Human traffickers under the guise of 2018 World Cup recruited Nigerian women for jobs in Russia and later exploited them for sex work, United States 2019 Trafficking in Persons report has said.
The report, published by US Department of State on Thursday and obtained by our correspondent, noted that 1,863 Nigerians remained in Russia without travel documents.
The 2018 World Cup held in Russia between June 14 and July 15.
The 2019 TIP report, which presented a country-by-country situation report on human trafficking, said the Nigerian government failed to convict complicit government officials despite reports of officials committing a variety of trafficking offences each year.
According to the report, Nigerians who are trafficking victims are currently in at least 34 countries in four regions, with Nigerians being the most common trafficking victims in European Union.
The US report partly read, “For the fifth consecutive year, the government did not convict any complicit government officials despite consistent reports of government officials committing a variety of trafficking offences each year. The government did not investigate, prosecute, or hold accountable any military or Civilian Joint Task Force members for exploiting Internally Displaced Persons in sex trafficking or past recruitment and use of child soldiers.
“The government also identified fewer trafficking victims and did not fully disburse the budget allocated to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.
“Authorities identified Nigerian trafficking victims in at least 34 countries in four regions during the reporting period. Nigerian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within Nigeria and throughout Europe, including in Italy, Spain, Austria, and Russia.
“Following relaxed visa requirements for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, traffickers fraudulently recruited Nigerian women for jobs in Russia and later exploited them in sex trafficking; as of early 2019, 1,863 Nigerians remained in Russia without travel documents.”
US Secretary of State, Mr Michael Pompeo, in the report summary, said traffickers robbed a “staggering 24.9 million people of their freedom and basic human dignity which is roughly three times the population of New York City.”
NAPTIP Director-General, Mrs Julie Okah-Donli, in her reaction, said the agency disagreed with the US report in certain aspects.
She said, “We are gratified but not satisfied that Nigeria was upgraded from Tier 2 Watch List which the country has occupied for two years. The report noted all the efforts made by NAPTIP and other duty bearing agencies to respond effectively to human trafficking but still insisted that the government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
“Looking though the report, it is clear that efforts of the Nigerian government and NAPTIP in particular have not been given due credit.”