Red Flag Over Human Organ Harvest, Trafficking

As the Nigerian government through the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP fights human trafficking, human organ trafficking, said to be worse than prostitution and child labour has assumed worrisome proportion. Ruth Tene Natsa writes.

The Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia defines organ transplantation as a medical procedure in which an organ is removed from one body and placed in the body of a recipient, to replace a damaged or missing organ. Adding that organs donors may be living, brain dead, or dead via circulatory death.

Organs that have been successfully transplanted include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus, while some organs, like the brain, cannot be transplanted.

It added that “worldwide, the kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart, while corneae and musculoskeletal grafts are the most commonly transplanted tissues, outnumbering organ transplants by more than tenfold”

This is the new global trend in trafficking, which experts have said is far worse than sexual exploitation/ prostitution, child labour and other forms of trafficking.

Speaking with journalists at the “22nd National Stakeholders Consultative Forum (NSCF) on Human Trafficking” which held in Abuja, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, NAPTIP, director general Julie Okah- Donli  said “Emerging trends of trafficking include organ transplant/ organ harvesting. It has gone beyond prostitution now, because those involved think it is easier way to make more money,” she said.

Okah-Donli, who spoke on the spiraling cases of human trafficking said in the past one year over 20,000 people have been trafficked in Nigeria.

“In fact we just received a report right now that there are some children being processed to be moved out of the country, here in Abuja as we speak, so our officers are already there, she said.

Okah-Donli said Nigeria was downgraded from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch List because of allegations that Nigeria Armed Forces used children as child soldiers in the North East.

“This means that Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, It means that we have not yet met with compliance, that we have not done enough to fight trafficking in persons,” she said.

“Specifically Nigeria was downgraded because of allegations that Nigeria Armed Forces are using children as child soldiers in the North East,” Okah-Donli said.

She added that “we were formally in Tier 1, we were downgraded to Tier 2 and then further downgraded to Tier 2 Watch list, but it’s a combination of factors, and let me make it clear, it is not just NAPTIP, it is Nigeria, it is called the Trafficking in Persons Report and that is why everybody seems to be looking towards NAPTIP.

“I must emphasise that this report is not a reflection of the efforts of NAPTIP which has continued to set standards globally, but an appraisal of the actions of all arms of government as well as civil society in Nigeria to provide adequate protection for the most vulnerable segments of the society.”

The Okah-Donli disclosed that since her assumption of office as the in April this year, the agency has been working towards returning Nigeria to its former position through awareness creation and advocacy, adding that she had pursued the fight against human trafficking with unprecedented vigor through organisational and policy re-engineering which is evident in the establishment of a reforms unit and increased awareness of human trafficking both at home and abroad.

“The reform units have the Anti-corruption Unit, and the Gender and SERVICOM units to ensure we provide the best of services in terms of the way we react towards cases, “she said.

Speaking during the forum, Okah-Donli said the NSCF was instituted at the inception of the agency in 2004 as a platform for stock taking amongst stakeholders.

“The NSCF has afforded NAPTIP and stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking the opportunity to assess the level and effectiveness of human trafficking interventions efforts in the country for future programming,” Okah-Donli said.

Since the last “National Stakeholders Conference” in July 2013, the agency has done a lot of work aimed at making human trafficking a national priority by putting human trafficking issues at the forefront of national and international discourse, she said.

The minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami said “No stone should be left unturned in the fight against human trafficking because of the embarrassment it causes in Nigeria.”

Malami was represented by Francis Oni, an assistant director, International and Comparative Law Department in the ministry. According to him, apart from national embarrassment  human trafficking has caused the nation, it had also depleted the population of the country. Many Nigerians, he said, had died while being trafficked to other countries through illegal routes and some lost their lives in the Mediterranean.

The minister pledged government’s commitment and support to NAPTIP  in the fight against human trafficking.

The British high commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, commended NAPTIP for the recent increase in momentum in the fight against human trafficking.

Represented by Leuis Evans, an official from the Embassy, Mr. Arkwright said that the British government had been collaborating with Nigeria in the fight against human trafficking.

Meanwhile a representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said Nigeria has shown commitment to fight human trafficking as it had signed all the conventions and has shown readiness to fight against human trafficking.

With these observations, there is no doubt that the Nigerian government is committed to fighting trafficking in whatever form. But until this fight becomes of personal and national interest, the government could be fighting a losing battle.

It is therefore most urgent that more awareness is generated on the issue of trafficking, organ transplanting and organ harvesting, so that it never becomes a menace that cannot be controlled.

Already there have been incidences of people being caught with human parts, there is a need to ensure that people caught with human parts for whatever reasons are made to face the full wrath of the law.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Action Plan has identified that root causes of any form of trafficking vary from country to country.

It states that “Trafficking is a complex phenomenon that is often driven or influenced by social, economic, cultural and other factors. Many of these factors specific to individual trafficking patterns and to the states in which they occur.”

It said general factors that drive trafficking include the desire of potential victims to migrate, which is exploited by offenders to recruit and gain initial control or cooperation, only to be replaced by more coercive measures once the victims have been moved to another state or region of the country, which may not always be the one to which they had intended to migrate.

Other common factors, it added include local conditions that make populations want to migrate in search of better conditions including poverty, oppression, lack of human rights, lack of social or economic opportunity, dangers from conflict or instability and similar conditions. Political instability, militarism, civil unrest, internal armed conflict and natural disasters may result in an increase in trafficking.

The report added that “The practice of entrusting poor children to more affluent friends or relatives may create vulnerability. Some parents sell their children, not just for the money, but also in the hope that their children will escape a situation of chronic poverty and move to a place where they will have a better life and more opportunities.”

Speaking to our correspondent, coordinator for Child and Youth Protection Foundation, Kolawole Olatosimi acknowledged that he was aware of organ transplant and organ harvest, even though it wasn’t common in Nigeria.

According to him “It is not very prominent in Nigeria except for one or two cases,” even as he said it is very common in Asian countries. He points out that sexual exploitation and human trafficking is however what is very common and prevalent in Nigeria.



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