Human trafficking has become a defiant menace in Nigeria.

Now, the agency entrusted with the task of ending it has started exploring several means including rewarding whistleblowers to burst human trafficking rings.

The agency, National Agency For the Prohibition Of Trafficking In Persons, NAPTIP, is also battling black magic (juju) while deploying resources from global aid agencies to create awareness in vulnerable areas.

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Thousands of Nigerian women and girls are lured to Europe each year, making the treacherous Mediterranean Sea crossing from Libya to Italy, and trafficked into sex work, the United Nations says.

The number of female Nigerians arriving in Italy by boat surged to more than 11,000 last year from 1,500 in 2014, with at least four in five forced into prostitution, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

To tackle this rise, NAPTIP is stepping up efforts to catch traffickers and support victims, backed by a 7 million pound, about 3.3 billion Naira aid package announced last week by Britain’s foreign aid department (DFID).

“We have embarked on more aggressive campaigns to create awareness. We are covering all the schools and rural areas because this is where they get the girls from,” Julie Okah-Donli, NAPTIP’s director, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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The agency is also rewarding whistleblowers with a share of traffickers’ gains.

“Since the policy was adopted in October, we have had more than 50 people coming to us with information,” Okah-Donli added.

According to DFID, the money will create jobs in sectors such as hospitality, technology and farming in Nigeria, and support victims with safe houses, rehabilitation and training for counsellors.

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