By Denrele Animasaun
The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. -Albert Einstein
In our midst, there are people who trade in human misery and have done so with dogged impunity for decades. And often, the people who benefited and are benefiting from this pernicious trade are stalwarts of the community. So, the silent majority have been in denial, like the three monkeys: see nothing, do nothing and say nothing, and despite the fact that thousands have been sent on a perilous journey of no return. You would have thought a country that suffered a traumatic passage in history of enforced transportation of Nigerians for over two centuries will be determined to make sure that dark part of our history will never be repeated, ever. Sadly this is not the case. In fact, a whole industry has been built around this human misery. The proceeds from this crime has made criminals millionaires, used their ill-gotten gains to buy influence and respectability and no wonder the authority kept quiet for so long.
Now that modern day slavery is under the gaze of the international community, Nigeria can no longer shrug her shoulder and pretend it is an isolated case. The whole world knows how and it is averse of saving face but now realising the moral responsibility of the whole country to drive this evil operatives from their horrific business of human trading.
Nigeria is beginning to keep these evil activities in check. Couple of days ago, the Nigerian authorities say they have rescued nine young girls and one boy who were being trafficked to Russia. It transpired that these opportunistic scrums were going to ply their trade under the guise of the world cup. The victims were found as they boarded a plane from Lagos to Moscow.
Thankfully, their plan was foiled and they apprehended the suspects including a policeman and a quarantine officer. These masterminds planned the ruse so as not to raise suspicion; they had football supporter ID cards to blend in with genuine fans. The unaccompanied minors were saved because they had one way tickets. Who knows what their fates would be if they had not been stopped?
The children, who were unaccompanied, are now in the safety of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
Unfortunately, parents also sell their children for money and some blackmailed or kidnapped them, spirited away, never to be seen again. Most of this trafficked victim are destined for the European sex trade, traded from one criminal ring to another like they were useless property to be used and abused then given to another until they are no longer useful.
According to the UN’s agency for migration, most of the potential sex trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea are mostly Nigerian girls that are sold into the commercial sex industry regardless of their age.
Sadly, West African girls, in particular from countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea and from Mali. Alarmingly, some of these young people are as young as 15 years old or shockingly younger.
So for those who say that is not their business, we all should be very concerned if this is happening up and down the country, it affects us all indirectly. We should care for those who are vulnerable and are powerless to stop this evil business.
NAPTIP, states that up to over 3,500 of victims of human trafficking are from Edo and Delta states have been rescued over a couple of months and imagine how many are still missing and some presumed dead.
Those that were repatriated from Libya according to the Benin Zonal Commander of the agency, Mr. Nduka Nwanwenne, that some of the girls were from Benin City.
Rescuing the victims is not the end of their ordeal in fact, it is only the beginning, and they have to deal with the fear, the betrayal, torment, ostracisation, stigma, shame and post-traumatic stress disorder. Nothing is that straight forward, these victims are living a waking nightmare and they cannot simply get over it. The government alongside with a handful of NGOs are beginning to rehabilitate the rescued victims; the empowerment is in various vocational skills because the Director-General of the agency, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, wants the victims to settle down fully and get on with their lives. “The plan is to empower them in the areas of catering and hotel management, cosmetology, fashion and design, bead-making, shoe-making and photography. But there are also some that want to go back to school and that; Of course, the agency is ready to sponsor them because some are already in school. If the victims are not empowered, they become vulnerable to the traffickers.
Poverty is a gateway to exploitation and an improvement in the living standards of ordinary Nigerians, will go some way to reducing this abhorrence in trading in human trafficking and associated criminal activities.
So what can ordinary people do to help reduce these evil activities? We must be vigilant and be our brother’s keeper.
If you see people travelling together and a minor or the other person looks petrified, they are unable to move or are been monitored by their escort, then they could be a victim of human trafficking. One air hostess saved a young girl as a result. She noticed that the young sat for a long period without getting out of her seat on a long haul journey. She was able to convince the man to let her go to toilet, where she had left a message for the young girl. Once confirmed the authorities were alerted and were waiting once the plane landed.
If they are afraid and are unwilling to respond without the acknowledgment of their custodian. In neighbourhoods, where a young person is isolated from normal interactions, does not go out alone but in always in company of one or two people. They buy their silence through intimidation and threats, and those that were rescued after many years are known to live in full view of others.
According to CNN there are some signs to look for at airports that a child is being trafficked:
A traveller is not dressed appropriately for their route of travel.
You might notice right away that a traveller has few or no personal items. Victims may be less well dressed than their companions. They may be wearing clothes that are the wrong size, or are not appropriate for the weather on their route of travel.
They can’t provide details of their departure location, destination, or flight information. Traffickers employ a number of tools to avoid raising suspicion about their crime and to keep victims enslaved. Some traffickers won’t tell their victims where they are located, being taken, or even what job they will have.