The new Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2015 newly assented by President Goodluck Jonathan has barred the engagement of children under 12 years of age as domestic help.
Director-General of the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Person, Mrs. Beatrice Jedy-Agba, told journalists at her office in Abuja on Thursday that the new law prescribed between two to 10 years jail term for such offenders.
According to Jedy-Agba, the new law imposes stiffer penalties on human trafficking offenders, adding that the abuse and exploitation of children under 12 years old who are being used as domestic help are aggravating circumstances that attract higher jail terms.
She said, “What we have done is to introduce a minimum sentence status. For instance, if you engage a child of below 12 years, there is compulsory imprisonment of not less than two years. There is no option of fine. The fine is in addition to imprisonment.
“The judge, of course, also have the discretion to impose five or 10 years, depending on the circumstances and severe abuse.”
She said the prohibition of use of children under 12 years old was in line with government policy of compulsory education for children in the age bracket.
The NAPTIP boss also explained that the new Act amends the appointment and tenure of the Director-General.
The new Act also changes the nomenclature of the head of NAPTIP from Executive Secretary to Director-General.
While fielding questions from journalists, she ruled out alleged cases of trafficking of children in the camps of the internally displaced persons in the North-East.
She said the preliminary investigation of the inter-ministerial committee set up by the Federal Government to investigate the allegation indicated that though there could be “legitimate concern” of sexual abuses, no established cases of human trafficking had been reported.
She said, “Preliminary investigation indicates that while there are legitimate cause for concern there were no established case of child trafficking.
“There were some allegations of sexual abuse on the part of overzealous security personnel. These were the people that were supposed to be their primary protectors so they are not willing to report.”
The NAPTIP boss said President Goodluck Jonathan assented to the new Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2015 on March 26, 2015.
She said with the re-enactment of the new law, the old Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2003 amended in 2005 “has been repealed.”
She said the old NAPTIP law was repealed because it was found to be inadequate to effectively combat “evolving crime of trafficking in persons.”