The recent report of a young Nigerian girl (name withheld), who was lured to Burkina Faso by some unscrupulous characters and enslaved in prostitution trade in which she was compelled to sleep with an average of 10 men per day has once again sensitized the nation to the scourge of a grievous social problem facing the nation. Narrating her ordeal before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos recently, the poor girl revealed vividly how her abductors made her a sex slave in order to generate enough returns for the investment they allegedly made to get her to Burkina Faso. The victim said she was lured into prostitution by one Mr. Oloyede Destiny, who had already been charged before the court alongside an accomplice, Segun Owanebi, a Burkina Faso-based Nigerian businessman, with human trafficking. Her release from bondage was facilitated by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP).
This newspaper cannot but bemoan the fate of numerous other Nigerian girls languishing in similar circumstances across the globe. Tens of thousands of cases of prostitution trade-inspired human trafficking have occurred in Nigeria in the past couple of decades. It has also been estimated that hundreds Nigerian girls are routinely being transported abroad every month for prostitution, not only to other adjoining African nations, but also to distant parts of the world like Italy and Spain. In 2012, for example, NAPTIP rescued 60 of our girls, mostly underaged, from sex-slave camps in Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire. The previous year 31 were rescued from Mali.
It is remarkable that the Nigerian government has over the years, responded to the rampaging global problem of human trafficking through the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003, which became operative on 14th of July 2003. The law established NAPTIP, which was institutionalised on 26th of August, 2003. With that legal framework Nigeria fulfilled her international obligations under the trafficking in persons protocol supplementing the Transnational Organized Crime Convention (TOC) to which the country became signatory on December 13, 2000.
While it is impressing that NAPTIP had made positive impact in its sustained battle against the evil of human trafficking since it was established, especially in relation to arrest and prosecution of offenders, it is also noteworthy that a lot of work still has to be done. The problem of human trafficking is a social one that has remained with us despite the concerted national effort to contain it. The prevailing pervasive poverty, unemployment and collapse of family and cultural values fuel the drive of the would-be victims to escape from the country. Most often many of them were tricked out of the country for better job offers, only to end in brothels and streets as commercial sex workers for their masters.
A first step towards addressing the menace would mean the three levels of government in the country taking holistic and coordinated measures that will address the predisposing factors of poverty, unemployment and collapse of family and cultural values. We know there would cases of desperate willing girls ready to take the risk, but this propensity would be checkmated by the vigilance of the operatives of NAPTIP and the complementary dexterity of the security agencies, staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nigeria Immigration Service. Such inter agencies cooperation in the past accounted for the successes recorded by the country against the unwholesome practice that has given us a bad name.
Parents and Guardians also need to be more proactive on moral education for their children and wards, since the family is the primary building block of the entire society. The parents and guardians must not only be wary of the kind of company their children keep, they must be suspicious of relatives and outsiders who promise to take their children abroad for greener pasture; they must make adequate investigation on the nature of the so-called “greener pasture”, especially in the cases of young females.
The nation must deploy all resources and spare no efforts in stemming the tide of human trafficking in all its ramifications as it constitutes unconscionable exploitation, violation of human rights and a crime against humanity.