Stemming Human Trafficking and Its Looming Dangers in Nigeria

EMERGENCY DIGEST- Slavery, an age-long albeit dehumanizing practice, has been in existence since time immemorial.

The obnoxious culture, may have since been abolished in many parts of the world, but not here.

In our great nation, Nigeria, slavery persists. It is however practiced in another dimension–human trafficking.

Human trafficking’, according to experts, is best regarded as ‘modern-day slavery.’

It has been noted that a lot of rural dwellers are being transported to towns and cities.

And when they arrive, they are required to carry out force labour, mostly against their wishes.

Most families in rural areas usually give out their children to successful members of their families to take to city and urban centres, to work as maids and servants to carry out exploitative domestic work, and are often not paid for these services rendered.

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While some lucky ones get a meager fee which is nothing to write home about compared to kind of harsh labour they are being subjected to.

Additionally, these category of people are also victims of domestic violence of various forms by their employers. Alas, reports have indicated that some of these victims are also coerced into prostitution. This mostly happened when they are either taken to states within the country or moved from one country to another.

In most cases, West African sub-region has been the epicenter of trafficking in persons and Nigeria occupies a central position as a country of origin, transit and destination for victims of trafficking.  Nigerian women and girls who are victims of trafficking are mainly recruited for domestic servitude and sex trafficking while boys are generally forced to work on plantations or in commercial farming, construction, quarries and mines, or engage in petty crimes including the vicious drug peddling.

Records showed that, slavery has existed in Nigeria and the African continent at large prior to the arrival of Europeans into the territory by far many centuries.

The Nigeria’s constitution abhorred slavery as it guarantees the right to the dignity of the human person thus prohibiting the subjection of any person to slavery and servitude. It was clearly stated in the section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended, that;  ” It further provides that no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”

Furthermore, Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act 2003 provides that: “Trafficking includes all acts and attempted acts involved in the recruitment, transportation within or across Nigerian, borders, purchases, sale, transfer, receipt or habouring of a person involving the use of deception, coercion or debt, bondage for the purpose of placing or holding the person whether for or not in voluntary servitude (domestic, sexual or reproductive) in force or bonded labour or in slavery-like condition.”

Nigerians have been known to illegally sneak out of the country to European nations in search for a greener pasture. They pass through the Sahara Desert to Libya where they finally cross the Mediterranean Sea and finally reach Italy. A lot of them have lost their lives due to ship capsize among other tragedies.

It would be recalled that recently, another set of 128 stranded Nigerians repatriated from Libya arrived the country.   They were received Tuesday evening by the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Alhaji Mustapha Ahmed, who was represented by the Agency’s Lagos Territorial Office Coordinator, Ibrahim Farinloye. Some of the returnees narrated their traumatic experience in the hands of their traffickers informally referred to as ‘burgers’. They recalled how their traffickers forced them into prostitution to recoup a combined sum of N6.7m claimed to have been spent on their travel to Libya.

In the same vein, the Delta State Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development has also rescued 22 children belonging to be from South-East states of Anambra, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi from suspected child traffickers in Warri by seven women, who allegedly faked blindness.

Nonetheless, from the foregoing, it is worthy of note that the offence of slavery and trafficking in person is still very much alive in the system which is largely caused by globalization, poverty, discrimination as well as corruption and even when avenues have been created to curb the ill acts, it is still regarded as rampant in our society today. Though laws have been put in place to curb the issue of slavery and trafficking in persons, but this problem is still being faced by citizens in different countries without sign of stoppage within a near future.

This evil act of human trafficking is something that Nigerian government should no longer treat with levity, as stringent measure needs to be put in place to stem the rising tides. There should be a national policy aimed at entrenching skill acquisitions program for engaging these vulnerable individuals into various vocational trainings. This will allow them to get various employment opportunities with which they can adequately carter for themselves without being involved in this devilish scenario.

Government should continue to vigorously sustain investigations into trafficking issues, and prosecutions of arrested traffickers in various court of laws. They should also ensure that the activities of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, receive sufficient funding, particularly for prosecuting trafficking offenders and providing adequate care for victims.

Also, there should be an enlightenment programme for parents in rural areas to desist from sending their wards to towns to be used as slaves.

Government should as well as continue to provide regular training to police and immigration officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and young females traveling with non-family members. Above all, government should also implement formal procedures for the return and reintegration of victims into society.

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