• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Nigeria and the menace of child trafficking


According to a 2007 UNICEF fact sheet, the trafficking of children for the purpose of domestic service, prostitution and other forms of exploitative labour is a widespread phenomenon in Nigeria. As a result of the concealed nature of the evil practice, precise and reliable figures are hard to get. Globally, child trafficking is one of the fastest growing organized crimes with an estimated 1.2 million victims per year, of which 32% are African.

Nigeria and other nations are signatories to the UN Conventions and other Protocols such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). These Conventions guarantee right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose one`s residence, right to a decent work, right to freedom from slavery, right not to be tortured and /or submitted to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

With the existence of domestic and international legal instruments in place, child trafficking has remained a global lucrative business. It is conservatively estimated to rake in a massive profit of about $5 billion annually. As it is the case in drug trafficking, Nigeria also ranks very high in the global business of child trafficking serving as origination, transition and destination points.  Today, Nigeria has not only continued to be origin of child trafficking to Europe, America and Asia, but it is also a transitional point for some West Africa countries such as  Benin Republic, Togo, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Mali among others. Within the country, majority of domestic servants are under aged children recruited from such States as of Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Ebonyi, Kano and Kaduna.

The additional protocol to the United Nations Convention against trans-national organized crime aiming to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children (2000), known as Palermo Protocol, gives a definition of trafficking and emphasizes the establishment of legislative and punitive measures. Article 3a of the protocol defines trafficking in persons as: “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Worried by the growing trends of human trafficking in Nigeria, the Federal Government created the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and other related Matters (NAPTIP) in 2003. The Agency, which is the creation of Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 is an official response to addressing the scourge of trafficking in persons in Nigeria and its attendant human abuses in its entire ramification. It is also a fulfilment of her international obligation under the trafficking in persons’ protocol supplementing the Transnational Organized Crime Convention (TOC) of which Nigeria is a signatory.

Sadly, Nigeria remains a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking according to UNESCO. In 2008, the U.S. Department of State noted that 46 percent of transnational victims are children, with the majority of them being girls. According to the 2014 Global Slavery Index, an estimated number of 834, 000 Nigerians were living in slavery. NAPTIP reported in its Fact Sheet that the average age of trafficked child is 15 and that Nigerians make up 60-80 percent of the girls who are trafficked for sex trade in Europe. About 8 million Nigerian children are involved in exploitative child labour. In 2006, UNESCO ranked trafficking as the third most common crime in Nigeria after economic fraud and drug trafficking. In June 2011, the BBC reported that at least 10 children are sold daily across the country.

Today in some parts of Nigeria, having a child outside wedlock is considered a taboo and thus a shame to the family. When such happens, the young girl is kept away from the public eye, and when the child is born it is unwelcomed. In most cases, these children are left at the mercy of the unhappy family who determines their fate. Often these babies are placed in the hands of child traffickers.

In 2010, NAPTIP recorded 5000 victims, provided care for 1,109 human trafficking victims and prosecuted over a hundred cases. Unfortunately, this action grossly undervalues the magnitude of child trafficking issue in Nigeria. In order to seriously tackle the ugly venture, the Federal Government must have data base that gives the global record and scientific analysis of child trafficking cases in the country. It is only when this is in place that we can really fashion out a framework for the scientific analysis that is required in curbing the growing trend of human trafficking in the country.

Similarly, the government must exert enough political will to implement the human trafficking law in such a way that there will be no sacred cows. It is important that the law must be strengthened not to give room for any manipulation irrespective of the calibre of people involved. It is until this is done that the high ranking people in the society, political office holders and their ilk, who are the perpetrators and beneficiaries of this heinous crime, would desist.

It is necessary for governments at all levels to implement policies that will give hope to the hopeless and protect the weak against the strong. Every economic alleviating policy must be targeted at the poor and women who are usually the most vulnerable victims of human trafficking. Equally, all agencies involved in monitoring the nation`s international borders should be equipped with adequate and professionally trained personnel with necessary modern equipment.

In order to appropriately deal with the danger of child trafficking in Nigeria, all major stakeholders need to work with every tier of government to dislodge the menace of child trafficking by educating the populace on the subject. Efforts must be made to properly orientate and sensitize the people on the danger of child trafficking. Children are too precious and innocent to be involved in such mindless and godless venture. Children represent the future of a every country. Therefore, if we are to safeguard the future of our nation, nothing should be spared in curbing the evil of child trafficking in our country.

Funmi Fasipe