The scourge of human trafficking – Thisday

The authorities should address the problem of poverty

Of the around 700,000 persons trafficked across the world every year, Nigeria’s notoriety in the act has become an issue of international concern. Thousands of young Nigerian girls are routinely trafficked to Europe and Asia for sexual exploitation. Sadly, the concern over the menace of human trafficking in the country goes beyond the shores of Nigeria as the United States has accused the federal government of failing to do enough to put the scourge under control.

On 30th June 2018, for instance, a 51-year old Edo State-born Nigerian woman, Josephine Iyamu, was convicted in the United Kingdom for trafficking five girls from her homestead of Edo to Germany for sexual exploitation. Ms Iyamu, a nurse in Britain and the first person to be convicted under the UK anti-modern slavery law was formally jailed on 4th July. She had before her arrest and trial compelled her many trafficked victims to swear to oaths that they would deposit all their earnings with her once they started working. Some of the rituals she reportedly performed on her victims included eating chicken hearts and drinking blood containing worms, and powdering incisions.

Iyamu’s conviction was preceded by the earlier sentence of another Nigerian, Franca Asemota by the UK Crown Court to 22 years imprisonment for attempting to traffic some Nigerian girls to Europe through the London Heathrow Airport. Asemota, who was arrested in Nigeria and extradited to the UK for trial, was convicted of a 12-count charge of sexual exploitation, trafficking in persons outside the UK and engaging in unlawful immigration, among others.

In the last one year, the International Office of Migration (IOM) has spent huge sums of money to evacuate back home hundreds of Nigerians most of whom were trafficked to Libya enroute Europe with promises of better life. Several of them lost their lives while those who survived went through anguish and trauma before the federal government came to their rescue. These were aside the uncountable numbers of Nigerians who regularly lose their lives on the Mediterranean Sea while being trafficked abroad or engaged in illegal migration. Meanwhile, several young Nigerians are also being trafficked within the country by money mongers who recruit them from poverty-stricken homes in rural areas with promises of improved living standard or access to education in the city.

Victims of human trafficking and illegal migration often go through physical and psychological trauma as they must always be at the beck and call of organised patrons from the traffickers without any freedom of objection no matter their level of grief. Those trafficked abroad neither have peace of mind nor desirable happiness, yet they often live under the threat and fear of deportation with little or no savings of their own.

At the root of human trafficking in Nigeria is endemic poverty which has been a veritable tool in the hands of traffickers to lure their victims into illicit jobs with promises of improved living. Several of those recently evacuated from Libya narrated how frustration forced them into the journey. We thus challenge the federal government to address the prevalent poverty ravaging the land and offer meaningful hope of livelihood to frustrated young Nigerian men and women who are often victims of trafficking.

We implore the security agencies to deploy the requisite intelligence that will help in fishing out the perpetrators and punish them in accordance with the law to serve as deterrence to others. We also task the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to live up to its responsibilities by engaging in massive enlightenment campaigns against trafficking, particularly in the rural areas of the country where this scourge is now prevalent.

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