BY JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
Strangely, in Nigeria, 206 years after the 1807 abolition of slave trade by Britain and 15 years into the yearly remembrance of victims by the United Nations, the business has taken a new twist with two forms— internal and international— booming. Focus has shifted from energetic men preferred by Europeans for labour on plantations, to women and teenage girls as young as eight.
Particularly, perpetrators are no longer Europeans but women of African and, most times, Nigerian descent, who deceive young girls into voluntarily surrendering themselves while a few are given away by family members after being assured of better lives.
A 2009 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime- UNODC assessment, Transnational Trafficking and the Rule of Law in West Africa, revealed that thousands of women are trafficked each year from West Africa to Europe in a multimillion-dollar criminal industry. With an estimated value of between $152 million and $228 million annually.
The market sees a yearly inflow of between 3,800 and 5,700 women. It is estimated that West African trafficking victims, many of whom originate from Nigeria, comprise about 10 per cent of forced sex workers in Western Europe.
With the successful smuggling of one female to Europe profiting a “madam” (trafficker) about $40,000 in return, according to hints from reliable sources, this refurbished trade sure seems to be fueling the bank accounts of its black merchants, who deceive young girls with promises of jobs and better lives in Europe, in the case of international trafficking.
These girls are, however, disillusioned as soon as they arrive Europe and the illegality of their migration limit their movement to night and their employment to sex work only.
According to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, for victims that abhor this only form of employment, returning home to Nigeria becomes more difficult than succumbing, because of the penurious state of their families back home waiting for their divine ‘European’ intervention. The unlucky ones usually end up in prison or deported, while the “smart” are eventually able to legalise their stay abroad upon completion of their about $40,000 debt payment to their “madam”.
According to Joseph Famakin, Zonal Commander, Lagos Zonal Office, National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons, NAPTIP, trafficking in persons, as a modernised form of slavery, repeats the history, mechanisms of recruitment and the socio-economic, cultural, health and educational consequences associated with the former transatlantic slave trade.
He said: “It involves a forceful and deceitful acquisition, sale and resale of persons, especially women and children. Human beings are bought, sold and resold or forced across the world’s borders like commodity. Among them are hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, and others as young as five, who fall victim to the sex trade. Victims are forced to swear oaths at voodoo shrines in their local communities to instill fear in them. They are made to believe that they would die should they refuse to obey their “madams.”
A United Nations Children’s Fund-UNICEF child protection specialist, Mrs. Roseleen Akinroye, who spoke with Vista Woman, VM, said that Nigeria, particularly due to its porous borders and napping security forces, is classified under each of the three phases of trafficking— source, transit and destination— because there are substantial internal trafficking as well as international trafficking to such locations as Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, the Middle East and other African countries.
Blaming domestic and international human trafficking on socio-economic factors such as extreme poverty, large family size, lack of education, poor social services, ignorance, parental neglect, lack of opportunities, conflicts and corruption, Akinroye described the trade as a major violation of human rights, requiring renewed efforts from government and communities for eradication.