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Nigeria/West Africa: Human trafficking

Publish Date: 21 Sep 2006

Source: Daily Champion (Lagos) NEWS
By Adeze Ojukwu, Deputy News Editor

 

Human Trafficking

HUMAN trafficking remains an intractable problem in Nigeria and West Africa. It is believed to be a modern-day slavery occasioned by greed, poverty and poor legislation, with the victims predominantly children, girls and women.

Indeed the severity of the illegal sale and trade in persons particularly children and females in Nigeria, and west African sub-region, prompted governments to seek new strategies to combat the heinous crime.

Cheerily the Libreville Platform of Action, which was drafted in 2000 and signed by national, regional and international governments as well as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) was aimed to protect children and young women from the dangers of trafficking.

Last June, the joint ECOWAS/ECCAS regional cooperation on human trafficking was signed by 26 countries in West and Central Africa in Abuja, which was viewed by experts as the needed elixir against the hydra-heated trans-border crime.

At the historic gathering, Executive Director, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Mrs. Carol Ndaguda, singled out poverty as the major factor exacerbating the illegal trade even as she listed other factors as unemployment, child abuse and neglect, sexual exploitation.

In addition, Champion Health Forum gathered from experts that poor legislation and security measures also boosted the trade.

United Nations Children's Fund (NUCEF), said porous borders and desperately poor economic conditions in the West and Central African sub-region have prompted people to migrate to trade and farm. "But poverty has led families into more desperate measures as seen in the increasing numbers of children being trafficked into exploitative labour and prostitution."

Without doubt, sexual exploitation seems to be one of the most devastating effects of human trafficking.

UNICEF's regional director, West and East Africa, Dr. Esther Guluma, at a media chat after the conference said, "The working conditions were hazardous and exploitative especially for those engaged in commercial sex, where the risk of contracting Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and HIV as well as risk of being raped.

With increasing incidence of trafficking in children, particularly girls for sex and domestic work, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that the incidence of child labour in Nigeria for persons aged 10 to 14 years is approximately 12 million.

According to a UNICEF report on child trafficking in Nigeria, a few states such as Edo, Delta, Imo and Kano, are more seriously affected by child trafficking than others.

"In the South-West, a greater number of girls and women end up in prostitution, while in the East, the problem affects mainly boys who find themselves trafficking into agricultural, domestic, trading and apprenticeship jobs," the report said.

In the North, it noted that the problem of trafficking is not immediately evident, but analysis and assessment of the social situation revealed that trafficking is ongoing in Kano, Maiduguri and other major cities.

You may also wish to know that at a workshop on human trafficking, studies revealed that about 500 Nigerian girls were working as commercial sex workers in Bamako, Mali and a similar number in Burkina Faso.

Also 60 per cent of women trafficking victims for commercial sex in Italy are Nigerians.

According to the apex children's agency, trafficking of girls and women to Italy and other European countries has slave-like characteristics, because of tightening illegal immigration controls which force traffickers to resort to more daring and dangerous forms of smuggling.

Champion Health Forum gathered that many of these nationals who fall victim to these criminals are forced to take land routes across the Sahara to North Africa, and then make the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean in small boats.

Sadly, several others never reach their destinations as they may be abandoned or drown.

"Those that reach their destination are sold off to prostitution rackets and, engage in other forms of commercial sex work," it added.

Presently, it is estimated that over 20,000 Nigerian girls largely from Edo State are engaged in commercial sex work in Europe.

The health risks of rape, forced sex and sexual exploitation due to human trafficking are myriad and life-threatening. However, the underlying causes of slave trade are even worse.

It calls for serious actions by government and relevant agencies to save Nigerian citizens from unnecessary humiliation and sexual molestation abroad.
 

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