How much is a soul worth: human trafficking in Nigeria.

Abiola Afolabi

Although the Nigerian Government fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and has harsh measures in place to punish human traffickers, report by the UNCHR shows the country still serves as a source, transit and destination for the trading of women and children.

Over 8 million children are engaged in forced labor and most of them are gathered from rural areas within the country’s borders (highest number of rescued victims in mid-year 2014 analysis were from the North-West 403 and South-South 112 of Nigeria)

Over half a million children are displaced to date by the terror group, Boko Haram, according to the UNICEF. Victims are taken from Nigeria to other West and Central African Countries; Women and girls are abducted and forced to serve as domestic or commercial sex workers while the boys are mostly into street vending, household workers, mining and begging. Some of the women and girls are taken out of the continent to Europe and Middle East for forced prostitution.

Just recently, a CNN team led by Nima Elbagir, under the CNN Freedom Project, uncovered one of the many unofficial displaced camps in Yola, where children are put up for sale to traffickers, they were offered two girls for $500, see full story here.

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has recorded some success in the combat against human trafficking since it was founded in 2009. The Agency undertakes strong efforts to raise awareness on human trafficking, prosecute traffickers and ensure the victim’s care policies are safeguarded. It has received and investigated a total of 2,980 and 2,622 cases respectively since inception to the end of June 2014.

Between January and June 2014, the agency received a total of 254 cases of trafficking in Persons and other related matters. The 2014 mid-year analysis report connotes the victims are mostly trafficked out of Nigeria for sexual exploitations. With over 50 reported cases in the first half of the year.

There is a marginal difference in the number of cases of external trafficking out of Nigeria for sexual exploitation reported to the agency between January and June 2014 compared with the same period of 2012 and 2013.

If compared, the number of prosecuted cases against reported cases remains low, the Legal and Prosecution Department received a total of 73 cases for legal action, out of which only 26 were charged to court.

The Government has averagely satisfactory laws to punish offenders, but how do we get the courts to fully Implement them? How do we get the court to impose adequate sentences on convicted trafficking offenders, impose imprisonment in appropriate cases and if possible eradicate the payment of fines? The officials; police and immigration require more training to identify trafficking victims especially among women in prostitution and girls traveling without family members. Finally, the Government has to take proactive measures to investigate and prosecute government officials suspected of trafficking-related corruption and complicity in trafficking offenses.