By appointing Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim as the director-general of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), President Muhammadu Buhari becomes the first president to breach the law guiding the appointment.
Mr Buhari axed Julie Okah-Donli as NAPTIP’s director-general months before the end of her four-year tenure and appointed Mrs Sulaiman-Ibrahim last week.
However, the appointment of Mrs Sulaiman-Ibrahim breached the law establishing the anti-human trafficking agency.
Section 8(1) of the NAPTIP Act 2015 mandates that the head of the agency should be picked from the directorate cadre in the public service or its equivalent in any of the law enforcement agencies.
The Act further mandates the agency to have a board to which the director-general is the secretary. The board must be mafe up of representatives of government, all of whom must be within the directorate cadre in any of the ministries of justice, women affairs, labour and productivity, the police, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Nigerian Immigration Service and the National Population Commission (NPC).
Mr Buhari has breached the NAPTIP law twice while appointing the head of the agency.
First in April 2017, he appointed Julie Okah-Donli who prior to her appointment was involved in private legal practice before she got a political appointment as an executive assistant to former Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State.
Her job profile further showed that at other times, she had only worked as a legal adviser to the Nigerian Capital Market Institute and led the Abuja branch and northern region of UBA Trustees.
Again last week, the president appointed Mrs Sulaiman-Ibrahim, who until the appointment was the special adviser on strategic communication to the minister of state for education.
She was never an employee of the Nigerian civil service or law enforcement agency as she was in private legal practice when she was hired for the top job, in clear violation of the NAPTIP Act.
The Office of the President has refused to speak on the matter. Likewise the attorney-general and the humanitarian affairs ministry.
Meanwhile it has been discovered that the breach of the NAPTIP Act is peculiar to the Buhari-administration.
Created July 2003 under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, NAPTIP was the outcome of a private member bill, the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition and Administration bill sponsored by the Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF), a not-for-profit organisation founded by Titi Atiku, the wife of the former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.
NAPTIP was the federal government’s response to rising cases of human trafficking in the country.
In 2005, there was an amendment to the NAPTIP Act, in a bid to further strengthen the agency. Due to new trends in human trafficking, the Act was repealed and the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 was enacted, and assented by President Goodluck Jonathan on March 26, 2015.
Meanwhile, in its formative years, the head of the agency carries the designation, executive secretary, and Carol Ndaguba was the pioneer head.
Before being appointed in 2003, Mrs Ndaguba, a lawyer, worked at the ministry of justice as a state counsel where she rose to the rank of the director of prosecutions.
At other times, she also worked with the ministries of police affairs, transport, finance and Nigerian Port Authority. Her last public office was NAPTIP which she headed till 2009, after which she retired.
She was succeeded by Chuzy Egede who held the position till 2011. Before his appointment, Mr Egede was the solicitor-general of Benue State and permanent secretary at the state’s ministry of justice.
Mr Egede was succeeded by Beatrice Jedy-Agba, who headed the agency until 2016.
Mrs Jedy-Agba, a lawyer, began her career at the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in 1992. In 2004, she became the chief state counsel in the international and comparative law department and the legal adviser to the National Boundary Commission after she was transferred to the ministry of justice.
Mrs Jedy-Agba later serve as the special assistant to former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke. In 2014, she was awarded the Trafficking in Persons Heroes Award by the U.S. Department of State, becoming the first Nigerian to receive the award.
During her tenure, after the 2015 amendment to the NAPTIP Act, she became the first director-general of the agency.
After she left office, Abdulrazak Dangiri took over in acting capacity till 2017 when Julie Okah-Donli was appointed as the substantive director-general by President Buhari.
Mr Dangiri is an Assistant Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service and has headed the Combined Expatriate Resident Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC) unit which issues the renewable legal permit that allows a foreigner to leave and work in Nigeria, as well as the Zone C, Bauchi State, of the NIS.
In 2017, after Mrs Okah-Donli assumed office, all four substantive former heads were honoured by the NAPTIP.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, through his spokesperson, Willy Bassey, did not respond to our request for comment for this story.