If there are native doctors who are guilty of involving in trafficking of persons, they should be prosecuted says Devatop Centre for Africa Development, DCAD, a nonprofit organisation with focus on combating human trafficking.
The group was reacting to a partnership the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, said it struck with some local witch doctors in Benin, Edo State to aid in curbing the crime.
NAPTIP said on Monday that it has ”gathered witch doctors in the city, engaged their services and made them ambassadors in fighting the menace.”
“When we gathered these witch doctors recently to sensitise them on what human trafficking victims go through in Europe, they were shocked. They have made their commitments to work with us to fight the menace of human trafficking,” the Director General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli said at an event.
Reacting in a statement on Tuesday, Joseph Osuigwe, the Executive Director of the group, said the partnership should not be a way of ”pardoning native doctors who have taken part in human trafficking.”
“We have to call a spade a spade. Anyone who is guilty is guilty.
“This partnership should not prevent NAPTIP from raiding the shrines and arresting suspected Juju priests who have hands in any form of oath of secrecy against victims of human trafficking.
“The partnership with native doctors needs to be handled with cautiousness, diligence, and without compromise of standard. NAPTIP needs to be meticulous because this is a delicate collaboration”, Mr. Osuigwe said.
Apart from partnering with native doctors or juju priests, the group director said it is important for NAPTIP and civil society groups to give attention to helping victims who are under the fear of the oath of secrecy they took at juju shrines.
“Due to the fear of the oath, victims hardly run away or give details of their trafficker. It has become a challenging task to gain evidence from the trafficked victims, and this explains the very small number of convictions of Nigerian human traffickers.
“It is quite obvious that the phenomenon of juju remains a major challenge to law enforcement especially in the Western world where the metaphysical dimension to trafficking cases often baffles and confuses investigators and social workers. Victims must be counselled with sympathy and empathy for their psychological state, and law enforcement agencies must form strong alliances with local figures and groups in order to meaningfully assist human trafficking victims who may be under the influence of juju.”
Mr. Osuigwe however described the partnership as a welcome development in the fight against human trafficking.
He said every member of the community, irrespective of his or her profession, including “native doctors” has a role to play in combating human trafficking.
“I just hope and as well advise NAPTIP to educate the native doctors to become whistle blowers so that each time a trafficker brings a victim for oath of secrecy, they will alert or report to law enforcement, instead of becoming an accomplice of the crime”, he said.