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Checking human trafficking via awareness campaign

By Femi Ogunshola and Jacinta Nwachukwu

A victim of human trafficking, simply called Blessing, describes her experience with a human trafficker as miserable.

Narrating her ordeal, she recalled that she had a misunderstanding with her parents sometimes ago and she had to leave the house. She said she eventually identified an old friend that introduced her to a man who promised to get her a job abroad.

“I met the man called Ugochukwu and we had discussions among other ladies on how to get employments. This is the only thing I heard and we embarked on a journey.

“During the journey, he took us through a lot of suffering, hunger almost killed us and it got to a stage that we asked him to bring us back to Nigeria because we couldn’t withstand the situation.

“We later found ourselves in Mali, but through enquiries from some ladies in the same dilemma in Mali, we discovered that Ugochukwu had brought us for sex business. He handed us over to a woman whose job is to manage ladies brought from Nigeria to Mali for prostitution to assess them and prove that they are useful for the business.

“Thereafter, we were, on many occasions, forced to sleep with men, I pleaded to be free but the plea did not work because the woman monitored our movements in collaboration with the country’s police authority.

“There is no escape route; all the car owners at motor parks have also been placed on notice to report any stranger, especially Nigerian ladies, that want to travel out of the country,” she explained.

 

She also recalled that she escaped through a Senegal-based Nigerian woman who came to Mali for business and agreed to help her after explaining her ordeal.

Analysts observe that cases of human trafficking such as Blessing’s are rampant irrespective of the rating of human trafficking as a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. 

They cite a recent report by the International Labour Organisation and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that no fewer than 21 million people are trapped in trafficking.

They explain that human trafficking involves recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receiving of persons by means of threat or force to have control over them for the purpose of exploitation.

Expressing concern on the alarming rate of human trafficking, Mr Mohammed Babandede, Deputy Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), called for urgent action against the trend.

Quoting a report by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), he said that trafficking for sexual exploitation was on the increase because of ignorance and unemployment, among other factors.

Babandede assured the public that the NIS would soon issue a booklet containing advice and information for potential travellers on the danger of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. 

According to him, the booklet will be given to all Nigerians that are collecting Nigerian passport and will also be made available at borders.

In addition to this measure, the Chief of Mission, International Organisation for Migration, Ms Enira KrdZalic, solicited sensitisation of the public to the ills of human trafficking. She observed that public enlightenment was indispensable in the fight against trafficking in persons.

Corroborating this view point, Mrs Titi Abubakar, the founder of Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation, said that children should get proper enlightenment on how to avoid being deceived by human traffickers.

She also advised that people should eschew greed and quest for riches, observing that the traffickers used these platforms for luring people into the unlawful business.

In the same vein, Mr Joseph Famakin, Lagos State Zonal Commander, NAPTIP, advised parents to pay attention to the activities of their children and give them quality training.

He, nonetheless, assured the public that the agency would continue to do all it could to enlighten the public on the tactics and signs that human trafficker could use to deceive people.

Irrespective of this, Mr Monday Ubani, a lawyer, said there should be more enlightenment programmes at the rural areas where traffickers’ activities were rampant.

“The level of enlightenment is not enough to reach out to the rural areas. Some of them are not aware of the dangers and the legal consequences of trafficking. 

“We need to do more to educate the people because child abuse and baby factories are all over the country,” he said.

Another lawyer, Mr Spurgeon Ataene, said that in addition to enlightenment campaign at the grassroots, security agents should be proactive in fighting the war against trafficking.

He urged human rights organisations to collaborate with relevant anti-trafficking agencies for effective fight against human trafficking.

In her view, Rev Sister Laurencia Daniel, a counsellor, observed that the most common factors responsible for trafficking in persons included poverty, lack of human rights, greed, civil unrest and natural disasters, among others.

She said that women should be enlightened that indulging in prostitution would take away their dignity.

“The danger in prostitution is that it takes away the human dignity; you become vulnerable to diseases. Human trafficking can only stop if one should be contented with what one has and avoid greed and quest for quick riches, because, at times, these are the things that lure people into evil desire,” she said.

Daniel alerted the public that trafficking in persons was being carried out as a network of agents who positioned themselves at every strategic point to recruit victims.

“There is need for the law enforcement agents and the civil society groups on trafficking to work in unity to successfully curb the crime, “ she said.

By and large, she called on governments at all levels to address the challenges of unemployment, economic deprivation, poverty and lack of social security as methods of fighting trafficking in persons.

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