The Comptroller General, The Nigerian Immigration Service, Caroline Adepoju, has said the service arrested 522 human traffickers and their victims in 2023.
Mrs Adepoju, who made this known while briefing journalists on Tuesday in Abuja on activities to mark the International Migrants Day on December 18, said the traffickers and victims were handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.
She described smuggling of migrants as a serious transnational crime that posed significant challenges to governments around the world, including Nigeria which is being used by traffickers as a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants.
Mrs Adepoju said that the illicit trade not only exploited vulnerable individuals and put their lives at risk, but also undermined the integrity of national borders and security.
The NIS boss therefore said that the day was meant to galvanise efforts to prevent and combat the crime, protect migrants and address the root causes and factors that contributed to the proliferation of human smuggling networks.
‘‘Migrants smuggling requires our collective attention. It is a violation of human rights; putting individuals at risk of exploitation, abuse and even death. As a nation, Nigeria stands firm in its commitment to prevent and combat it, protecting the welfare and dignity of our citizens.
“In the light of this, NIS is committed to combating the smuggling of migrants through a multi-faceted approach that involves prevention, enforcement and international cooperation,” the CG said.
Mrs Adepoju, however, said that preventive efforts were crucial in addressing the root causes of migrant smuggling.
‘‘We recognise the importance of raising awareness about the dangers of irregular migration and the deceptive tactics used by smugglers to lure their victims. Our personnel are actively engaged in identifying, investigating and prosecuting individuals and criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling,” she emphasised.
The NIS boss said that the service had also implemented measures to enhance border security and strengthen immigration control mechanisms to detect and intercept perpetrators of the heinous crime.
Mrs Adepoju said technologies such as biometric identifications, surveillance cameras at key borders, and advanced passenger information system were emplaced by the service to deter the smuggling of migrants across Nigeria borders.
She said, “Furthermore, international cooperation plays a vital role in addressing the transnational nature of migrant smuggling. We are engaged in collaborative initiatives with regional and international partners to share information, intelligence and best practices in combating migrant smuggling.
“Building strong partnerships and enhancing cross-border cooperation are essential in disrupting the criminal networks that operate across multiple countries. On this occasion of Anti-smuggling of Migrants Week, we reaffirm our commitment to upholding the rights of migrants, protecting their well-being and ensuring their safe and orderly migration.”
Mrs Adepoju urged stakeholders including government agencies, civil society organisations, private sector and the media, to actively contribute to the fight against human trafficking.
”We all have a role to play in preventing the exploitation of migrants and safeguarding the integrity of our borders. Let us stand together in solidarity to uphold the rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their migration status,” the NIS CG said.
The week-long activities will involve sensitisation of officers and men, presentations and a medical outreach at Sauka primary school, among others.