… And it is thriving

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image courtesy of NAPTIP

According to the 2015 US Trafficking in Persons Report, Nigeria is still in Tier 2. Meaning that its government is making efforts to erase human trafficking but not doing enough. According to the UN, Nigera is among world’s highest in human trafficking.

Using the 4Ws and H point of view to delve into this man’s inhumanity to man, we will look at the what, the who, the where, the why and of course the how of human trafficking in Nigeria.

THE WHAT
Article 3, paragraph (a) of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as  “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”
In simple parlance, human trafficking is the modern day slavery where the poor and vulnerable are

THE WHO
Mostly poor and rural Women, girls are coerced into sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and boys into several forms of forced labor. They are smuggled into local and foreign cities mostly from villages by traffickers and their agents through violence, fraud and tricks so as to exploit them for economic reasons. Aside the agents and traffickers from the country of origin that recruit, there are barons and madams waiting across the seas for their consignments (the victims).

These vulnerable ones are coerced or lured into these practices using various tricks and schemes.

THE WHERE
[Culled from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]
“Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Within Nigeria, women and girls are trafficked primarily for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. Boys are trafficked for forced labor in street vending, agriculture, mining, stone quarries, and as domestic servants. Religious teachers also traffic boys, called almajiri, for forced begging. Women, girls, and boys are trafficked from Nigeria to other West and Central African countries, primarily Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana, Chad, Benin, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, and The Gambia, for the same purposes listed above. Benin is a primary source country for boys and girls trafficked for forced labor in Nigeria’s granite quarries. Nigerian women and girls are trafficked through Libya, Morocco, and Algeria to Europe, primarily for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, and to the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, for forced prostitution and forced labor. While Italy is the primary European destination country for Nigerian victims, other common destinations are Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, France, and Greece. Children from Nigeria and other African countries are trafficked from Lagos to the UK’s urban centers for domestic servitude and forced labor in restaurants and shops”.
In addition, the victims are also forced into selling their body organs, pornography, and of course child soldiers (mostly boys) and suicide bombers. Some are even used as drug mules to traffic drugs.

Wonder where these victims come from? From your village, from mine, from our neighboring towns and villages and sometimes, from the cities. They are ignorant, poor and thus vulnerable.

THE WHY
Why would anybody allow himself to be a victim of human trafficking I used to wonder.
Some were unwittingly lured with promises of heaven on earth readily available outside the shores of Nigeria. In their greed and quest for a better life, they allow themselves to become victims.

Some parents are convinced that their children are being taken to nearby cities where they are to work as housemaids for rich families.

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Our future

Unfortunately, often times these children are maltreated, sexually and economically exploited here or overseas.

On the other hand, some young people are promised that football clubs want them, schools are offering them scholarships and so many such scams. Seeing these as answers to their prayers, they easily succumb only to have their dreams shattered when they eventually step into these foreign lands.

Youngsters are forcefully recruited as child soldiers, while some groups like boko haram use them as suicide bombers.

There is also the group that willingly and wittingly give themselves up for sexual exploitation in exchange for some hard currencies. Guess that does not count as human trafficking right?

The other group are the madams and barons abroad that use their victims as money making machines.

THE HOW
This is the most intriguing part. I mean, how can someone lure me abroad and succeed in convincing me to not only sell my body, but to hand over most of the money I make to her?

The human trafficking business is a highly organized crime cartel. Their modus operandi varies but are all very organized.

Like all fraudsters, they can brainwash the unsuspecting parents and children into following them.

They use juju (vodoo) to keep them in line. Oaths and covenants are entered into here in Nigeria before they travel, thereby putting enough fear in the victims to ensure that they do not report to the authorities or escape. Finger nails, hair, blood, etcetera are used for these rituals. Passports, and other valuables of the victims are seized upon arrival so it becomes difficult to escape. As business commences, they are made to pay their madams and bosses daily, contribute to their feeding, accommodation, suitable clothing, and punished if otherwise.
The parents have no inkling about the location of their parents making it hard to look for them
In addition to these, the family back home in Nigeria expect them to send money home regularly,’ just like Onome and Ovie their neighbors’ daughters’.

EFFECTS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The effects are felt by the victims, their families, communities and the country at large.

Due to the lifestyle they are exposed to, the victims are liable to contract veneral diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Many die along the way before they reach the promised land due to the grueling experiences they pass through on the way,  some die on the streets like fowls while peddling their wares, others die as a result of diseases and exposure to harsh elements. There are still some who lose their lives while trying to escape and those who end up in prisons in these foreign lands. For those in domestic servotide and forced labour within Nigeria, there is no limit to the kind of treatment their guardians and bosses visit on them. There has been reported cases of madams that used hot iron on their maids. Such are their fates.

What is the fate of a young lady or man whose dreams and innocence have been so shattered? The psychological effects of the whole journey and process on them, who can imagine? Some were uprooted  from their families and loved ones at a tender age. How do these children cope with such challenges knowing fully well that they are more often maltreated than not?

What about the bad name and publicity it gives the communities and the nation? The economic drain, brain drain and the resources expended in fighting this menace cannot be quantified I bet.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

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image courtesy of NAPTIP
National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) under the able leadership of Mrs. Beatrice  Jedy-Agba, from all indications is  taking various giant strides in combating human trafficking in Nigeria. Through their commendable efforts in investigations, prosecution, witness protection programs, rehabilitation, counseling, public enlightenment and so much more, more people have not only become aware of the dangers and methods of trafficking, but even the culprits are either on the run or less daring.

However, so much more needs to be done and NAPTIP alone cannot begin to cover it at all.

They say charity begins at home, therefore, this battle must commence from our homes, villages, towns and cities. The aim of this write up is to enlighten us as individuals. It is a wake up call for all of us to join hands and make our society unsafe for traffickers. Why would a mother encourage and even push her daughter to go abroad and sell herself for money? Why would a father give out his son into slavery? Poverty right? Or plain old greed? Parents please enlighten your children to be wary of traffickers camouflaging as tickets to greener pastures.

The media have been collaborating with NAPTIP to fight this scourge. I watched a drama on human trafficking for the first time on super story airing on NTA and AIT in collaboration with NAPTIP. It was shocking to watch what young people pass through in the hands of traffickers. We need more of such programs and producers. Investigative reporters should do more like the Premium Times’ Tabore Ovuorie who uncovered one trafficking cartel in Lagos last year.

Wouldn’t it be more useful if Our musicians would help us preach against this evil through their songs?

Ministry of Interior and Law enforcement agents, true that our borders are just too porous, but I believe efforts should be beefed up. The lawyers and judges can help in the prosecution process and try being fair and jyst, along with the law enforcement officials.

Churches, mosques. Religious leaders, community leaders, each and everyone of us owe a duty to ourselves and to our society to banish this evil.

If you think that the era of slavery ended with William Wilberforce, then think again. It just took a more subtle yet dangerous approach. But we have more power to resist this 21st century slavery than the ancient slavery. Report these traffickers if you notice them for I’m sure they live and operate among us. Do something positive to stop this!

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