Human trafficking: An abiku that mustn't return

Human trafficking, like an Abiku, has again made it to the front burner and it's about to slip away in its usual manner. It had always had a flash at the spotlight but prior to our acknowledging it, it goes into oblivion to return later. But this time round, Abiku, you have to tarry so we can, at least, better introduce you to your hosts.

It beats me how issues surrounding trafficking in persons will make the news still we will fail to adequately feast on them in the banquet of public affairs analysis. Perchance, this explains why the scourge has remained a menace. For when commentaries, articles features, documentaries and the likes are written on it, the members of public get enlightened and guard against them or their relatives becoming victims.

It is true that the hot bed for the recruitment of trafficked Nigerians are the rural areas and that those residing there may not have access to this form of enlightenment, but, people in the hinterlands are our siblings and mothers. Thus, we in the urban areas that are exposed to this are obligated to pass the information across.

So much for the preamble. Now let's get to the kernel of today's engagement;

The U.S. Secretary of State- John Kerry on Wednesday announced the 2013 annual Trafficking in Persons(TIP) report prepared by the State Department. The report identified Nigeria as a source, transit and destination for women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

Nigeria retained her Tier 2 status in the report owing to government not fully complying with the minimum standard for the elimination of human trafficking. It however commended the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons and Other Related Matters(NAPTIP) for its improved anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts as well as provision of specialised anti-trafficking training for its officials.

But, at the same time we were digesting the TIP report vis-a-vis human trafficking in our country, the news broke that no fewer than 200 Nigerians girls are trafficked every month into Moscow. This was made known by Nigeria's Ambassador to Russia- Asam Asam.

Speaking in an interview in Berlin, the diplomat said the crime had declined in Western Europe following strict laws on illegal migration and joint efforts by the Nigerian government. According to him, attention had shifted to Eastern Europe as the new destination for the trade.

I wonder where we have wronged these whites. After all they did to our forebears during the aeon of slave trade, their dubious fancy for trading in humans is yet to sate. Their ancestors were behind the slave trade of yore now the present generation of whites have turned it to human trafficking. They have made 'an old wine in a new wine skin' of slave trade with us as the article of trade in both settings.

The scoundrels involved in this illicit trade obviously don't give a hoot about Abraham Lincoln's postulation that “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

Oh, how lovely it will be for the table to turn so that they or theirs will be the ones traded upon in the market like commodities so that they can have a taste of their own medicine.

However, let's take solace in Booker T. Washington's submission that “You can't hold a man down without staying down with him.” Those who are holding down people in the name of human trafficking should know that a part, if not all parts, of the lives will be staying down! It may not be at the moment, but, there will surely come a time they will stay down. Unless what goes around doesn't come round any more.

And to our own people who are involved in this outlawed business, let them know that they are justifying the inhuman treatment their forefathers went through in the name of slave trade.

Their being merchants in persons shows they are in support of the atrocities committed by the whites during the slave trade era. Maybe they should pay a visit to any major museums that have relics of slave trade for them to see what they are reliving.

The love for money has remained the spur for those getting into the trafficking in persons business. Now, we can better appreciate why it was recorded that money is the root of all evil. As a global industry, human trafficking is worth in excess of $32bn (£20bn) a year.

Back home in Nigeria, the avaricious perverts who engage in this evil sell children for prices ranging from N30,000 to N60,000 per child. The Director-General of Kano State Hisbah Board, Alhaji Abba Sufi, said a suspect was recently arrested in Gwale Local Government Area after selling a three-year-old girl at N60,000 to his customer at Rijiyar Lemo quarters in Kano metropolis.

Indeed, those who are engaged in this forbidden act are debased. Else, why won't a child's freedom and rights worth more than N60,000 in their crooked minds. Here are what that amount can cause a trafficked victim: the women and girls are trafficked for rituals, domestic servitude and sex trafficking with the boys trafficked for forced labour in street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarrying, agriculture and begging.

Are these really what we would want to subject a fellow human to just to make N60,000?

The TIP report noted that Nigerian women and children are also recruited and transported to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, where they are held captive in the sex trade or in forced labour. Some others are trafficked to Malaysia, where they are forced into prostitution and to work as drug mules for their traffickers.

Just envisage this inhumanity of man to his fellow man all because of financial returns. There is no way money can atone for the repercussion that comes with acts this cruel. The merchants are so cold-blooded that they use threats of voodoo curses to control their victims and force them into situations of prostitution or labour.

If only voodoo curses were like the English Law where he who comes to equity must come with clean hands, then the merchants of persons dare not come close. But, the same principle should apply to voodoo curses. What these people are doing is abominable, as such, traditional religion- to which voodoo is mostly associated, should not accommodate them.

Another significant means of controlling the trafficked women and girls is through a form of witchcraft which is common in some communities across West Africa. Pastors and religious leaders should come handy here. They should through intercession to God wage war against this witchcraft that is used in promoting human trafficking.

Members of the clergy should, through the leading of the Holy Spirit have ministries that are solely devoted to fighting human trafficking through spiritual warfare. Their God abhors injustice and oppression as such He will not relent in answering prayers that are aimed at addressing both.

Religious leaders can also speak against human trafficking in their sermons for these human traffickers have churches and mosques they attend. Speaking against human trafficking in places of worship can also dissuade parents who encourage the continued exploitation of their children because of pecuniary gain. Yes, there are parents like that!

Further, government should work to address the porous nature of our borders. According to the Zonal Commander of the NAPTIP, Hajiya Khadija Bello, there are about 300 illegal routes used by human traffickers to ferry their victims out of the country in Katsina alone. If we have 300 illegal routes in Katsina alone, how may will there be in the entire country?

The major reasons why Nigeria did not fare well in the TIP report was because government was yet to pass a draft legislation that would restrict the ability of judges to offer fines in lieu of prison time during sentencing and the verity that security agents can't identify victims of human trafficking. It is high time authorities did what is expected in these regards.

This abiku of human trafficking has just received a bashing by this article. Let it be accompanied by others. Media houses should churn out editorials and commentaries to enlighten the public on facets of this multi-dimensional scourge. Let us devote massive airtime and space to condemning trafficking in persons, then will we see this abiku embark on a journey of no return.

by Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi
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Articles by Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi