• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Dark trafficking trade: How exploiters prey on victims naivety

State govts embrace task force system to curb increasing rate of human trafficking

As harmattan dry breeze blows through Agenebode Village in Edo State where many children are struggling to make ends meet, 22-year-old Agepeme, who just rounded off her Senior School Certificate Examination, seems indifferent.

Her hope of getting admission into a university to study Nursing was shattered by Doris, her late uncle’s wife, who told her mother about a wealthy lady that usually visits the town every festive season to scout for young ladies that she will take along with to “help” in the city.

Read also: State govts embrace task force system to curb increasing rate of human trafficking

But the would-be beneficiaries need to swear an oath of allegiance with her and go through some initiations.

The reality is that the woman runs a human trafficking cartel in disguise for the acclaimed help she is rendering to families.

Of course, she is not alone. There are many perpetrators of the inhuman tracking crime, reaping on innocent victims’ vulnerability, especially young girls.

Read also: How to identify a potential victim of human trafficking – Otukpe

Of the 841 sex trafficking victims reported in the country, 763 were women, four were men; 67 were girls and seven were boys. Of the 543 labour trafficking victims, 183 were men, 290 were women, 17 were boys, and 53 were girls. Of the 250 victims of unspecified forms of trafficking, all were children, including 65 boys and 185 girls. Rather, it slipped to the Tier 2 Watch List in 2017, 2018 and 2020, respectively, the same status held in 2004 and 2008. So far, Nigeria has been ranked a Tier 2 country for a cumulative span of 13 years; from 2001, to 2013.

In Nigeria, according to many reports, children make up the largest group of trafficking victims. They are trafficked for many reasons, including for sexual exploitation, forced begging on the streets and organ harvesting. Young girls are also used in ‘factories’ where they are impregnated for babies that are commoditised by unscrupulous people. But in a new trend in human trafficking and related crimes, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) rescued some babies in Abuja, who were being deployed as beggars.

According to Fatima Waziri-Azi, director general, NAPTIP, the agency intercepted the syndicate and promptly rescued three children, all under the age of one, allegedly being rented out for N3,000 by their mothers to traffickers to beg for alms. The syndicate specialises in collecting babies with the connivance of other members of the gang, hire out these innocent children and position them at roadsides, busy intersections and bus stops, where they use them for alms begging. The modus operandi is to detail another older child to watch over the children as they move them from one point to another and to ensure that the proceeds of the begging were collected at intervals.

“These infants are exposed to harsh weather conditions on a daily basis in a dusty and dirty environment even in the face of vehicular movement and other forms of abuse without proper feeding,” Waziri-Azu decried.

While there seems to be no end to the inhuman act of human trafficking in the country, the menace is getting out of hand. There is therefore, an urgent need for families, voluntary organisations, and other stakeholders to join the efforts at protecting the Nigerian child. The country must cast away the complacency that has emboldened the perpetrators of this criminal enterprise who exploit the most vulnerable of our society for illicit gains. Ignoring the subtle signals of violence inflicted on children can only lead to disruption in families and in society. While NAPTIP’s efforts are commendable, curbing the tragic incident is a collective responsibility. But more importantly, it is the duty of government, at all levels, to protect our children from the antics of these desperate people.

To tackle the challenge, the Federal Government had in 2003 enacted the Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act. It was amended in 2005 to prescribe more severe penalties for offenders as well as prohibit all forms of human trafficking. Despite this, human trafficking remains a major challenge in the country while the non-domestication of the Child Rights Act by many states has only compounded the problem. With millions of children out of school, they are left at the mercy of mercenaries.

Therefore, a demonstration of political will to diligently prosecute offenders would serve as a deterrent to those engaged in the nefarious trade, irrespective of their social status. There is also a need for a sustained sensitisation, especially in rural areas, on the dangers posed by ‘good Samaritans’ who offer better lives for children away from the watchful eyes of their parents and guardians. A culture where little children are expected to provide for or supplement their family upkeep should also be discouraged, while the authorities must put in place guidelines on the hiring of domestic household staff through certified agencies.

It is shameful that Nigeria is regarded not only as a transit route for illegal trade in human trafficking but also a source as well as a destination. But with little children now becoming merchandise for what has become another emblem of shame, the authorities must wake up and tackle the menace urgently.