By: Grace Oyenubi
Slavery has since been abolished in Nigeria, and most parts of the world. However, there is another form of slavery going on across the globe, in the form of human trafficking, where persons, especially young females are exported out of Nigeria; mostly through unconventional means, for the purpose of engaging in anything, but legitimate, to fend for themselves.
Human Trafficking, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, UNODC, is the acquisition of people, by improper means, such as force, fraud or deception, with the sole aim of exploiting them for either forced labour and or prostitution.
Ironically, virtually every country of the world is being affected by the menace of human trafficking, as such, Nigeria is not an exception.
Usually, people who traffic others, most times watch out for young and vulnerable members of the society, who are willing to do anything, legitimate or illegitimately to improve their living conditions.
Incidentally, these set of people are usually told lies of a better life abroad. And because those being trafficked, usually come from poor backgrounds and broken homes, they usually fall prey easily.
But because the ladies are already inundated with tales of prostitution from Europe, the traffickers now tell them they are only taking them to Libya, not to give any room for suspicion on the part of the ladies.
They are also told of the prospects of making better money in Libya, than in Nigeria, through their known business activities. For instance, Julia, a 22 years old Hair Dresser, was told that she could make more money in Libya from Hair Dressing business, than she was making in Nigeria.
Hear her: “where I work, there is a beer parlour beside it. Charles, who frequented the place, asked if I want to travel outside the country, I said yes, so he requested for four passport photographs the next day. A day later he took me and several girls to the park and told us he is taking us to Libya that hair dressing here is not viable.”
Julia, is not alone. For Blessing however, she took the initiative to travel abroad because her Aunt who she was living with, was already overwhelmed with taking care of her, her siblings and her own children. She was told that there would be job opportunities for her to use her secretarial skills, to make enough money to fend for herself and her family, once she decides to travel abroad.
But unlike Julia and Blessing, Joy, 19, and an undergraduate, who disclosed that she lost her mother to cancer, five years ago, was encouraged to travel abroad by her friend, who claims she resides in Libya.
According to her, “late last year a friend of mine, Blessing, who resides in Libya, asked how I was coping with school and work to sustain me. I told her not very well and am tempted to drop out, so she advised I come with her to Libya, that I can make enough money there to come back and complete my studies.”
However, once they get to their destinations, they are usually introduced to forced labour and prostitution, saying that they would have to endure such vocation for months, before proceeding to Europe.
Investigations further revealed that the common transit countries that the traffickers take their victims through to Europe are these African Countries: Niger, Morocco, Libya, Mali, Sudan, Mauritania and Algeria, through land borders.
Incidentally, many of these countries, share border with destination European countries, the traffickers aim to take their victims to.
It was further learnt that most victims of trafficking are usually not told the truth about the new “vocation” they are about to be initiated into. For instance, Lovette, from Abia State, revealed in an interview that she had to blow the whistle on her trafficker, while still in Algadez, Niger Republic, upon realising that she had been tricked into prostitution, under the guise of traveling abroad.
Investigations further revealed that Sokoto and Kano States borders in the North of the Country, arefavourite routes for the traffickers, with Sokoto alone accounting for over a 100 of such routes. From Sokoto for instance, it is just 84km to Niger Republic and the border is a stretch of a 100km.
Realising the shape the menace of trafficking was taking, the Nigerian government, under the leadership of former President OlusegunObasanjo, signed an Act, establishing the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Cases, NAPTIP.
The Agency, it was further learnt, was established for the purpose of suppressing and eliminating the scourge of trafficking in persons and child labour in Nigeria, with the sole aim of improving the quality of life of the trafficked person, through aggressive rehabilitation and victim assistance programme and promotion of equality of persons.
The Agency has seven zonal offices, located in Lagos, Benin, Uyo, Kano, Sokoto, Enugu and Abuja.
According to the Director of Investigation of the Agency, Muhammad Babandede the Agency, since its commencement of operations in 2004, has rescued 3,415 victims of trafficking, while it has won over 50 convictions and about 50 cases are still pending in court.
So far, he continued, 477 persons have been rehabilitated, through the Agency’s various rehabilitation programmes.
All said and done, trafficking in persons in Nigeria is a challenge that must be overcomed collectively, by the government and people of Nigeria. To this end, it is imperative for families, schools, religious bodies, civil societies and the media, to continually make Nigerian youths, especially young girls, aware of the dangers of falling prey to human trafficking. The youths must be told in clear terms to be wary of persons who entice them with vague promises of a better life abroad.
The writer can be reached on Graceoyenubi@gmail.com