Shaihu Umar is a fictional narrative by late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first prime minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The novel tells the story about an orphaned child called Umar, who was stolen and sold as a slave. He was fortunate to find his way to Egypt where he met a generous slave-owner who freed him and guided him to be an outstanding Islamic scholar. But the real character of the novel was Fatima, Umar’s mother, who set out on a journey to reclaim her beloved son, out of her deep maternal affection towards him.
Umar’s mother was lucky to discover where her son was sold in the city of Kano. She met with the slave merchant who promises to reunite her with her son. But she was unwittingly trapped into slavery as the slave-merchant deceived her and sold her to another slave-merchant. She spent many years under the evil hands of slave trafficking gangs. The story reaches its climax where Fatima, lastly, makes a happy reunion with her son, but being worn out by the strokes of sufferings under chain of slavery, she dies.
In this pre-colonial Hausa classical story, an innocent child taken from his home, trafficked as slave and his mother’s attempt to find his whereabouts, was also beguiled and taken into slavery. This tragic story written by the late prime minister provides an insight that portrays human trafficking business and slavery as one of the oldest forms of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. It has only changed methods and forms over the course of history.
All the same, today illicit human trafficking business in this era has become very diverse and complex. Syndicate and organised human traffickers nowadays lure and trap the unsuspecting victims into what is called modern slavery and many varied inhuman treatment. It can be through the use of fraud, violence, deception or coercion. It could also br by means of false romantic relationship, and fake promises of education or well-paying jobs in foreign countries.
Trafficking gangs could exploit gullible victims for their greedy financial gains, like being forced into sexual exploitation, bonded labour, begging, forced criminal activities, (e.g., crowing cannabis, opium or pushing drugs). Others include domestic servitude, marriage, organ removal, child labour, surrogacy in baby factory and all other form of slavery and varied form of dehumanisation of human’s dignity.
Today, verified stories prove even cruel ancient form of slavery still continues in some part of the world. Sales and purchases of persons occur freely in remote Sahara villages of Libya, Mauritania and some remote mountainous regions in war-torn Yemen. And many victims of human traffickers, according to statistics are women and children; they are the most vulnerable group. Women account for 51% of the victims, while children are 28%, and men are 21%.
It might not be just a cross-border activity, human trafficking does not necessary carries it literal sense as ferrying people from country to country. It could take place within a country, region, community or society. All over the world in rich and poor countries, human trafficking business is being perpetrated in every nook and corner of the world.
Economic hardship caused by
mismanagement and corruption, from less developed parts of the world such as many African, and Latin American countries e.g. Nigeria, Ghana, Niger, Peru, Venezuela , Mexico which force people to flee their country only to end up being trapped in the human traffickers’ den. Likewise, conflict and political instability in Syria, Haiti, and Ethiopia makes people desperate to migrate to countries they imagine will guarantee good living.
Obviously, the main reason that people are being trapped into human trafficking is poverty. People try to escape poverty at all cost, lacking factual information about end result of their journey. They try to get to European or Middle Eastern countries hoping they will make prosperous living there. But to some it is inordinate greed and lack of contentment, some idealise going to European countries such as going to Heaven-on- Earth where one can live happily ever after.
Ignorance and illiteracy is another factor, many of human trafficking victims are less-educated, less skilled, and less- informed class of people trying to escape poverty by hook, line and sinker. They are unaware of the perilous journey they about to undertake, and the precarious jobs that await them in their intended countries of their destinations.
However, back in Nigeria village girls are being trafficked into the cities as housemaids. Some merciless women agents bring young girls to the city to be assigned as house helps in homes. These gullible rural girls are being tricked for false promise of rosy life in the city, but end up being subjected to domestic servitudes and sexual exploitations in the cities by their masters, their children and other male servants in the home they serve.
In southern part of Nigeria, there is phenomenon known as “Baby Factory”. Where girls are bounded in homes to be impregnated by men and their babies will be sold to the buyers. The masters of these baby firms keep these young ladies, under fierce inhuman cruelty and degradation.
Furthermore, in the south young ladies are being ferried, through Libya across Mediterranean Sea, by syndicate organised traffickers. These girls are forced into prostitutions in France, Italy and Germany under merciless inhuman treatment. Many times, traffickers’ agents give false promises to the parents of ladies of getting high-paying jobs in Europe.
And in many Northern Nigerian Muslim predominant states, there is Kano-Jidda human trafficking business, of which recruiting women, under the guise of going to pilgrimage or working, but being initiated into prostitutions in Saudi Arabia. They are sexually exploited by serving double purpose as house maids and mistress to their Arab masters. While male are being recruited for thievery and pickpockets, and the disabled children are initiated for begging in Saudi Arabian streets.
Lastly, government needs to tackle this problem by creating jobs and educational opportunities for all. And there is need to strengthen the economic development which can improve the living condition of people that could deter them from travelling abroad of which can make them easy prey of human traffickers. Another is increasing awareness on the danger of human traffickers’ activities through massive awareness campaign. Nobody should be above the law, and anyone caught engaging in human trafficking business should face the wrath of the law without fear or favour.
Adam writes from Ungogo, Kano state via [email protected], @realadnantweet, 08106385506