The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently paid a courtesy visit to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) office, Mr Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau OON, SAN, on October 16, 2023. The visit was led by the Deputy Chief of Mission for IOM, Ms. Paola Pace.
IOM, as the leading United Nations agency on migration, upholds the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits both migrants and society as a whole. Over the past decade, IOM has closely partnered with the Federal Government of Nigeria to better manage migration issues, including diaspora engagement, assisted voluntary returns, counter-trafficking, and migration health and information.
IOM expressed interest in establishing a cooperative relationship with the Nigerian Bar Association. This visit presented an opportunity to discuss common interests and exchange ideas, particularly in protecting the rights of migrants and victims of human trafficking in Nigeria.
The discussion touched on various areas of potential cooperation, including revising the Immigration Act, advocating for the domestication of treaties that Nigeria has ratified (e.g., domestic worker or migrant worker protections), and addressing law enforcement challenges in prosecuting traffickers and securing justice for trafficking victims.
IOM shared its experience from other countries, where it collaborated with Bar Associations to provide training and continuous education to lawyers, prosecutors, and judges. The aim is to equip legal professionals to handle transnational cases, including issues related to labour exploitation and human trafficking.
The NBA is ready to support legislative interventions that align with international standards for protecting the rights and dignity of Nigerian citizens and international migrants. The NBA expressed its readiness to work with IOM in various aspects, such as training programs, course introductions in law schools, and legislative advocacy.
The discussions highlighted the significance of protecting human rights in all aspects of migration. The NBA acknowledged its role in advocating for the rights of Nigerians abroad and ensuring that citizens’ dignity is maintained, regardless of their migration status.
The Nigerian Bar Association, with its vast network across the country, is well-positioned to collaborate with IOM in reaching vulnerable migrants and providing legal assistance and representation. The association’s strong presence in state capitals can facilitate interventions at various levels.
In summary, the visit marked the beginning of discussions aimed at fostering cooperation between IOM and the Nigerian Bar Association, addressing migration-related challenges, protecting human rights, and providing legal support to migrants and vulnerable groups.
Mr. Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau OON, SAN, expressed his appreciation for IOM’s interest in collaboration and emphasized the crucial role lawyers play in navigating the legal intricacies of migration. He assured IOM of the NBA’s commitment to participating in discussions, providing training, and protecting migrants’ rights.
The meeting laid the foundation for future endeavours to enhance the legal framework, rights protection, and overall well-being of migrants and victims of human trafficking in Nigeria.
Several notable individuals graced the courtesy visit, including Ms Paola Pace, Deputy Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria; Ms Ana Medeiros, Senior Programme Manager, IOM Nigeria; Ms Ukamaka Anyanechi, National Programme Officer, Migration Management, IOM Nigeria; Mr Elijah Elaigwu, Senior Communications Assistant, IOM Nigeria; and Ms Elizabeth Poage, National Project Officer, Labour Migration and Diaspora, IOM Nigeria.
Ms. Ukamaka Anyanechi, during the meeting, expressed, “The National Commission for Refugees Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, along with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and poverty alleviation, has initiated the review process of the National Migration Policy (2015).
This endeavour aims to harmonize the policy framework with global best practices, emphasizing pertinent migration issues specific to Nigeria. With the involvement of the NBA, the revised policy will prioritize protecting human rights for migrants, encompassing Nigerian emigrants, returning migrants, and migrants within Nigeria.”
She further emphasized the importance of offering protection services, mainly through pro bono legal representation, to migrants, including those departing from and returning to Nigeria. Notably, this support would extend to labour migrants employed in the informal sector and skilled workers in the construction and hospitality industries within the country.
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- Discussion focused on potential collaboration between the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Nigerian Bar Association.
- Emphasis on the need to protect the rights of migrants and victims of human trafficking in Nigeria.
- Areas of potential cooperation included revising the Immigration Act and advocating for the domestication of treaties.
- Addressing challenges in law enforcement related to human trafficking was a significant point of discussion.
- IOM highlighted the importance of continuous legal education for lawyers, prosecutors, and judges to handle transnational cases effectively.
- The Nigerian Bar Association expressed its commitment to supporting legislative interventions aligned with international standards for protecting the rights and dignity of migrants.
- Both parties agreed to continue discussions and explore collaborative efforts in addressing migration-related challenges and protecting the rights of vulnerable groups in Nigeria.
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