Human trafficking has truly been a threat to vulnerable men, women and children worldwide. It is an injustice that affects millions of people every year, on every continent and at all socio-economic levels. Human trafficking over the years has proven to be a highly organized and lucrative business, generating over 150 billion USD per year, 99 billion which is generated by sex trafficking within the prostitution industry. The International Labor Organization calculates that 21 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide.
It is so uninteresting and it sounds so displeasing to hear that the world we reside in today is one which children and young women are subjected to being victims of this social menace. We live in a society where children wake up in the morning being pulled out of their mother’s arms for a price (Greek gift), they might not end up paying, even the lucky ones, mind you ransoms are only being requested from the lucky ones, the unlucky ones either get sold into eternal slavery or get butchered, their body parts sold at black markets. A society where the bread winner sets out in the morning in a bid to provide food on the table for the family, only to have his picture in a poster distributed around the entire community, largely inscribed on these posters is the word “MISSING”, they might never find him again, so sad he is already a victim of human trafficking.
It is worthy of note that the significant number of victims are said to come from the pacific region, Africa and Asia. Fifty-five percent of all trafficking victims in Nigeria are women and girls, with little or no age limit. Human trafficking is a way to exploit women and children for cheap labor as an avenue to escape poverty. Its advent in the Nigerian socio-economic system is dated as far back as the post colonial period and also its increase in demand in the 1980’s due to the demand in low skill labor in agriculture and services. In most recorded cases of trafficking in persons, it’s been recorded that this menace thrive on grounds of victims inability to resist the promises of the chances of living a better life and greener pasture abroad given to them by traffickers who are assumed to be helpers at the point of retrieving victims from their various abodes, only to have the victims trafficked.
In the year 2003, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) being regulated by the NAPTIP Act, reported 149 investigations, 29 prosecutions and 25 convictions, all these in cases pertaining to human trafficking in Nigeria. The calculations of the International Labor Organization in the number of persons who are victims of human trafficking worldwide ranges from 20 million to 21 million and over the years it has increased at an alarming rate with this, it is obvious that this Greek gift has been more than a menace, rather it should be regarded as a tsetse fly which ignorantly the society closes a blind eye to. While there isn’t one face of a human trafficking victim, certain populations are more vulnerable, including run away homeless youth, children and youth in foster care, individuals fleeing violence or natural disasters, individuals with disability, and those who have suffered other types of abuse or exploitation.
The Palermo protocols adopted by 150 countries of the United Nations General Assembly in the year 2000, defines human trafficking as; “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, habouring And receipts of persons by means of force , threat, or Coercion for the purpose of exploitation.”
THE LAW AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Domesticated laws in the country sees this heinous act as a criminal one. Laws such as those entrenched in the Nigeria Child’s Rights Act of 2003, which expressly criminalizes human trafficking, it is disappointing to discover that only 23 states out of the sum total of 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory have it enacted in their state laws. Laws pertaining to Child’s Right and Human Trafficking all fall under state purview and these laws must be adopted be adopted by individual state legislatures for it to be implemented. The NAPTIP Act which regulates the NAPTIP and its endeavors falls under the laws regulating human trafficking in Nigeria. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) is a law enforcement agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria, founded in 2003 in other to combat human trafficking and other similar human rights violation. It was established under a federal bill on July 14,2003 by the Trafficking in Persons(Prohibition)Enforcement and Administration Act(2003) through the advocacy of Women Trafficking and Child Labor Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF). NAPTIP is mandated to enforce the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPPEA) in Nigeria.
In the year 2005, in a bid to strengthen the agency, The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 went through an amendment in 2005. However, in 2015, as a result of the new trends in the crime of trafficking in persons and the need to further strengthen the institutional framework, the Act was repealed and the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 was enacted. The new Act received presidential assent on 26th March 2015. The new 2015 Act has attempted to correct a number of problematic areas identified in the 2003 legislation, including improving the consistency of penalties and removing the option for offenders to pay a fine instead of serving a prison sentence. The stated purposes of the Act are to:
(A) Provide an effective and comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of human trafficking and related offences in Nigeria.
(B) Protect victims of human trafficking and;
(C) Promote and facilitate national and international cooperation.
As said earlier human trafficking and other related activities has been criminalized in Nigeria. It is worthy of note that this heinous act is criminalized is SECTION 13 OF The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition),Enforcement and Administration Act 2015 and it is broadly consistent with the International definition of human trafficking contained in the United Nations Human Trafficking Protocol. This section also criminalizes conduct that assists and facilitates human trafficking, or “omits to do anything reasonably necessary to prevent an act of trafficking in persons”. The penalty for these offences is imprisonment for not less than 2 years and a fine
Part IV of the Act criminalizes various conduct concerning the exploitation of persons, including importing or exporting a person, conveying a person, or detaining a person, knowing that they will be forced into prostitution or other forms of exploitation. Trafficking for forced labor is also covered in this part – Section 22 makes it an offence of to require, recruit, transport, harbor, receive or hire out a person for the purpose of forced labor within or outside Nigeria. It is also an offence to permit any place or premises to be used for the purpose of forced labor. Debt bondage, slavery and servitude are also criminalized in Section 25.
The Act is also notable for criminalizing commercial carriers who knowingly transport potential trafficked victims, and imposing obligations upon travel agents, tour operators and airlines to raise awareness of the potential risks of trafficking among their customers. The Act also provides that where a trafficking or forced labor offence has been committed by a corporate body, it shall be liable to pay a 2 million Naira fine, and to the forfeiture of assets and properties to the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund. In addition to this, where the offence is attributable to a Director, Manager, Secretary, or other representative of the body corporate, he or she shall be liable on conviction to 3 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 200,000 Naira.
CAUSES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
As aforementioned, human trafficking has proven to be more than a lucrative business. Victims are trafficked across both international and national borders, infiltrating nearly every part of the world. This dehumanizing and destabilizing menace is said to be caused by plethora of issues which a better part of it can be easily demystified.
Poverty which is said to be the pivot to greed and unhealthy crave and yearning for wealth and other luxury of life. Human trafficking is a way to exploit women and children for cheap labor as an avenue to escape poverty. Those suffering from poverty are purposely targeted by traffickers as a means of exploitation. Victims are usually subjected to prostitution and forced labor of different dimensions. Victims are cajoled by using lies, voodoos, deceptive talks, promises of a better life and opportunities ahead to make money. Note that the intention isn’t romantic but to make money, hence the need to accept this temporary means of allievating poverty, they result in accepting this Greek Gift.
The issue of illiteracy is also one which that is inevitable when considering the cause of Human Trafficking. The word Illiteracy defines a fellow, an individual or a person in terms of his/her deficiency. The lack of enlightenment on the part of citizens who fall in the lowest rung of the social strata is one major issue which tends to lure most victims into the ugly hands of traffickers , hence subjecting them to unexplainable suffering and health conditions which are either premeditated by the traffickers due to the nature of job and labor which their victims are meant to be subjected to(e.g anal sex, sex with animals, act of fellatio et al. all these leads to long term illnesses and contraction of diseases which the traffickers are all well aware of it being coming to play in the lives of their victims if they indulge in the aforementioned dehumanizing sexual acts.) or unprecedented psychological ends of the victims.
POOR ECONOMIC STANDARDS
Poor economic standards and the dire need to migrate is one inadvertent cause of human trafficking. It is a popular reason for individuals to seek the need to migrate at all cost hence, leading them to being victims of trafficking; all these borne out of the low standard of living and and the dire need to seek greener pastures and secure a better employment which would enable the later to be victims to send down stipends to their relative back home traffickers make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their targets in order to impose control later on.
THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT
It is an undisputable fact that the non-challant attitude of the Nigerian government at large towards this issue of trafficking in humans has aided the increase of its relative activities over the years. There continues to be a high level of impunity for human trafficking and forced labor in Nigeria, which is attributed to weak legal systems and problems of corruption. Low prosecution rates and light penalties are also blamed, with a lack of knowledge or concern about human trafficking among many criminal justice officials and police. For example, despite the 2015 amendments that removed judges’ ability to sentence convicted traffickers to fines in lieu of imprisonment, Nigerian courts continue to penalize traffickers with fines alone or offering the option to pay a fine instead of serving time.
THE ILLS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Moving on to the effects of this social menace that has taken solid grounds in both the economic and social structure of the world at large, its pertinent to know that the effect of this menace cuts across economic, social, mental, psychological and physical whole of the societal man at large. These effects tend to drastically reduce the rate of productivity of certain beings who fall victim of traffickers. It is of utmost importance to shed light on the negative effects of this menace regarded as the Greek Gift allowed into reception by the less privileged.
Physical exploitation of victims of traffickers if considered deeply entails lots of dehumanizing experiences which the victims end up being subjected to such as forced sexual intercourse with animals , forced orgies, enslavement, forceful donation of vital body parts and all other forms of physical exploitation ranging from lack of access to good food, an healthy and hygienic lifestyle and environment, which along the line takes away the living being in them out from the realm of sanity to that which can be regarded as the unstable physical state of being human. Victims are subjected to violence in the land of these traffickers, hence being left to suffer a lot of physical health complications. These health complications are usually premeditated by the traffickers (they are quite aware of the health and physical consequences of engaging in some inhumane labor, but in a bid to ensure the constant influx of funds they coerce and force victims to engage in this inhumane forced acts).
EMOTIONAL AND LONG-RUN PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS
Due to the rigors of labor, inhumane activities and unjust restrictions and infringement of the rights of victims , victims end up suffering a lot of emotional and long run psychological effects from these aforementioned causatives. Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, the most common include emotional abuse, threats, isolation from family and friends et al. victims tend to experience devastating psychological effects during and after their trafficking experience. Many survivors may end up experiencing post-traumatic stress, difficulty in relationships, memory loss et al.
The types and degree of physical and psychological abuse victims experience often lead to victims being socially ostracized and having the sense of not being socially accepted, more of like a sense of social rejection. The urge to mingle , and entrust is usually not found in victims , this is borne out of their nasty experiences while under the whims of their supposed helper who later was revealed to them via his actions as a human trafficker.
The mass migration of potential industrious fellows out of the country to countries which turn out to be an habitat of their gradual destruction, both physical and psychological destruction, tends to produce a gradual erosion of human and social capital that could have been used to impact and affect the economy of the nation positively. The Nigeria 2018 trafficking in persons report, records that the government identified 1,121 potential trafficking victims, including 538 people in prostitution, 203 child labor victims-some of whom were forced- and 188 forced labor victims. The major cause of the emigration of highly trained and qualified people from a particular country is usually caused by the sought of employment or higher paying jobs, the fear of political instability, and the dire need to seek a better quality of life by the victims. This causes can be categorized into the push and pull factors.( Higher paying jobs and a better quality of life fall under the pull factor, political uproars, poor standard of living , lack of employment all fall under the push factors).
The elimination of trafficking in humans and techniques to tackle the menace, over the years have been propounded by various organizations, bodies and individuals. According to the U.S Department of State 2019 Trafficking In Persons Report : Nigeria , the Nigerian Government is concluded to being not fully capable to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons but in actual fact is making significant efforts to do so. This report made prioritized recommendation to assist in the combat of this menace.
The adoption of frequent awareness programmes by organizations and governmental bodies. It is obvious the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons has contributed a greater percentage of its quota in this aspect nationwide. Government can assist by ensuring the disbursement of the full promised budget for NAPTIP, particularly to provide adequate victim care as since its inception it has achieved laudable feats. The agency has had over 331 convictions on human trafficking, as of September 2017. Between 2003 and 2017, over 3000 victims have been rescued by NAPTIP. The agency has been at the forefront of rescuing and rehabilitating Nigerians from Libya, with the help of the Federal Government, international Office or Migration and other International organizations, which has gotten a commendation from the United States.
The national government also has been enjoined to develop relevant sectors of the economy, also allowing independent criminal investigations into alleged trafficking abuses across the whole nation and even beyond the borders of Nigeria.
The laws governing the prohibition of trafficking in persons should be strengthened, constantly reviewed and adopted by all 36 states in Nigeria. These laws should be couched in such a way that traffickers and exploiters would be held accountable and responsible for their roles and contribution to human trafficking.
The provision of low skill demanding jobs and adequate employment for every citizen should be one of the top priorities of the Nigeria Government.
These aforementioned recommendations alongside plethora of other recommendations will aide in assisting the Government in curbing and if not totally eradicating the menace regarded as the Greek-gift herein this article.
It is an undisputable fact that the human trafficking menace continues to thrive and gain more strong holds nationwide mainly because the traffickers promise the victims the chance of a better life, greener pasture abroad as well as exposure to bigger and better opportunities, only to have them trafficked and sold or given out into modern day slavery, with little or no access to their friends and relatives, all this in no lesser degree of description makes human trafficking referred to as a Greek Gift here in this article
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Israel Adebiyi is an undergraduate student of law at Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti with a strong penchant for Commercial Law Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property, Human Rights law and Energy Law. Israel has been able to demonstrate interest in these areas of law through membership in related societies, internships, volunteering and participating in several seminars, webinars and debate competitions. He has top excellent skills in legal research, communication, leadership and team-working skills. He can be reached via the following mediums: [email protected], 09064005464, [email protected], Adebiyi [email protected] and Israel Adebiyi @LinkedIn