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Victims’ Voices Lead the Way

Four cups of garri, two spoons sugar Three bags of promises And a carton of goodwill Mama sold me to Aunty Her eyes wet with drops of her dreams I saw images of me dressing in new clothes My family eating fat meals As it gobbles down her throat And we hugged for the last time. Three years now I send parts of my body in crispy notes For hospital bills, school fees, feeding And each note carries the faces of men Aunty sold me to. The poem above depicts a typical story of human trafficking told by a survivor. The world day against human trafficking is commemorated every 30th of July. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”. Human Trafficking is described as the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving people through force, fraud, or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. It is considered a form of modern-day slavery. This act is practiced around the globe with men, women, and children of all ages and backgrounds as potential victims. Human trafficking is the third most profitable illegal business generating about $150 billion in the global industry. According to the European Asylum Support Office report on human trafficking in Nigeria, two-thirds of the $150 which is $99 billion is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while another $51 billion results from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture, and other economic activities. The average woman trafficked for forced sexual servitude/exploitation generates $100,000 in annual profits, which will amount to a 1000% return on investment. Traffickers operate in syndicates which makes the act dicey and unpredictable. In Nigeria, a lot of persons have been trafficked, while some victims are repatriated others are still under the shackles of their traffickers. Victims are often trafficked under the guise that they will be provided with greener pastures, employment opportunities, education, etc. With the foregoing as the tactics of traffickers, Nigeria is, therefore, a hotspot considering the rate of unemployment, insecurity, and poverty in the Country. It has been recorded that Nigeria is experiencing both domestic and international trafficking. The country is not just a place where victims are trafficked to other places, it is equally a country where victims are trafficked to, from other countries. Nigerian women and children are trafficked from Nigeria to other West and Central African countries, e.g., Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana, Chad, Benin, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Gambia. Children, women, and men from West African states like Benin, Togo, and Ghana (Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rules allow for easy entry) are also trafficked to Nigeria. Women and girls of Nigerian indigene are taken to Europe, especially to Italy and Russia, and to the Middle East and North Africa, for forced prostitution. Based on the increase in trafficking activities in the country especially in states like Edo, Delta, and Lagos, Nigeria adopted the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPLEAA) in 2013. The Act provides a legal framework for the fight against human trafficking in Nigeria. Trafficking victims are usually recruited from the rural areas for involuntary domestic servitude and sexual exploitation, and boys for forced labor in street vending, domestic servitude, mining, and begging. In Nigeria, the South-South is ostensibly known for human trafficking. Particularly Edo, Lagos, and parts of Delta States; according to the United Nations’ Report on Migrants, Human trafficking was most prevalent in these parts of the Country in 2003, where 1 out of every 5 members of every household is either a survivor of trafficking or a trafficker. In Delta State at least 10,000 women and girls are trapped in Mali and other African countries where they are being forced to work in many cases as commercial sex workers. However, the crime has crept into the North Central with Benue state as the hotspot. This is due to the level of poverty, underdevelopment, and insecurity in the state. In February 2019, according to the Director-General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) “Almost all states in Nigeria are affected by irregular migration and human trafficking but Benue State is endemic for trafficking of children for domestic servitude, exploitative labor in farms in the western part of Nigeria and sexual exploitation in brothels”. The Benue States records the highest number of Human trafficking incidences in the North Central and southeast senatorial district of Nigeria. The continuous rise in Human trafficking incidences in Benue led to the establishment of a human trafficking joint task force by the state government. The ongoing insecurity issues in the state especially the farmer-herder conflict have led a large number of residents/indigenes to flee from their homes for fear of imminent death. Internally Displaced Person Camps (IDPs) have been equally created around the state to accommodate those that have lost their homes to the crisis. These have therefore opened fertile ground for traffickers, utilizing the vulnerability and susceptibility of indigent women and girls including boys specifically those displaced from their native homes, and taking refuge at the Internally Displaced Person camps. This is so, because despite the assistance of INGOs, CSOs, Philanthropists, and Government in the provision of relief materials to cushion the effects of poverty and hardship, there still exist gaps largely in the areas of basic amenities and other personal needs including the deplorable condition of shelter. This situation has led most parents and guardians in Benue State especially the IDPs who are inexperienced and unknowledgeable, of traffickers’ antics and activities, including survivors/victims (young women, girls, men, and boys) to fall prey to the frolics of traffickers as a result of their quest for a more comfortable life; these group of persons is promised better livelihoods within and outside their Country. Therefore, there is an instantaneous need to address human trafficking in the IDP camps through various means e.g., awareness creation/sensitization on human trafficking and the antics of traffickers, economic empowerment for women and girls, proper prosecution of trafficking cases, proper integration of trafficking survivors and tactical approach to investigating human trafficking in the State. All hands need to be on deck and everyone needs to be at alert to prevent the continuous trafficking of countrymen and women.

Written by Ozobulu P. Solumtochukwu

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