Over the years, Nigeria has been classified as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking activities. This illicit trade has subjected women and children to modern day slavery characterized by the worst forms of human exploitation and degradation.
Trafficking in Persons is a billion dollar illicit business fuelled by the high demand and supply in the value chain of modern day slavery. Majority of the victims of Human Trafficking are coerced into exploitative sex trade which includes prostitution, pornography and sodomy.
Some others are subjected to extreme forms of domestic servitude revealed in recent cases with the number of Nigerian girls that have been trafficked to countries in the Middle East like Oman, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Significantly, none of these countries have labour agreements with Nigeria, making it difficult to immediately ascertain the status of these Nigerians or to ensure that their fundamental rights are protected.
Majority of these victims, usually young women aged between 25 and 35 years, are deceived into selling off their businesses for domestic work promising better lives, but end up crying for help as they are made to work for up to 20 hours a day and susceptible to rape and other dehumanizing treatments.
Many victims of trafficking are often subjected to debt bondage in the guise of paying off monies that were used in transporting, feeding and housing them. Coercive measures taken to break these victims include death or threats of death, gang-rape, and threats to harm their family members back home, among others.
Despite international and domestic laws to check human trafficking, the menace is still growing. Some of the factors fuelling trafficking include poverty, corruption, and unrealistic views of life in destination Countries. Global statistics clearly reveal that a greater percentage of victims of human trafficking are girls and the trend has continued unabated.
In Nigeria, investigations carried out within some of the endemic communities reveal that while the boys are left at home to enjoy the proceeds of the illicit business, their sisters are deceived, persuaded and forced to travel abroad for various types of exploitation.
This of course is at the expense of her health, education and future. In some cases, her consent is never sought neither does she have any right to refuse such proposals as she is seen as a mere commodity of exchange.
She is regarded as the remedy to the financial predicament of the family. The girl child is seen as persons that must bear the brunt and change the dwindling and bleak future of the family. Therefore whatever pains and agony she passes through in the course of the exploitation, the family cares less. Rather than encourage her to opt out of such dirty trade, they will continue to mount pressure on her to continue.
A good example is a case that was reported in one of the endemic States in the South South part of Nigeria. The story has it that the girl was trafficked at a tender age of 16years to a European destination. A few years later, at the age of 23, she called her mother over the phone and told her what she thought would be cheering news. The girl informed her mother that she had decided to quit the prostitution business and marry.
The mother was said to have rebuked her for contemplating such a thing and went ahead to warn her to continue prostitution till she was old and even handover to her younger ones. The mother vehemently opposed such a decision by the poor girl because she was living in affluence here in Nigeria while the daughter was facing pain and shame daily in the destination country.
Another painful scenario is that even where the victim is fortunate to have made some money that is enough for her to invest and she sends such money to her relations here in Nigeria, such money is usually squandered. Some callous parents, especially fathers, even go to the extent of using such money to marry another wife and build houses in their own name while they continue to deceive the victim.
There was a worse case scenario in the past where one of the victims was killed by her brother in order to cover up their evil deed after they misappropriated the huge amounts of money she had sent home. This is clearly what could be referred to as double jeopardy.
Literarily, these girls are being put out as commodities with little or no value except for the monetary gains and painfully most of them have died in the process while others are incapacitated due to the levels of exploitation and physical assaults from their masters. It is unimaginable that a girl of less than 18 years could be forced to become the bread winner of the family even when it is obvious that she has no skill and yet to even complete elementary certificate.
Apart from the fact that this unhealthy development is unAfrican, it is repugnant and contradicts the tenets of good conscience.
It was therefore a welcome development when the UK Government came out with the “Not For Sale” campaign in collaboration with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and other partners.
The Not for Sale campaigns in collaboration with the UK Government, has been a welcome development. We do hope that we can have more joint efforts to fight human trafficking even as we continue to work in synergy to ensure Nigeria becomes a human trafficking free nation. The concept is unique in its nature because it did not only urge people to discourage illegal migration, but proffered alternative means of livelihood. The campaign also targeted rural areas and brought key actors like the community leaders, representatives of various socio cultural organization and native meeting groups as well as students on board. There was also a feedback mechanism that clearly showed that the target audience understood the strong message passed across.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons wholeheartedly supported the campaign because it was in conformity with the awareness creation strategy of the Agency. It was timely and it was a well framed concept that achieved much in terms of re-orientating the feeling of the youths and other people directly or indirectly connected with human trafficking in the country.
In the last few years, NAPTIP has restrategised with increased awareness, high scale sensitisation, purposeful advocacy and improved evidence based research to tackle incidences of human trafficking from the grassroots. As a part of this initiative, the Agency has embarked on the establishment of a Task Force on Human Trafficking in all States of Nigeria. This is a deliberate counter trafficking measures aimed at bringing State Governments into the mainstream of the preventive efforts of the Federal Government. These developments have led to increased vigilance especially in notable endemic communities as well as prompt reportage of suspected cases.
The Agency wishes to call on other corporate bodies, development partners and individuals to embark on programs of this nature to reposition the mind of our youths. Our Children are truly not for Sale. https://www.facebook.com/
. Dame Okah-Donli is the Director General of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.