They are everywhere – city, village, internet, school, market, streets, even our homes. Nowhere is safe and nobody is free. They lie low, monitoring everyone’s movement; waiting for the right time, the opportunity to spring into action. They lure; they deceive; they abduct; they use people’s challenges as weapons and never rest until their target becomes their prey. That is who they are: the traffickers.
Human trafficking is illegal or deceptive recruitment and relocation of individuals of various ages, genders, races, and classes. It knows no one. It does not decide which class to prey on and which to avoid. It goes for the white and the black, the male and the female, the young and the aged, the educated and the uneducated, and the rich and the poor. Yes, human trafficking is a global problem; it is not peculiar to Africa or to Nigeria as many of us were made to believe. And unlike the stories we’ve heard, it does not only target the poor, the female gender and the young. No one is safe from human traffickers.
Nevertheless, traffickers do not strike unless they see opportunities. In developing countries like Nigeria, they use the poor economic status of the country to lure their kills. In the rural areas, where there is poor infrastructural development, people are deceived with the story that they will be taken to places, where they will have access to better education, good jobs, healthcare, good quality water, and even electricity. Many are lured with stories of people making millions within weeks in the cities and that alone draws them off their villages and farming occupation to “cities”, where they won’t have to “suffer” again.
What about the ones in the cities? Why are they victims too?
Everybody wants to “run” out of the country. The watchword is, “if you see a way to leave this country, please take it”. Well, there are so many “easy ways” out of the country and the easiest of them all is through traffickers. But how do these people capture those in the city, considering many people in urban areas are educated? Your guess is as good as mine. But I can bet you traffickers are equally good at brainwashing. They step in gradually until their victims believe solely on what they (the traffickers) fed them. At this stage, it becomes difficult to change the minds of the hoodwinked. Worse is, it is hard to determine whether they were falling into the nets of traffickers or just some Good Samaritans. It becomes hard to draw the person out of trouble because you don’t know if you were “messing up his destiny”. It is hard to tell which is which until it hits the person. And by then, it becomes too late.
Many of us know what victims of traffickers encounter. The commonest predicaments they face are sexual exploitation and cheap labour. We have also heard of those sold into slavery and child marriage. You must have heard about the ones, whose organs were harvested and the “suppliers” of babies for illegal adoption homes, aka baby factories. There are those sent into prostitution (even child prostitutes exist), drug couriers, combatants (even child soldiers), and so on. The one of domestic servitude is common; I don’t even want to go into it.
Some lucky victims are rescued, while many still wallow in bondage. Worst is, it is hard to apprehend these traffickers because of how shady they are. Hence, the only way to fight them is by blocking their access to their preys.
In Nigeria, I only know of NAPTIP (National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons) as the agency that fights human trafficking. I also know of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) because of Abike Dabiri-Erewa’s untiring efforts towards rescuing Nigerians trapped in Diaspora. Apart from these two, I don’t know if there is any other agency or organisation that comes to the aid of Nigerians in such circumstances. If there are others, they are very silent; and that is not how it is supposed to be.
Like I asserted earlier, traffickers crawl in on their preys. Most of the times, people are recruited by those that are close to them (friends and family) or those they met through social media (or any other place). But one thing is certain: once a target is sighted, there is constant follow up. Like we say in Nigeria, they follow the person bumper to bumper to make sure he doesn’t change his mind. It only takes the person’s analytical abilities or the efforts of people around him to not fall victim.
But then, when you realise that your person, (or even you) is about to be recruited by a trafficker, what will you do?
This is where experts should come in. There is a need for more organisations with experts on tracking and apprehending traffickers to be established in Nigeria. There is great need for every household to have lists of organisations they can call in cases of suspicion of trafficking. But many of us don’t even know who to call. NAPTIP is a government agency; it is likely overwhelmed. More nongovernmental organisations are needed.
Now that the news of recession (and bad governance) is making it seem like the world is coming to an end for all Nigerians, the traffickers are getting ready for their field day (if they have started already). People need to be at alert to stop them before it is too late.