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UNODCs Liaison Magistrate Initiative helps Nigeria and Italy to achieve major success in the fight against human trafficking

Over the past two decades, Nigerian transnational organized crime has evolved structurally, grown more sophisticated and become both more violent and better organized.

Traditional tools have largely proven insufficient against more sophisticated organized crime groups and there is a pressing need for governments, international organizations, and practitioners to come up with innovative approaches to effectively tackle the continuously growing threats to the stability of the region.

In this context and through the PROMIS project funded by The Netherlands and Italy, UNODC launched in 2018 the Liaison Magistrate Initiative to foster judicial cooperation through the deployment of two Nigerian prosecutors of the International Cooperation Department in the Federal Ministry of Justice first to Italy and then to Spain. Further to this, under the framework of the same project, UNODC joined forces with the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights (SII) and began holding regular annual meetings for the liaison magistrates, law enforcement officials, prosecutors and organized crime experts from Nigeria and Europe.

In 2022, UNODC and the SII brought together 10 European jurisdictions and Nigeria law enforcement agencies to discuss and network on investigating and prosecuting organized criminal groups operating in Nigeria and Europe; including case consultations relevant to ongoing investigations. One of such is the case of Charity Omoruyi, a wanted human trafficker in Italy and Nigeria.

Charity Omoruyi a.k.a Joy Jeff is a Nigerian Citizen born in 1975, who arrived Ravenna, Italy, in the year 1995 seeking asylum, which was later granted to her. Charity Omoruyi a.k.a Joy Jeff recruited numerous girls to be sexually exploited in Italy and Europe. Because of her illicit activities she was placed on the list of the 10 most wanted criminals in Italy. When some of the member of her criminal network, were arrested, she absconded and was tried and convicted in Italy in absentia after failing to comply with a court summons.

Thanks to the work of the Nigerian Liaison Magistrate deployed in Italy, Italian and Nigerian authorities began a fruitful cooperation that eventually led to the arrest of the fugitive criminal in Edo State, Nigeria. Following the receipt of a formal request for extradition by the Italian authorities, the Attorney General of the Federation filed the necessary documents before the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria and Hon. Justice  F.B.M Nyako granted the application and ordered the fugitive criminal’s extradition to face the jail term imposed on her by the court of Ancona in Italy. This case shows how timely cooperation between countries can bring tangible results and prompt responses to counter transnational organized crime globally.

As part of the PROMIS project, since February 2018, UNODC has been supporting the deployment of African prosecutors to Italy and Spain to foster international judicial cooperation on cases relating to trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and other related crimes between the countries of origin and the countries of destination. A total of 5 prosecutors from Nigeria (2), Niger (1), Ethiopia (1) and Eritrea (1) have been deployed to Italy and Spain. Up to present, these liaison magistrates have been involved in 55 transnational organized crime cases, facilitated 27 MLA requests, and contributed to the issuing of 4 international arrest warrants.

In line with UNODC’s Strategic Vision for Nigeria, and Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as UNODC’s Strategic Vision for Africa, Priority Area 2.5 and 5.1, UNODC continues to support the Nigerian Government in implementing the National Action Plan on Human Trafficking with a specific focus on strengthening the criminal justice response to trafficking in persons, enhancing prevention; increasing international cooperation with transit and destination countries, and promoting research and analysis of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.

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