By Ajibola Abayomi,
August 14, 2019
….The Pain, Anguish And Panacea…
Movement of people from one location to the other is a usual practice from time immemorial.
Either for economic, safety, leisure, relationship and or other reasons, human beings are bound to migrate across territories.
However owing to the failure of leadership in many nations, huge numbers of people have continued to move towards where their daily bread is secured with comfort.
Over the years there has been influx of migrants from the less developed climes especially from the third world into the advanced nations.
There are diverse reasons why many Nigerian children are vulnerable to trafficking, including widespread poverty, large family size, rapid urbanisation with deteriorating public services, low literacy levels and high school-dropout rates.
The demand for cheap commercial sex workers in countries of destination strongly contributes to the growth of this phenomenon and the success of this criminal network.
Parents with a large family, often overburdened with the care of too many children, are prone to the traffickers deceit in giving away some of their children to city residents or even strangers promising a better life for them.
Trafficker’s exploit the trust of the people rooted in a widespread, culturally accepted common practice in West Africa of placement and fostering as part of the extended family safety net.
In some instances, desperately poor and uninformed parents willingly co-operate with the traffickers, giving away their children in exchange for a small fee.
In the hands of unscrupulous guardians, these children are increasingly trafficked and exploited for money.
The National Agency For the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) Director General, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, has led series of successful battles against irregular migration and anti-human trafficking.
Her lieutenant, and the Commandant of the agency in Lagos State, Mr Dan Atokolo said the agency was ready to consolidate on its advocacies at schools, markets, local governments and rural communities to frustrate those profiting from luring the youths abroad to prostitution and other forms of illicit trades.
Since 2003, according to him, the agency had secured 403 convictions . In the last one year, out of the 85 convictions recorded, 15 of them were from Lagos State.
“I must add that we were able to bring back a lady trafficked to Oman recently based on tips from the relatives of the victim. We did the same in Libya and Lebanon. All these are credits to the Director General of NAPTIP, he said.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), an estimated 362,000 refugees and migrants risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, with 181,400 people arriving in Italy and 173,450 in Greece.
In the first half of 2017, over 105,000 refugees and migrants entered Europe. Of these lots, Africans were in large numbers.
This movement towards Europe continues take a devastating toll on human to life.
Since the beginning of 2017, over 2,700 people are believed to have died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe, with reports of many others perishing en route.
These risks do not end once in Europe. Those moving onwards irregularly have reported numerous types of abuses that include rape, killings, slavery among others apart from being pushed back across borders.
Sadly, many Nigerians mostly are regular risk-travelers en-route the desert in Niger, Algeria, Morocco and Libya with hope of going through the Mediterranean Sea to connect Europe.
Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), reports that since April 2017 alone, 11,833 Nigerians have been brought back through the Assisted Voluntary Return Programme from Libya while a total of 4,123 Nigerians have also returned from same country between January 6 and December 18, 2018.
Notwithstanding, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the European Union (EU) interventions, Nigerians are still stranded in the volatile North African country.
It is on record that over 15,000 Africans are in different slave camps in Libya till date.
Over two thirds of African migrants, if the atmosphere was comfortable, would have preferred to stay back home to make a living.
Something must be done to reverse the 2018 Global Hunger Index, that ranked Nigeria 103rd out of 119 qualifying countries. With a score of 31.1, the nation suffers from a level of hunger that was serious.
While it dawned on irregular migrants in Libya on July 4, 2019 that it was time to return home, an airstrike on Tajoura detention centre killed 44 migrants including some Nigerians and injured more than 130.
Aside that, even at inception, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund report states that the trafficking of children for the purpose of domestic service, prostitution and other forms of exploitative labour is a widespread phenomenon in Nigeria.
In view of the clandestine nature of trafficking, accurate and reliable figures are hard to get.
Scale of the problem OS/ILO National Child Labour Survey (2003) estimates that there are 15 million children engaged in child labour in Nigeria with 40% of them at the risk of being trafficked both internally and externally for domestic and forced labour, prostitution, entertainment, pornography, armed conflict, and sometimes ritual killings.
Nigeria is a source, transit and destination country for child trafficking. Currently, external trafficking of children exists between Nigeria and Gabon, Cameroon, Niger, Italy, Spain, Benin Republic and Saudi Arabia.
The NAPTIP/UNICEF Situation Assessment of Child Trafficking in Southern Nigerian State (2004) reported that 46% of repatriated victims of external trafficking in Nigeria are children, with a female to male ratio of 7:3.
They are engaged mainly in prostitution (46%), domestic labour (21%), forced labour (15%).
Customs And Netherlands Panacea
While it is has become extremely important for Nigeria and African governments to look inward and support the living condition of their citizens, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) export tax holiday is a readily available option for those who can tap into agriculture and production of home made goods for exportation.
Seme Customs Command Controller, Mohammed Garba Uba urged Nigerians to take advantage of government’s policy through the NCS to become big money earners.
Said Mohammed,: “In Nigeria, the government has solution if only those engaging in irregular migration can look in the direction of the NCS. For instance on locally produced goods for exportation, there is tax-free policy to encourage local industries to thrive.
“Farm products like cassava, yam, fibre and others are tax-free for importation with additional 30% cash incentive on total exportation to be paid by government to the farmers. We are pleading with the media to make the information available to Nigerians so that they can take the advantage to earn revenue to improve their living conditions and help the country to earn additional foreign exchange too.
“There is also tax holiday approved by the government for those who can import facilities to produce locally consumed products in Nigeria. All these will help to prevent capital flight. Customs has a dedicated desk to enlighten Nigerians on importation and to protect this economy.
“There is one year of tax holiday on exercise duty for those producing in Nigeria. Importation of fertiliser by farmer is tax free. Machine for industrialisation is free only spare parts are 5% charged by the customs. So we need information to assist the people.”
“Creating opportunities is important. The Dutch government supports some African governments, Nigeria being one of them, with creating (economic) opportunities in their countries.
On the embassy’s partnership with other agencies on anti- human trafficking in Africa, she said, Netherlands has longstanding relations with the NIS and NAPTIP on the issue of human trafficking adding that apart from capacity building efforts, the embassy supported several awareness campaigns against human trafficking.
“The Netherlands is part of the European ERRIN programme which assists returnees from Europe with individual counseling before return and support after return through a network of local service providers and partners.”
Whether the embassy has blueprint to assist Nigeria on irregular migration both within and outside the nation’s border’s. The secretary said: “Unfortunately there is no blueprint. Migration is a dynamic phenomenon, of which the negative consequences can only successfully be dealt with through comprehensive policies that look at how to address drivers of irregular migration, enhance protection of migrants and tackle migration related crime.
“The other side of the coin is how to increase the positive and developmental effects of migration and mobility.”