As prepared for delivery
Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, and distinguished colleagues, it is truly an honor to stand before you today on this occasion as we gather for the official handover of the Countering Human Trafficking Office in Lagos State. This initiative represents a significant step forward in our collective efforts to combat one of the most egregious violations of human rights – human trafficking.
I would like to take the opportunity to extend our gratitude:
- to the Lagos State Government, specifically the Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Lagos State Neighborhood Safety Agency (LNSA) for its commitment to creating a safe and secure environment for its citizens.
- to the Kingdom of Netherlands for their unwavering commitment to this cause and our continuing international partnership.
- to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), our partner and implementers of this crucial project. UNODC’s expertise, dedication, and tireless efforts have been pivotal in bringing this vision to life.
The fight against human trafficking demands a coordinated approach, and the establishment of this office is a critical milestone in strengthening Nigeria’s criminal justice response to trafficking in persons and demonstrates the importance of local authorities in this effort. It serves as a beacon of hope for victims and a symbol of our collective determination to eradicate this heinous crime.
Between 2021 and 2023, the U.S. government through the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs provided $1.3 million to UNODC to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to protect those vulnerable to trafficking. By consolidating our resources and expertise, we aim to create a robust framework that will not only address the needs of current victims, but also work towards prevention of future trafficking.
The U.S. government understands the importance of a comprehensive response to human trafficking. That is why in addition to projects like this, which build the physical infrastructure, we have invested in the training of first responders as well as the reintegration of victims of trafficking. In 2023, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. government trained 160 civilian law enforcement officers to respond to cases of human trafficking and counseled more than 100 civil society organizations on how to identify and refer potential victims of trafficking. Through our Academy for Women Entrepreneurs program, 20 victims of trafficking and other returned migrants received specialized business management training and mentorship from seasoned entrepreneurs, giving them the needed economic and social support to reintegrate into their communities.
As we celebrate the opening of this office, let us also renew our commitment to collaboration, information sharing, and continuous improvement. The 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report from the U.S. State Department underscores the evolving tactics employed by traffickers in Nigeria, such as cyber scam operations involving deceptive job postings and fraudulent dating websites to entice unsuspecting victims. But I’m assured with continued partnerships like these we can face these new tactics with innovative solutions.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge all the individuals who have worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition – from the architects and builders to the officers who will soon call this office their workplace. Your commitment to this cause is commendable, and the U.S. Mission is confident that the Countering Human Trafficking Office will become a hub of excellence in the fight against trafficking in persons.
Thank you all, and may this office serve as a beacon of hope for all those affected by the scourge of human trafficking.