Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Nigeria's Culture of Human Trafficking

Nigeria has a less than proud history of association with slavery. It's major ports were once staging posts for the slave trade. The active role played by some tribes in capturing neighbouring villagers and selling them to slavers is not explored in too much detail these days. Even back then there were lessons that could have been learnt in tackling tribalism that has blighted the Nigerian federation in modern times. Unfortunately, even though the slave trade has long been abolished it would appear that in the 21st century slavery isn't quite eradicated in Nigeria.

For many years now it has been the practice for families in the village to send young family members to work as servants for wealthy people in the cities. In many cases it involves sending children and teenagers to work as househelps. Children in their pre teens are often sent to work as servants while their parents receive payments to cover the wages they would have earned. In some cases the host families are content to have children of school age working for them but not enrolled in education.

There have been numerous cases of young girls being sent abroad to work as nannies or house helps for families but being abused and held in appalling conditions. Very often they are denied education, not paid, and held illegally in the countries they have moved to. Meanwhile, they are mistreated and subjected to extreme deprivation in an attempt to keep them subdued and captive.

In parts of Nigeria parents are marrying their under aged daughters off to older men for dowries or to pay off debts. In some cases the girls are betrothed and remain with their parents until they finish secondary school. A lot of the girls being betrothed in early youth are often unable to complete, or attend secondary school at all. Where they do complete secondary school any further formal education they receive is often at the behest of their husband or fiancé.

There is a very lucrative industry of trafficking Nigerian women abroad for the purposes of prostitution. Amsterdam and Italy used to be prime locations for this. However, in recent times the UAE, and Dubai in particular have become targets for Nigerian traffickers trading in women for prostitution.

It is time that the government in Nigeria recognised the prevalence of human trafficking in the country. This should involve increasing awareness of the rights and protections needed for young girls. The wealthy should not be able to deny them the right to education and freedom despite collusion from their parents or families. Law enforcement in the country should be actively engaged in combating trafficking in all its forms.