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CHILD TRAFFICKING… Getting Closer Than We Think!

So, on this particular day, I was bored, really bored…. “NEPA” as popularly referred to, decided to show themselves by not giving us electricity and the Internet network wasn’t particularly stable. Regardless, I was determined to get myself out of boredom. I kept trying to get connected to the internet and taadaa!!!!! it worked! I decided to see any random movie on YouTube and then I stumbled on a Nigerian movie. With a bit of scepticism in my mind, I went ahead to see the movie.

Safe to say, at the end of the movie, I was filled with several emotions, ranging from anger to pain to irritation to shock…., and several other feeling that I can barely put to words. It got me thinking, we live in a country where the slogan “Man must survive” is often used and this attitude, like it or not has led many to their untimely graves, it has caused unnecessary “wahala”, not to mention that it has also heightened the rate of organised crimes in Nigeria.

According to a survey conducted by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Globally, child trafficking is one of the fastest growing organised crimes with an estimated 1.2 million victims per year, of which 32% are African. Every year, tens of thousands of women and children are trafficked in West Africa, with Nigeria being no exception. Many children are trafficked within the country and are forced to live a life of exploitation and abuse.

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP)/UNICEF Situation Assessment of Child Trafficking in Southern Nigerian State [2004] reported that 46% of repatriated victims of external trafficking in Nigeria are children, with a female to male ratio of 7:3. They are engaged mainly in prostitution (46%), domestic labour (21%), forced labour (15%) and entertainment (8%). Internal trafficking of children in Nigeria was also reported to be for the purpose of forced labour (32%), domestic labour (31%) and prostitution (30%). Boys are mostly trafficked from the South-Eastern states of Imo, Abia and Akwa-Ibom to Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo, while those from Kwara go to Togo and as far as Mali to work on plantations.

Between October and December 2003, over 500 children were rescued from granite quarries and repatriated back to their country of origin, by a joint effort of UNICEF in Nigeria and Benin. Similarly, Nigeria has recently seen an increased number of repatriations of trafficking victims from many foreign countries such as the UK, Italy, Netherlands, USA, Belgium, Ireland, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Private transit camps are reportedly existing in Akwa-Ibom, Cross Rivers and Ondo States where children are transported from the South-Eastern states and forced into hard labour and prostitution. Likewise, immigration and investigation reports from NAPTIP have shown an increase in the number of cases in the Northern part of the country. Nigeria has become a source & destination for women and children subjected to trafficking including forced labour & forced prostitution. Often times, these victims are from the rural parts of the country.

There are diverse reasons why many are vulnerable to trafficking, including widespread poverty, large family size, rapid urbanization with deteriorating public services, low literacy levels and high school dropout rates. The demand for cheap commercial sex workers in countries of destination strongly contributes also to the growth of this phenomenon and the success of this criminal network.

Parents with large families, often overburdened with the care of too many children, are prone to the traffickers’ deceit in giving away some of their children to city residents or even strangers promising a better life for them. Traffickers then exploit the trust of people, this is rooted in a widespread, culturally accepted common practice in West Africa of placement and fostering as part of the extended family safety net. In some instances, desperately poor and uninformed parents willingly “co-operate” with the traffickers, giving away their children in exchange for a small fee. In the hands of unscrupulous guardians, these children are increasingly trafficked and exploited for money.

In several jurisdictions of the world, couples are faced with the inability to conceive. Therefore, financially handicapped parents are torn between giving up their children for adoption for a token sum in order to “survive” or trust that “God will provide”. Another instance is a case where a woman is taken into the maternity ward, induced, obviously unconscious, an operation is performed on her, subsequently, she is presented with a baby – “sorry, you gave birth to a still-born”…….. the rest is a story for another day. For several others, child trafficking has become so lucrative that it even forms a major source of income and not to mention the booming business of baby factories……

Baby Factories or “Black Market” for newly born babies” as it sometimes called is a subset of child/human trafficking. Here, girls are hijacked from their homes, schools, the streets, and are forced to live in a cohort, induced and raped for the sole aim of getting pregnant and making babies. These babies are then subsequently sold for huge sums of money, sometimes even before they are born or even used for ritual purposes. Another angle to it is, some of these young girls consent to being taken into these homes disguised as maternity wards, live and deliver babies in return for monetary compensations.

Are there Laws in Nigeria enacted to combat cases of Child/Human trafficking? Of course, the answer would be yes!. One of such Laws is the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 whose objectives reads thus;
“provide an effective and comprehensive Legal and Institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of human trafficking and related offences in Nigeria”; as well as
“protect victims of Human Trafficking”

You should read up PART III of the Act which talks about “Prohibition of Acts of Trafficking in Persons and PART IV which talks about “Offences and Punishments”

But as is often said, we have very beautifully drafted laws in Nigeria, but very poor machinery of implementation. And while child trafficking is a solvable problem, no single sector can deliver the full package of interventions and no individual government can take on this problem alone.

Creating really strong awareness and empowering children with knowledge and skills to recognize and protect themselves, provision of good quality health care and education services, and a functioning child protection system that detects and supports women and children at risk are also essential in both prevention and response.

Child trafficking is a cankerworm eating very deeply into our country and our very world in general, and if nothing is done about it, one can only imagine what will become the fate of the generation to come. So, the next time you notice anything suspicious going on about a child or an adult, be sure to speak up (wisely), as it is all our collective responsibility to ensure the safety of our future………. Let the awareness go on & please say No to Human Trafficking

GOOD MORNING

ROTIMI PAUL

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