Human trafficking in Nigeria has continued to take disturbing dimensions with socio-economic, moral and cultural consequences on the individual as well as national development. Such consequences remind one of the period of trans-Atlantic slave trade. Trafficking in human beings are clandestine global enterprise that affects almost all countries reaping enermous economic profits for traffickers and their local collaborators. In this global trade, Nigeria serves as a source, and transit country thus making her a major player in the human trafficking chain.
Nigerian women and girl victims of trafficking are mainly recruited for domestic servitude and sex slaves while boys are generally forced to work on plantations or in commercial farming, construction, quarries and mines. Furthermore, they are engaged in petty crimes and the drug trade. Nigerian victims are taken to other West and Central African countries, as well as to South Africa.
According to the 2014 trafficking report, trafficking of young women from Nigeria to Europe for the purpose of sexual exploitation is one of the most persistent trafficking flows, as it is very well organised. It was estimated that 60-80 percent of all immigrants working in the commercial sex industry in Italy were Nigerians.
Trafficking of children and women for exploitative purposes in Nigeria is of two dimensions – internal and external. Internally, children are procured as domestic workers, while externally, trafficking provides girls and women for prostitution rackets in Europe and in some cases, unsuspecting young girls and women have fallen prey to traffickers who use them for rituals.
The return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999 placed the issue of human rights, especially women and children’s, on the front burner of national discourses with government, individuals and civil society campaigning against the phenomenon of women trafficking. A lot of researches have been carried out on this issue and reasons adduced for thriving of this inglorious trade. Some of the causes are, insatiable lust for money, materialism and discrimination (particularly against women, children and minorities) violence, general insecurity, internal displacement as a result of ethnic/religious crises, low level of education, particularly among women, that have greatly reduced the capacity of women in the formal labour sector, making them to seek another means of sustenance and forcing them into the hands of traffickers.
To Olusey (2002) the causes of trafficking could be attributed to heavily devalued naira, illiteracy, lack of right attitude to women in African traditional social relation and the denial by government of effective citizenship for women and children in the fall of legal and constituent guarantees, the traditional culture which treats women as second class citizens, instructional lapses such as inadequate political commitments, infrastructure, vocational and economic opportunities and the demand for cheap labour at the informal sector among many others”.
Kano state is an Islamic state in the Northern Nigeria, yet patriarchy is still deeply entrenched in their ways of life. Consequently, men believe that women should not have a say in any gathering and whatever is said by the men should be acknowledged and accepted with no obligations and objection from the women. Therefore, the women folk are over-shadowed by thier beliefs; they have no right to object, to control their men folk. This reinforces the opportunities for women trafficking by men through pilgrimage to Mecca and other countries of sub-saharan Africa and the middle East like United Arab Emirate, for prostitution.
The fight against human trafficking is just beginning and it requires the efforts of all and sundry. The efforts of the civil society, media, embassies and government at all levels in creating awareness on this issue are commendable and should be sustained. Government must embark on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before mounting any poverty alleviation scheme, as the various ones embarked upon have not made any meaningful impact in the lives of Nigerians.
There must be adequate funding of education, so that the incessant closure of schools, culminating in disruption of academic calendar would be eradicated. There should also be a symbiotic relationship between government, NGOs, embassies and donor agencies to carry this fight to local areas. There must be in addition good governance, equal opportunities, justice, and provision of facilities, as these will minimize the urge to migrate. Finally, there should also be training of security officers and the media in the treatment and handling of trafficked victims.
Bilkisu Isa Salihu,Kano