Home Features Opinion: Menace of Human Trafficking in Nigeria

Opinion: Menace of Human Trafficking in Nigeria


By Aondover Eric Msughter

The traffic in humans, especially in Nigeria, appears to be flourishing. The global business involving “human goods” seems to have attained a level comparable to those of the illicit trades in drugs and weapons. In terms of numbers, the major victims are women and children who are forced into prostitution or forced labour. It is a modern slavery in a modern language “an old wine in a new bottle”. The menace is a transplant of colonialism, neo-colonialism, globalisation, slavery and contemporary human trafficking in what we have today.

Human trafficking is a modern day slavery involving the movement of victims who are subject to violence, deception or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour. The U.S Department of State estimated about 600,000 to 800,000 people who are trafficked across international borders each year, while millions are trafficked within their own countries. The International Labour Organization puts the number of children and women shipped across national boundaries and sold into modern day slavery at 700,000 to 1000000. This is sad as the menace often factored women into sexual and domestic servitude.

The inception of democratic regime in Nigeria in 1999 seemed to have placed the issue of human rights, on the front burner of national agenda with the government, individuals and civil society campaigning against the phenomenon of human trafficking. Yet, all efforts to silence this menace remains unfavorable and abortive. There is a need for the government to wake up, before the menace will accelerate and go beyond what the eyes can see. In Nigeria today, factors like poverty, level of ignorance and family size among other things account for why girls and women fall easy prey to the antics of traffickers.

The reality that foster the escalation of this menace can be attributed to poor homes. Some parents barely meet the legitimate needs of their children. Thus, the financial distress of most poor parents makes them vulnerable to the deceit of traffickers who promise their children juicy and supposedly rewarding jobs only to cajole them into prostitution and forced labour. Fighting the menace of human trafficking requires a co-coordinated and concerted push from all stakeholders. This probably explains why in Nigeria, there appears to be a collaborative effort between the government on one hand and civil society, on other, to nip human trafficking in the bud.

Human trafficking in Nigeria can said to be well organized and centres on a figure called “Mama” or “Madam” who plays a key role in luring young women to leave their homes for Italy. The trafficking web is organized in this manner; the first centers around “Mama” living in the country of origin; the second centers around the Nigerian “Mama” in Italy; and the third, the “Messengers” who transfer  the money from Italy to Nigeria. Despite the effort by the Federal Government to give legal teeth to the attack on human trafficking in Nigeria, by passing a bill in August 2003, which necessitated the establishment of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, remains unproductive.

The endemic public sector corruption continued to undermine the enjoyment of social and economic rights in Nigeria.Corruption can facilitate trafficking; it can ease the transportation of victims within countries and across borders without detection or requests for paperwork. Nigeria been a home of corruption, it is difficult to put an end to this menace of human trafficking.  Again, the political system characterized by institutional weakness and fragility, has created fertile ground for organized criminal groups to thrive in Nigeria. Apparently, following the oil boom in the 1970s, opportunities for migration, both inside and outside the country, created avenues for exploitation and international trafficking.

Look at section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantees the right to the dignity of the human person thus prohibiting the subjection of any person to slavery and servitude. It prohibits the subjection of any person to slavery or servitude providing that: “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of the person and accordingly; no person shall be subjected 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.” Despite this provision, the menace is still afoot. I think something is wrong with Nigerian Constitution which leads to this kind of hullabaloo.

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