COVID-19, economic crisis to increase cases of human trafficking – UNODC
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, (UNODC) has disclosed that more Nigerians are likely to become victims of human trafficking as a result of the economic downturn which has been worsened by the impact of COVID-19.
According to reports by UNODC, Nigeria is the source, transit and destination country for human trafficking and the root causes of trafficking include poverty, lack of education, globalisation, corruption and gender inequality.
Speaking during a workshop in Calabar for journalists on trafficking in persons in Nigeria organised by UNODC in partnership with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NAPTIP), Jessica Ebrard,
representative from UNODC stated
COVID-19 has had a drastic economic effect that has led to the loss of jobs, making more people vulnerable to be trafficked out of Nigeria.
She explained that traffickers disguise themselves as helpers to victims, whom they promise job opportunities and greener pastures outside the country only to traffick them for purposes of the drug trade, servitudes, prostitution and organ harvesting amongst others.
She noted that globalisation allows trafficking to set up complex routes and systems within and across borders.
Ebrard said the presence of these complex channels creates a challenge because prosecuting one trafficker may only minimally disrupt the network of traffickers.
She stated that in line with its international commitments, Nigeria enacted the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration (TIPPEA) Act of 2015, which described the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP)’s functions and other provisions supporting its mandate.
She noted that despite considerable efforts in recent years to prevent human trafficking, trafficking in persons (TIP) in and from Nigeria remain topics of concern for the country, but also for the broader international community, including transit and destination countries for Nigerians travelling irregularly.
Ebrard added that reports have shown that a high number of victims of trafficking are recruited through social media and other online technology.
Charline Oftadeh, a representative from UNODC stated that most victims trafficked out of Sub-saharan Africa are trafficked for forced labour, sexual exploitation and other forms of exploitations.
According to reports put together by Oftadeh, West African countries continue to report the highest share of women convicted of trafficking in Sub-saharan Africa.
Oftadeh who was represented by Jessica Ebrard stated that when organised crime groups are involved, more victims are trafficked for longer periods across wider distanced with more violence.
She disclosed that West African groups trafficking victims to Europe systematically engage in drug trafficking, money laundering, financial fraud and other transnational crimes and victims from West Africa are detected almost everywhere in Europe.
Also speaking at the workshop, Abimbola Adewumi, project manager, Expertise France said organised crimes in Nigeria typically do not follow the mafia-type model followed by other groups as they appear to be less formal and more organised along family and ethnic lines.
Adewumi who explained that there are linkages between Trafficking in Persons, (TIP) and other organised crimes also noted that the area boys (also known as Agberos) are one of those used to commit organised crimes in Nigeria.
She further explained that one of the methods area boys use for extortion is to surround pedestrians, drivers and passengers in vehicles that are stuck in traffic and forced to pay some money before letting them go.