a data management system to store and analyze trafficking-related data was upgraded and digital travel declaration platform was set up.”

She also provided more information on achievements made in the fight against human trafficking in the country, insisting that such achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the support of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person (NAPTIP) and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the Director General of NAPTIP, Prof. Fatima Waziri-Azi, who was represented by Josiah Emerole, appreciated Expertise France for the four-year intervention, stating that the opportunity helped NAPTIP achieved improved result.

She said: “over the course of this project, we witnessed the transformative impact of collaboration, dedication, and perseverance. Through targeted interventions, capacity building, and advocacy, we have made significant strides in enhancing awareness, strengthening institutions, and providing direct support to victims of human trafficking.

“The partnership between NAPTIP and Expertise France has been nothing short of extraordinary, yielding impactful initiatives in terms of valuable expertise and technical assistance that will resonate for years to come.

“The intervention helped us to establish 24-hour Call Center, toll-free line, and short code. This has significantly enhanced our responsiveness to reports of trafficking incidents. In 2023 alone, our Call Center received over 7,000 calls, a testament to its vital role in combating human trafficking,” she said.

She highlighted that a lot still needs to be done, hence all parties must continue to unite in seeking ways and means of strengthening anti-human trafficking strategies and support for the survivors of the crime.

Mr. Ron Hendrix, the EU Programme Officer in charge of Migration, appreciated the importance of the intervention in the fight against human trafficking in the countries.

He, however, suggested a review of the entire programmes of the intervention, and possibly pick out areas that require improvement and strengthening ahead of future/similar interventions.

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