Nigeria's fight against human trafficking: A call for action

Posted on December 20, 2017 09:22:02 Filed in English News



 
Nigeria is among the countries with the highest number of human trafficking victims.  Millions of Nigerian young women and girls are at risk of human trafficking, due to gender imbalance, poverty, high rate of unemployment, gender-induced cultural bias, human deprivation and other factors.

Globally, over $32 billion is generated from the exploitation of 27 million victims, of which more than 70% are women and girls. The 2016 Global Slavery Index Report shows that there are over 875,500 Nigerian victims.

On a personal standpoint, the statistic is low, and there is need for government and independent bodies to work towards gathering data on this crime.

NewsMax reveals that every year, over 30,000 victims of human trafficking die as a result of diseases, torture and hunger. Most the female victims die while aborting pregnancy, under the pressures of the trafficker. This also shows that every day, at least 83 victims die, while three to four die every hour. Before the end of this programme, at least eight victims must have died due to human trafficking. Human traffickers or perpetrators often see young people, especially women, girls and children as commodities that can generate 100 times the amount spent recruiting them.

GOVERNMENT HASN'T DONE ENOUGH

Human trafficking remains a great threat to our economic development, advancement and human capital. It saps the very potential of our nation by frustrating the aspiration of our young people. The future of so many young people, especially women, has been frustrated, their dreams shattered, destinies delayed and potentials caged because of the triumph of human trafficking, which often thrives in the shadow and silence of many, and grow due to passive participation of the three arms of government.

While I have always empowered citizens especially young people to be at the forefront of combating human trafficking, it is important for me to say that government has a fundamental role to play in this. First, I commend Nigerian government for the amended 2015 TIP Act and for establishing a federal agency, NAPTIP, to take responsibility for combating human trafficking. But I must not fail to tell government that signing TIP Bill is not enough. You can't use an empty pocket to fight a crime that is worth over $32 billion. For over four years now, government has been too relaxed in the fight against human trafficking, and only wakes up each time there is outbreak of human trafficking, like the 26 girls who died in Mediterranean sea and the Libya black slavery. It ought not to be so.

Frankly, I have wondered why the Nigerian government hasn't provided enabling support or encouragement for anti-human trafficking, and why NAPTIP is not well-funded.  I am aware that NAPTIP is not well-funded to fund other grassroots anti-trafficking organizations.

I remember few months ago, when I spoke with some business leaders, trying to engage private sectors in our anti-human trafficking project, I was faced with the following questions: Does NAPTIP fund you? What example has the government shown, and what has the President or lawmakers said about human trafficking that will motivate us to support the cause?  Have they issued public statements against human trafficking when addressing the nation? How many times have you heard them talk about human trafficking during presidential speech? Is there a national call for action?

In fact, I have observed that it will be hard for private sector to put their money into a cause if they are not sure it is of great importance or a priority to the federal or state government.

Government, at federal, state and local levels, need to take a lead in the fight against human trafficking. The President, legislators and judiciary need to be audacious in their public statements and actions to combating human trafficking.

WHAT GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO DO

Policy: Government should ensure that the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Act is strictly enforced, without compromise. In addition to TIP Act, there is need for protection policies for victims and most vulnerable population in Nigeria. I recommend a Human Trafficking Prevention policy, which will focus on addressing persistent inequalities women face in status and opportunity; empowering homeless, street children, orphans, and young people who are at risk of trafficking; and addressing demand for sex or the commoditizing of women bodies.

Adequate Funding: Both state and federal government should mobilize financial resources to support action against human trafficking. State governors should know that the fight against human trafficking should not be left in the hands of the federal government and its agency. They should initiate programmes to eradicate and prevent human trafficking.

Call for Action and Private Sector Engagement: Both the federal and state governments should have a national call for action to companies to create measures to address human trafficking, through their corporate social responsibilities, contributing their expertise and knowledge to addressing the causes and effects of human trafficking. The Nigerian government should create avenues or platforms for private-sector engagement in combating human trafficking. Looking at how the private sector, including communication companies and banks, are using technology and innovative approaches to address issues on health, education, employment, and transportation in Nigeria, it becomes obvious that little or nothing has been done by private sector in addressing human trafficking compared to other issues.  There is an urgent need for private sector to provide innovative approach, contribute its unique knowledge, expertise and solution to ending human trafficking in Nigeria. Both small and big companies can aid the fight against human trafficking through the use of new technologies, innovation and entrepreneurship. Tech companies can create tools that will help young people to stay safe online, as human traffickers are exploring online platforms to deceive naïve and vulnerable ones in our society. Private sector can participate in combating human trafficking, by reporting suspected human trafficking cases around them. Like I said earlier, soon my organization will develop an Anti-Human Trafficking Reporting Mobile Application, known as TALKAM.  I am very optimistic and certain that as soon as the mobile app is developed, it will enable any one, including the private sector, to report suspected human trafficking cases.

Supporting Non-Governmental Organization:. Government and its agencies should give support to NGOs who are at the forefront of combating human trafficking in different communities.

Develop Tracking and Monitoring Mechanism: Anyone taking someone on a trip either within or outside the country, probably to serve as house servant or do any form of work, should get permission from local, state, or federal government agencies. Such persons should sign a 'No Exploitation Pledge Form' and provide details of the destination, work and a surety. These will help the appropriate agency or ministry track and monitor them. I developed this strategy while trying to proffer solutions to exploitation of housemaids.

Research institutes: It is important to have research centres in some federal tertiary institutions, so as to aid the fight against human trafficking.

Empower NAPTIP to have a budget to fund grassroots organizations and researches, build child support centres, build more rehabilitation centres, and provide scholarships and support to victims.

Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Ministry of Youth Development, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education should take part in combating human trafficking, and include in their budget funds to assist grass root organizations in addressing causes and effects of human trafficking.

Develop a standard trafficking in persons training programme that can be implemented at the academy level for all state and local police, and expand training to prosecutors and judges to include the mental health consequences to victims.

Every state in Nigeria should have a shelter where victims of human trafficking, rape, gender-based violence and other forms of human rights abuses are kept, assisted, and empowered. State governments should have offices that address issues of human trafficking.

Conclusion


If both state and federal governments can handle human trafficking like Ebola, then the will soon become history.

* Osuigwe is the Executive Director, Devatop Centre for Africa Development, an NGO committed to the eradication of human trafficking and female genital mutilation.

By Joseph Osuigwe*



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