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Shocking!!! Increasing Human Trafficking in Enugu

-Survivor narrates how Enugu Madam sold her into sex slavery in Dubai

By Chikezie Ogbonna

When Adaora was 17 in 2018, she met a woman in Enugu who promised her a job earning of 150,000 naira (US$414) as a domestic worker in Dubai. Adaora agreed, and the woman made the arrangements for her to travel from Nigeria to Dubai.

Adaora is pseudo name for a trafficked victim living in Enugu but pleaded anonymity for fear of stigmatization.

She arrived in Dubai only to find out that she had been deceived. The “madam”, (a woman who is part of the trafficking ring  and who also controls women and girls) told Adaora and her friend (whom she also refused to name), that they will work as sex workers to pay back the total cost of bringing them over to Dubai.

Previously in Nigeria, Adaora and her friend were recruited by the same women as sex workers to clients, most of whom are construction workers and unskilled labourers. “We were told we would be house helps,” Adaora explained. But then, the madam later described the work as “House helping”.

Adaora narrated her ordeal to the Choice Flame Newspaper at her base in Trans-Ekulu, Enugu.

The madam locked Adaora and her friend in a room without food for four days and threatened to kill them. She told them that they had to pay a “debt” of $4,000 each, to cover travel expenses, and made them swear an oath with voodoo infested method that they would not run away or tell anyone. The madam brought men to have sex with them without condoms. After a month, Adaora discovered she was pregnant, and she was forced to commit abortion.

The trauma and exploitation continued. The madam later sold Adaora to a Nigerian man in Dubai who also sexually exploited her. After she extricated herself, and moved in with a man who promise to marry her, she said the Dubai police raided her base, but then, she has become pregnant again. They took Adaora to a detention facility where she was later repatriated back to Nigeria. Since then, Adaora having lost her second pregnancy briefly stayed in a shelter run by the national anti-trafficking agency, and then later in an orphanage. She described her sufferings from physical and psycho-social health problems, and that she thought of even committing suicide. She was unhappy at the orphanage, where the food was inadequate, and her future was uncertain.

Somehow, she sneaked out of the care centre through the help of a friend who then aided her trip back to Enugu to settle down in the Coal City. Adaora, without any form of skill or educational qualification, having dropped out from secondary school years after barley attaining senior secondary class two in her village in Ebonyi State had to go back to prostitution to survive.

According to her, she needs to survive against all odds because she has been abandoned by both his family and those who knew her before her unfortunate trip to Libya.

For years, local and international media have been awash with such horrifying stories of Nigerian women and girls trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation, and of migrants trapped in Libya in slavery-like conditions or dying as they cross the Mediterranean Sea. These stories reflect the large and, according to some estimates, increasing problem of human trafficking within and from Nigeria in recent years. What these news reports often leave out are the problems trafficking survivors face when they are identified internally or upon return to Nigeria, where the government’s efforts to protect and assist them too often fail to respect their rights.

A thriving business in Nigeria

Like Adaora, thousands of Nigerian women and girls have been trafficked within Nigeria, to other countries in Africa and to Europe in recent years. Most recently is the United Arab Emirate, Bahrian, Lebanon and many Arab, other Middle East and Asian countries.

Many are escaping dire economic situations at home, where jobs are hard to come by. Some are fleeing violent conflicts driven in part by climate change and a scramble over scarce resources; some have suffered exclusion and discrimination that has left them unable to fend for themselves, while others are vulnerable to exploitation as they seek to escape abusive families.

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According to Human Rights Watch, It is difficult to say how many women and girls are trafficked from, into, and within Nigeria, as there is no reliable data. However, Nigeria is routinely listed as one of the countries with large numbers of trafficking victims overseas, particularly in Europe, with victims identified in more than 34 countries in 2018, according to the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Most Nigerian trafficking victims in Europe come from Edo State, one of Nigeria’s 37 states, typically via Libya. The numbers of “potential” Nigerian trafficking victims in Italy has shot up in recent years. In 2017, the latest available data, International organization for Immigration (IOM) reported a 600 percent increase in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea, with most arriving from Nigeria. The organization estimated that 80 percent of women and girls arriving from Nigeria—whose numbers had soared from 1,454 in 2014 to 11,009 in 2016—were potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the streets and brothels of Europe.

Nigeria makes top of the list

Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons including forced labor and forced prostitution. Trafficked Nigerian women and children are recruited from rural areas within the country’s borders – women and girls for involuntary domestic servitude and sexual exploitation, and boys for forced labor in street vending, domestic servitude, mining, and begging.

Nigerian women and children are taken from Nigeria to other West and Central African countries, primarily Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana, Chad, Benin, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Gambia, for the same purposes. Children from West African states like Benin, Togo, and Ghana – where Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rules allow for easy entry – are also forced to work in Nigeria, and some are subjected to hazardous jobs in Nigeria’s granite mines.

The 2003 Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act, amended in 2005, and eventually re-enacted in 2015 by President Goodluck Jonathan to increase penalties for trafficking offenders, and for greater effectiveness prohibits all forms of human trafficking. The law’s prescribed penalties of five years’ imprisonment and/or a $670 fine for labor trafficking, 10 years’ imprisonment for trafficking of children for forced begging or hawking, and 10 years to life imprisonment for sex trafficking are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The 2003 Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act, amended in 2005, and eventually re-enacted in 2015 by President Goodluck Jonathan to increase penalties for trafficking offenders, and for greater effectiveness prohibits all forms of human trafficking. The law’s prescribed penalties of five years’ imprisonment and/or a $670 fine for labor trafficking, 10 years’ imprisonment for trafficking of children for forced begging or hawking, and 10 years to life imprisonment for sex trafficking are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

Nigeria’s 2003 Child Rights Act also criminalizes child trafficking, though only 23 of the country’s 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory, have enacted it. According to the Nigerian constitution, laws pertaining to children’s rights fall under state purview; therefore, the Child Rights Act must be adopted by individual state legislatures to be fully implemented. NAPTIP reported 149 investigations, 26 prosecutions, and 25 convictions of trafficking offences during the reporting period under the 2003 Trafficking in Persons Act. Sentences ranged from two months to 10 years, with an average sentence of 2.66 years’ imprisonment; only two convicted offenders were offered the option of paying a fine instead of serving prison time.

Enugu Debacle

However, as the world marked World Day against Trafficking in Persons on 30th July 2020, the Enugu Zonal Command of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) revealed the  growing increase of human trafficking in the Enugu State and environs.

According to the Public Relations Officer of NAPTIP’s Enugu Zonal Command, John Olayi, trafficking has risen to a dangerous level in Enugu, which according to him is approaching a worrisome stage.

In an interview with The Choice Flame Newspaper, John Olayi lamented the increasing rate of trafficking within the state, but, however affirmed that the agency is doing her possible best within the ambits of the law to curb what he described as a scary rate of trafficking in the state.

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“There has been this understanding that trafficking in persons doesn’t thrive in the Southeast. But recently research and results are showing that trafficking is going on seriously in the Southeast.

“Trafficking is not limited to just taking someone outside the country for exploitative purposes, but can be done within Enugu state. For instance, some people can be trafficked from Nsukka to Enugu main town for prostitution. There could be exploitative movement from Nsukka or one local village/community to the main town for the purpose of using them as domestic servants. It is still trafficking.

“So, trafficking is striving in the Southeast and Enugu in particular. In spite of the lockdown, six convictions have been secured. There are so many cases of sexual and gender based violence which we have still pending in court. Our act covers all these areas including sexual exploitation. All these areas are in the trafficking prohibition act.

“So, we are doing our best in Enugu and the entire Southeast, but we are trusting and believing God that very soon we would have offices in the entire Southeastern state, because right now we are operating only from Enugu,” he said.

Why trafficking and abuses are on the increase

Speaking further, John Olayi gave a more broadened insight on a widening scope of trafficking and abuses experienced on a daily basis by people in and around the state.

While passing on part of the blame of the attitude of the public, he urged for a collective concerted effort in the fight against human trafficking in the state, region and the country at large. He also hipped much of the blame on gender based violence on the lockdown following an increased report of gender based abuse.

He said;

“The recent cause of trafficking is ‘us’. We are the ones bringing the victims closer to their abusers. Sometimes you see some small girls roaming around and the next thing your minds probably starts thinking about how you are locked down in Lagos while your wife is in Abuja. The cases of defilement’s peak root. Within this short period of time, we had a lot of cases in court but some of these cases are not even prosecutable.

“In some cases, you know very well that a particular man raped a girl but because they don’t have an evidence to present to the court, it becomes frustrating. That is why we do a lot of public enlightenment these days to educate people that when causes of rape happen, the first port of call should be to take the victim to the hospital for medical examination, because it is with the report that one can tender to the court as evidence.

“Because when I report an abuse crime as soon as it happened, they will immediately go to the rape scene, look at the environment and evidence that can be used in court. It could be broken pieces of plates or torn clothes. It is the lockdown that led to increase of rape and gender based crimes”.

Helping victims

Like Adaora, many victims after escaping the claws of their captors are always vulnerable to both stigmatization and psychological trauma of their experience. However, NAPTIP has always prided herself as an agency who also helps to assist in the rehabilitation and resettling of victims back to the normal society. John Olayi reechoed this as he enumerated strategies they adopt in helping victims heal adequately from the trauma they faced while with their abusers.

“The first process we employ to help victims of rape is to remove the person from exploitative environmental situations. Then we employ Protection, they are measures taken to protect the victim. We keep rescued victims in a shelter, where we have a clinic headed by a nurse. We also have a very good rapport with 82 division hospital, where we take our victims to be assessed by the doctor. We conduct test on viral diseases. Since these victims come traumatized, we have psychologists who will work on their emotions, make them suitable to function normally in the society. We pay the school fees of some of the victims who are in different schools in the country.

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“NAPTIP has a more affectionate responsibility. It is the only law enforcement agency that has power to enforce the law and also power to rehabilitate and groom victims of human trafficking into the society. So our responsibility is quite enormous”, said John Olayi.

A fight for everyone

he image maker of NAPTIP identified the legal complexities involved in prosecuting trafficking cases as well as logistics problem as part of their major challenges.

Julie Okah DG NAPTIP

He further called for more partnership from not just government, but well meaning Nigerians and organizations to help them navigate effectively through the tasking job of stamping out human trafficking in the country once and for all.

While identifying many of the challenges the agency faces in their line of duty, John Olayi urged for more effort as the world marked yet another World Day of Trafficking in Persons in raising the needed awareness and increased capacity in curbing the menace and embarrassment it brings to the nation.

“One of the major challenges we face is delay in legal proceedings. Some of our cases have been in the court for 5years. And that is why we are agitating for a special court for human trafficking strictly. If this is done it will facilitate our court cases.

“Another challenge we have is that some victims are being made to swear different oaths, so if the victim does not open up in court, the perpetrators will hardly be prosecuted and convicted.

“The Government is trying, no doubt, but human trafficking task is an enormous task. “The Federal government is trying in their allocation in the fight against human trafficking, but the allocation is usually not enough because there are too many responsibilities to take care of.

For instance, the cost of fuel for our vehicles used to convey us from the court in Owerri, Imo State, the court in Umuahia, Abia State and the one at Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, as well as other places is too enormous.

“In some cases, our vehicles breakdown and we repair them; you need to check the cost of repairing these vehicles and officers striving in the ministry duty. So, the things we take care of is too much and we need support.

“We need stakeholders and philanthropists to come into this. The governor of Enugu State gave us a vehicle in support to this fight against human trafficking. So we need people to come in, we urge Nigerians, even if you are not going to give us money, you can come take up some duties like rehabilitating two to four victims of human trafficking. It would go a long way in helping this fight.

“We are doing a lot especially in the area of awareness creation, public enlightenment, door to door sensitization. We go to market places, schools, streets to sensitize people on the tactics of human traffickers and let them know that trafficking is real, and let them know that anyone that engages in trafficking will be persecuted.

“With the appointment of the present Director General, Julie Okah, public enlightenment has been given so much emphasis because you must show what was sensitized on a weekly basis and forwarded to the headquarters. He likes to make sure we reach out to the grassroots”, he buttressed.

Chikezie Ogbonna Administrator
Chikezie Ogbonna Onyenonuzochi is a passionate Journalist, Web Developer, Photographer, and a Film Maker. He is the editorial manager of The Choice Flame Newspaper and has deep passion for innovative story telling geared towards development at all level
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Chikezie Ogbonna Administrator
Chikezie Ogbonna Onyenonuzochi is a passionate Journalist, Web Developer, Photographer, and a Film Maker. He is the editorial manager of The Choice Flame Newspaper and has deep passion for innovative story telling geared towards development at all level
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