December 8, 2023

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Human traffickers now using ECOWAS travel certificates to evade arrest, Nigerian Immigration raises alarm
December 30, 2022


The Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, Bayelsa State Command, on Thursday December 29, raised the alarm on the increased use of ECOWAS Travel Certificates, ETC, by human traffickers to evade suspicion and arrest.


The Command stated that the discovery is the result of a directive from the Comptroller General of Immigration Service Isa Jere Idris, MFR to heads of Commands and special formations of the Service towards the end of the year to ensure water-tight border control and management.


The Public Relations Officer for NIS in Bayelsa, Ibiemo Cookey, in a statement in Yenagoa, said in line with the directive of the Comptroller General, a trafficked victim by name Miss Maureen Ekpe, was rescued and released to the family, while the alleged trafficker was at large.


Cookey noted that the NIS, in Bayelsa, observed sudden increase in the rate at which young people obtained the ECOWAS travel certificate.


“The Bayelsa State Command headed by Comptroller James Sunday, PCC in a proactive and improved investigative strategy has uncovered the newly adopted ways used by human traffickers to evade security checks and avoid suspicion by using the ECOWAS Travel Certificate (ETC) as a travel document to transport their victims to any of the ECOWAS member states to evade stringent checks at the airport and lower the level of suspicion in view of the limitation of countries the document is valid for travel,” he said.


“The Command noticed a sudden increase in the rate at which young people patronized the ECOWAS Travel Certificate and did a risk analysis and a checklist of the age group that goes for it.


“The ECOWAS Unit was tasked to add an additional security document to the requirement, called the Suspicious Travel Interrogation Form which was zeroed down to any suspected case and has yielded results.


“So far, it has helped in rescuing two victims by denying them the facility and denying several others without genuine reasons after due diligent interrogation.


“In one of the cases, the trafficker who is at large after the victim was stopped prompted our alert system and gave the Command the idea behind the increased demand for the document against the conventional passport


“The Bayelsa Command will not rest on its oars, until the syndicates are exposed and the only well justified, authentic trips without any link to Trafficking in Persons (TIPs) or Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) is established through the use of our interrogative process and  vital intelligence tools to fight the menace,” Mr Cookey said.


The NIS called on parents and guardians to desist from releasing their Wards/Children to people with hidden identities or motives, by verifying the kind of work their children were being offered and to report any suspicious move to take their children outside the country for unconfirmed work and mouth watering plans.


“All cases being investigated will be concluded before New Year for onward report to the Service Headquarters, Abuja, while the command steps up its strategies, officers and men are warned to avoid being accomplices in any way,” he added.