Italy hosts the second-largest group of Nigerians and is the most important destination for trafficking in persons from that country. The 26 Nigerian women bodies retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea and buried in Italy are said to have been victims of trafficking. The most recent Trafficking in Person’s Report published by the U.S. State Department in 2017 noted that “an international organization, IOM, estimated that 80% of all female Nigerian migrants in Italy are or will become sex trafficking victims”. While Nigerians associate Italy with prostitution, this is not the case for other European countries. This means that those offered to travel to countries such as Spain, The Netherlands, or to Germany to work are less cautious and are more susceptible to being trafficked for sex work. There are no accurate statistics of the number of people trafficked in Nigeria because Italy is not the only destination country in Europe.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), a body set-up to prevent all forms of trafficking in Nigeria, and numerous organizations have done their best in the fight against trafficking. However, a look at the IOM report shows that much work still needs to be done.
To understand and solve the trafficking in Nigeria, you have to get to the root of the matter.
Many factors could contribute to a large number of persons being trafficked. This may include the economic situation in the country; the level of hardship and poverty suffered by the people and ignorance. In a recent conversation I had with a Nigerian friend, she argued that poverty could not be a major reason for trafficking, because the majority of trafficking occurs in one state, Edo state, whereas poverty is seen in many parts of the country. She went on to say that Edo state has always been a hub of prostitution and as a result, the greed to make more money overseas has resulted in the massive trafficking we see today. Instead, she claimed that peer pressure, parental consent, and greed are the leading causes of trafficking. Most of the women who have gone through sex exploitation and have been freed are always seen traveling home, building massive houses for their parents and supporting their family financially. This outward show of wealth leads to peer pressure, competition, and unnecessary risk.
According to Simona Moscardelli, an anti-trafficking expert with the IOM, in the past, the women were exploited and allowed to pay off their debt through prostitution. However, of recent, the young girls have been turned into slaves and are subjected to all forms of violence. She went on to say that unaccompanied minor girls are reported to be trafficked. Most parents are ignorant of these recent occurrences and encourage their children to embark on this journey. According to another Edo lady living in the Netherlands, Edo parents are willing to borrow money to ensure their children cross over to Europe. For them, this is an investment that will be beneficial to the family, She claims that in Edo state, male children are more valued than female children and as such, the young girls are encouraged to go into prostitution at an early age which has become a norm. This opinion was confirmed by professor Yinka Omoregbe, an attorney general in Nigeria as reported by Pressreader. This could explain why most trafficking occurs in Edo state.
With this understanding, it is very imperative to focus attention on how to tackle this problem at its root, using a much better approach than what is showcased in the media today.
A lot of local media coverage and efforts are needed to highlight the causes of trafficking in Nigeria and explain how to provide early intervention to prevent people from becoming victims in the first place. Victims suffer shame and psychological trauma which means that detecting and preventing human trafficking should be of utmost importance to everyone.
Human trafficking stories should be focused on educating potential victims about the dangers and lures of trafficking. That means that there should be more focus on anti-trafficking guidelines and prevention methods. I believe that while it’s important to create awareness in the general public, equal attention should be paid to educate the vulnerable girls on the dangers of trafficking. This form of education could be done through public enlightenment messages that target the young women in the rural areas of Nigeria, starting from Edo State. My suggestion will be to form after-school clubs or lunch groups in all the secondary schools in Nigeria, starting from Edo state and amplifying such activities with the help of the media to reach more people.
- Using stories of rescued victims or survivors living in Europe in a way that portrays their sufferings as well as their triumphs and delivering such messages directly to the vulnerable girls whose minds are still fixed on traveling. This could be done through the use of online platform and videos during live workshops.
- Conducting life skills workshops for young women aimed at changing mindset, discovering talents and encouraging higher education back in Nigeria.
- Providing access to information on safe migration policies and different ways to obtain legal documents to travel abroad.
The whole idea would be to reduce the demand for trafficking by changing mindsets, empowering young women and to unleash their potentials, and educating and counseling the communities involved.
It is will also be wrong to assume that human trafficking is only a problem in the Edo state as it can easily spread all over the country. The points above are only a part of the problem and as such the solutions suggested are not final. There is, therefore, a need for more collaborations with NGO’s, international bodies, and the Nigerian government and institutions to come together and explore more ways to tackle the human trafficking issues in Nigeria.