Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia describes Ni­geria as “a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to traffick­ing in persons including forced la­bor and forced prostitution.” What a way to describe Nigeria! Undeniably, the trafficking of children for what­ever reason and particularly with the intent to use them for domestic ser­vice, prostitution and other forms of exploitative labour is a widespread evil in Nigeria. This was confirmed by a 2007 UNICEF fact sheet which also disclosed that as a result of the concealed nature of the evil practice, precise and reliable figures are hard to come by.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of State noted that 46 per cent of trans­national victims are children, with the majority of them being girls. Ac­cording to the 2014 Global Slavery In­dex, an estimated number of 834, 000 Nigerians were living in slavery. Na­tional Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) reported in its Fact Sheet that the average age of trafficked child is 15 and that Nige­rians make up 60 to 80 percent of the girls who are trafficked for sex trade in Europe. In June 2011, the BBC re­ported that at least 10 children are sold daily across the country. Global­ly, child trafficking is one of the fastest growing organized crimes with an es­timated 1.2 million victims per year, of which 32 per cent are Africans.
Daily, lots of children are recruited clandestinely with promises to their parents (if they were not kidnapped) of well-paying jobs in urban cen­tres within the country or abroad. Alas, many of them end up finding out much later that they have been trapped in a web of deceit. Recent fig­ures released by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, in a report tagged ‘Global Slavery Index’, Nigeria disgracefully came out tops in Africa and fourth in the world on the list of countries with enslaved people out of a total of 162 countries researched. However, the causes of children and women trafficking are numerous. They include poverty, desperation to escape violence, corruption, unem­ployment, illiteracy and ignorance.
To fight human trafficking, the Government passed the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition and Administra­tion Act and established the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traf­ficking in Persons and Other Related matters (NAPTIP) in 2003. Since then, investigation of cases, prosecu­tion of criminals, rescue and rehabili­tation of victims have been success­fully carried out by the Agency.
The 2003 Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administra­tion Act, amended in 2005 to increase penalties for trafficking offenders, prohibits all forms of human traffick­ing. The law recommended penalties of five years’ imprisonment and/or about N265,000 fine for labor traf­ficking, 10 years’ imprisonment for trafficking of children for forced beg­ging or hawking, and 10 years to life imprisonment for sex trafficking.
The Child Rights Act (2003) which has been domesticated by only 23 states and Federal Capital Territory also criminalizes child trafficking. The Constitution of the Federal Re­public of Nigeria (1999) as amended provides that laws pertaining to chil­dren’s rights fall within the ambit of state governments in which case the Child Rights Act must be integrated by individual state legislatures with a view to having it fully implemented.
In some parts of Nigeria, having a child outside wedlock is considered a taboo and thus a shame to the family. When this happens, the young girl is kept away from prying eyes, and when the child is born it is often unwel­comed. In most cases, these children are left at the mercy of the unhappy family who determines their fate. Of­ten these babies are placed in the hands of child traffickers. In 2010, NAPTIP recorded 5000 victims, provided care for 1,109 human trafficking victims and prosecuted over a hundred cases. Yet, this action clearly underrates the magnitude of child trafficking issue in Nigeria.
In Amuwo Odofin, behind old Dur­bar Hotel-near Festac, Lagos, teen la­dies charge N150,000 and N200,000 per baby. Twins sell for N450,000. The boys who impregnate the girls are paid N10,000 to N20,000. In Lekki, one Mrs. Theresa Marques, 84, owner of an orphanage sold babies for N100,000, N200,000.
Another dangerous trend is the ugly discoveries in various parts of the country including Lagos, Port Har­court and Imo State. Men of the Ni­geria police discovered homes where young girls were kept principally as baby making machines.
Meanwhile, there is now a number of so-called fertility centres all over that recruit girls between the ages of 15-18 to donate their eggs which are used to help childless couples achieve conception. These girls are paid paltry sums by the clinics who harvest their eggs after hyper-stimulation, which is a dangerous medical procedure with many implications
In order to seriously tackle the ugly venture, the Federal Government must have data base that gives the global record and scientific analysis of child trafficking cases in the country. It is only when this is in place that we can really fashion out a framework for the scientific analysis that is required in curbing the growing trend of human trafficking in the country. Likewise, the government must exert enough political will to implement the human trafficking law in such a way that there will be no sacred cows. Essentially, the law must be strengthened not to give room for any manipulation irrespec­tive of the calibre of people involved. Until this is done, a lot of distinguished people in the society who are some­times the perpetrators but most often beneficiaries of this heinous crime, would not desist.
It is necessary for governments at all levels to implement policies that will give hope to the hopeless and protect the weak against the strong. Every economic alleviating policy must be targeted at the poor as well as children who are usually the most vulnerable victims of human trafficking. Equally, all agencies involved in monitoring the nation`s international borders should be equipped with adequate and profes­sionally trained personnel with neces­sary modern equipment. To effectively tackle the menace of child trafficking in Nigeria, all key stakeholders must work together to curb this ill by edu­cating the general public on the sub­ject. Efforts must be made to properly orientate and sensitize the people on the danger of child trafficking. Again, since children represent the future of every country, it is imperative there­fore that we safeguard this future by sparing nothing to curb this evil. - The Authority