Sex Trafficking in Nigeria


Two months ago, I had a chat with a man in my work place who is from Benin city, the capital of ancient Benin empire. He explained how it is a thing of pride among his people to travel out of the country, even without legal papers. He had gone on such a trip about 12 years ago with the aid of agents who helped illegal migrants travel to Spain through Morocco. Eventually, he was deported by the Spanish authorities 3 months after his arrival there. His experience made me to begin to make further enquiries about the veracity of his claims about Benin folks.

As a boy, when I was in secondary school I recall first learning about the Benin Empire from my Fine Arts teacher when she taught us about their ancient art. The Benin bronzes, when they were discovered by the Europeans in the pre-colonial days , made a great impression on the foreigners that Africans had such sophisticated artistic skills. I further learned about the kingdom when we were taught that one of the sons of Oduduwa (progenitor of the Yorubas and the founder of Ile-Ife, which later became the Oyo empire) ruled as king of the Benin empire. The Benin people were so powerful and the kingdom rose to prominence among West African kingdoms before colonialism under the British. All of that is history because things have taken a different twist.

In modern times, the city has earned a different reputation than power or prosperity. The BBC reported that Benin (not the similarly named West African country) is one of the main sources of West African girls and women trafficked into prostitution in Europe (largely Italy and the UK). Unfortunately, so many naive girls and their families are deceived by promises of education and good jobs abroad. While many girls die along the land route, the lucky ones who arrive there alive work as slaves for their traffickers in exchange for the ‘favor’ of being brought to Europe. It’s sickening to learn of such a high volume of trade in human lives. However, this human trafficking business isn’t restricted to Nigeria but is a global phenomenon. Indeed our country is favorably ranked amongst nations fighting this unethical source of billions of dollars.

As a way to further curb this sale of human lives, our government can do better. The Edo state government needs to urgently arise to fight this organized unethical network of modern day slavery thriving under its watch. We have heard of the Mexican drug war, an indication that the Mexican government is making concerted efforts to stop drug cartels. On the other hand, we’re yet to hear of a Nigerian human trafficking war. Maybe it’s not yet necessary because the magnitude hasn’t yet reached alarming levels. Nevertheless, this year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons is an opportunity to remind stakeholders that drastic action need be taken in local cities that emerge on human abuse watch lists.

(c) Leke Babayomi, 2015

17 thoughts on “Sex Trafficking in Nigeria”

  1. Some make a dinstinction between human trafficking and human smuggling. Human smuggling is described as a situation where a migrant purchases services to circumvent immigration restrictions, but is not a victim of deception or exploitation. Some people know what they’re getting into. Others don’t. Both cases are sad. I wrote a piece focusing on human smuggling awhile back, so your post resonates with me.

  2. Both human trafficking and smuggling indicate that a significant proportion of humanity is motivated by the idea that the grass is usually greener on the other side. Or for what reason would people be swayed to take life threatening risks for imagined greener pastures. While I agree that nothing ventured, nothing gained, I also believe that people should maximize the immediate opportunities around them.

  3. Like lively twist said, it’s not always human trafficking. A good number of them know what they’re going in for and they eagerly sign up. I spent six/seven years in Benin trying to get a degree and I can tell you that it’s the ambition of plenty young people to go abroad and they’ll do anything to do that.
    As for the war, in the early 2000s an agency called NAPTIP-National agency for the prevention of trafficking in persons was very active in the fight against trafficking. I have no idea if they’re still active today.

    1. I see. I quite agree now that it’s a mixed situation of both human smuggling and trafficking. BTW if NAPTIP was really committed to their mandate, in the past decade they should have done so much about this issue in Benin by now. How come foreign media are still naming the city in their watch list?

      1. I think they did their best. Thing is it’s like a rite of passage there, they want to go to “Italo” and other countries, they know what they are going to do there but they’ll still do anything to get there

      2. Well, is that to say that they failed? My parents used to tell us as kids that when your best produced failure, you didn’t do enough. The process of changing people’s behavior via a change of mindset and ideology requires systematic work. For example the LGBT movement did their homework very well in the journey towards getting public and legal acceptance of their behavior. Their agenda was sustained over several decades and now, when you state publicly that you don’t support gays, you’re not certain of being acquitted in court. Yes, NAPTIP has done some work, but they are not yet hitting the nail on the head. They could do with a better strategy.

      3. Well the best strategy would be empowerment of the youths and the elimination of poverty and we both know that no single government agency can do that. If we employ the strategy of LGBTIs, we would definitely eradicate that trend. But as it is now… it’s hopeless

      4. Well, waiting for a non responsive government might appear hopeless. Maybe this is a call for non governmental social organizations to intervene. And it could be a chance for you and me to make a move as well šŸ˜‰

  4. I agree with livelytwist, it is mostly human smuggling. But I don’t think it is something that NAPTIP or other related agencies should fight alone, I believe the fight should start un our homes, by changing our value system. If only we can condemn such acts loudly and with a scary togetherness the way we do homosexuality.

    1. Yes it starts from the home. Parents should teach their kids to be law abiding and not seek means to cut corners to reach the top. Or how else can we explain the connivance of our people with persons offering them short cuts to immigrate to foreign lands?

      1. There’s so much work for parents to do in our generation :-). Sometimes I wish there was a college that trained and certified men and women on parents before they receive a license to procreate. Yes our generation can be the change, but it won’t happen by chance. Deliberate efforts must be taken to prepare for the future. Someone said that we don’t wait for tomorrow, but we prepare for tomorrow.

  5. A few years ago there was this show on Nigerian Television when i lived back home that was trying to educate people on it, and the reality hit me hard because my neighbour always got us to watch the show which was staged in Lagos and Benin, it was shocking how the traffickers took time to know so much about each girl and finding a weak point to lure her and her Family through deceit, even more surprising was when the head of the traffickers was a lady that claimed to be a Family friend, they then went through Benin to take absurd oaths. Long story short the traffickers were caught by the Human Rights agency, but doesn’t mean they are caught even 20% in real life.

    1. And the funny thing is that it’s common knowledge locally that the city is into this thing. But everyone seems to keep mute. Someone told me how some of her colleagues at a university of in the city were making plans to tow the shameful route after school. For such, it’s rather human smuggling than trafficking since they really know what they are doing.

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