The Senate on Tuesday deferred the consideration of the report on the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Bill to March, 18 to enable the Senate Sub-Committees on Appropriation complete work on the 2014 budget defence by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The report which was prepared by the Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Women Affairs and Youth Development, seeks to repeal the 2003 Act and enact a new Act to provide for more comprehensive legal and institutional measures aimed at eradicating trafficking in persons.
The Chairman of the Joint Committee, Sen. Umaru Dahiru, said the bill was designed to respond to the challenges encountered in the last 10 years in the fight against trafficking in Nigeria.
Earlier, the senators were divided over a clause in the draft law which seeks to regulate the actions of law enforcement agents with respect to civility in the discharge of their functions.
Clause 6 (b) empowers law enforcement agents to “enter into any premises or property without warrant for the purpose of conducting searches in furtherance of their functions under this Act or under any law’’.
Some senators faulted the clause, saying it gives too much power to the law enforcement agencies which could lead to breach on the privacy and rights of the people.
Others argued that such provisions had been in existence to enhance prompt and effective action on the part of the law enforcement agencies.
The Senate Leader, Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba, said the clause was `critical’ to enable law enforcement agencies take quick action on cases of human trafficking.
He noted that the provision had been in existence for a long time, adding that it was intended to give special attention to the victims who were mostly children and women.
“This law has been there for a long time. We should look at the victims of trafficking who are children and women. This provision is to enable the security agencies act quickly in this issue which affects our children. It is better to err on the part of excess than on the part of caution,’’ he said.
Sen. James Manager observed that the absence of such a provision would impede law enforcement agencies from doing their work.
“Without this particular provision, it will have been difficult for law enforcement agencies to do what they are doing in the South-East. This is a good provision. It has been in existence and has never been abused,’’ he said.
Similarly, Sen. Joshua Lidani, said the provision was necessary to enable law enforcement agents swoop on suspected premises before the offenders could move their victims to unknown location.
Sen. Ago Akinyelure cautioned that the provision should be retained to allow the agency function effectively without any hindrance, while Sen. Kabiru Marafa said that the clause should be expunged from the proposed law, saying it would give law enforcement agencies overbearing powers.
“Even if it was not abused in the past. We should not give sweeping powers to any agency. I suggest that this clause be expunged,’’ Marafa said.
Sen. Ahmed Lawan, who also opposed the clause, urged the parliament to be cautious otherwise it could end up allowing an agency to perform without respect to the privacy and rights of the people.
The Senate President, Sen. David Mark, put the question to a voice vote and those in support for retention of the clause carried the day.
The Senate, subsequently, deferred the consideration of the report and adjourned plenary to March 18.