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Ambassador Leonard’s Goodwill Message for the press conference for the Film Screening of Òlòtūré
January 18, 2023

Tuesday, January 17, 2023. YarAdua Center, Abuja

Good afternoon everyone.  I would like to thank the organizers for bringing us together for today’s film screening of Òlòtūré.  Human trafficking is a global scourge that violates human rights, destroys families, and undermines national security.  Trafficking exploits victims’ vulnerabilities and robs them of their most basic rights of freedom and human dignity.  The criminals behind it destroy families and distort economic markets, while enriching their own criminal enterprises.  It is a brutal, inhumane crime.  

That’s why the fight against human trafficking, including sex trafficking, is a U.S. policy priority.  Our government follows the widely used “3P” paradigm — “prosecution,” “protection,” and “prevention” — to combat human trafficking worldwide.  More broadly, the Department of State employs a “4th P” — for “partnership,” a concept reflected in the participation of my diplomatic colleagues here today.  We believe a comprehensive, multidisciplinary effort is necessary to be effective in preventing and prosecuting this crime and protecting its victims.  

The United States Mission fully supports Nigeria’s efforts against human trafficking and we applaud all who are working in Nigeria to combat this deplorable crime including all of you gathered here today.  We commend the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) for the strides they have made to combat human trafficking and support victims and survivors. 

The United States government currently has invested almost $3.5 million in TIP programs in Nigeria with more expected this year.  These programs include: 

  • The Pathfinder’s Justice Initiative that provides economic recovery, basic needs, and mental health support to survivors of sex trafficking, and other individuals vulnerable to trafficking due to the pandemic. 
  • Heartland Alliance International’s initiative to improve the capacity of governments, civil society, and communities to protect and provide comprehensive services for survivors of trafficking in Nigeria.
  • And the development of a nationwide database of resources for victims of GBV to include victims of trafficking in collaboration with the Secretary Blinken’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.  

We also support the: 

  • Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) program that works to improve localized TIP response and galvanize action for more effective implementation of TIP laws in particular areas. 
  • Training local CSOs on TIP identification, prevention, and response across Nigeria.

There is still much work to be done.  Victims and survivors must have the support they need to recover.  For this to happen, agencies must have the necessary tools and resources to appropriately identify and assist victims.  Sharing information in a timely manner – including open communication between agencies and the organizations who work in this field – is key.  

We can also get more people involved.  This month, as you know, is Human Trafficking Awareness month.  Generating public awareness about the precursors and indicators of human and sex trafficking, with events such as today’s, is an important part of the fight.  Awareness of the signs of trafficking can help identify a victim or trafficking situation, or prevent it from ever happening.  Finally, we must continue to actively work to hold those who commit and support these crimes accountable.  

While most nations have laws against human trafficking, and indeed there are several international conventions which set forth standards to combat trafficking in persons, it is the effective implementation of such laws that will help most in this fight.  As Secretary Blinken has said, “Let us stand together and press for accountability from those who condone and support human trafficking, create conditions ripe for mass exploitation, and perpetuate this fundamental insult to human dignity.”

I look forward to our continued partnerships and collaboration on combating all forms of human trafficking, supporting its victims, and bringing those who perpetrate such brutal crimes, such as the ones we’ll see in this film, to justice.