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CHILD TRAFFICKING ON THE STREETS
The authorities should do well by enforcing the law
In Nigeria, according to many reports, children make up the largest group of trafficking victims. They are trafficked for many reasons, including for sexual exploitation, forced begging on the streets and organ harvesting. Young female children are also used in ‘factories’ where they are impregnated for babies that are commoditised by unscrupulous people. But in a new trend in human trafficking and related crimes, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) last week rescued some babies in Abuja who were being deployed as beggars.
NAPTIP, according to its Director General, Fatima Waziri-Azi, intercepted the syndicate and promptly rescued three children, all under the age of one, allegedly being rented out for N3,000 by their mothers to traffickers to beg for alms. This syndicate specialises in collecting babies with the connivance of other members of the gang, “hire out these innocent children and position them at the roadsides at busy intersections and bus stops, where they use them for alms begging.” The modus operandi is to detail another older child to watch over the children as they move them from one point to another and to ensure that the proceeds of the begging were collected at intervals. “These infants are exposed to harsh weather conditions on a daily basis in a dusty and dirty environment even in the face of vehicular movement and other forms of abuse without proper feeding,” Waziri-Azu explained.
While there seems to be no end to the humiliating act of human trafficking in our country, this is a new low. There is therefore an urgent need for families, voluntary organisations, and other stakeholders to join the efforts to protect the Nigerian child. We must cast away the complacency that has emboldened the perpetrators of this criminal enterprise who exploit the most vulnerable of our society for illicit gains. Ignoring the subtle signals of violence inflicted on our children can only lead to disruption in our families and in our society. While we commend NAPTIP for its efforts, curbing these tragic incidents is a collective responsibility. But more importantly, it is the duty of government, at all levels, to protect our children from the antics of these desperate people.
To combat this challenge, the federal government had in 2003 enacted the Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act. It was amended in 2005 to prescribe more severe penalties for trafficking offenders as well as prohibits all forms of human trafficking. Despite this, human trafficking remains a major challenge in our country while the non-domestication of the Child Rights Act by many states has only compounded the problem. With millions of children are out of school, they are left at the mercy of mercenaries.
Therefore, we are of the strong belief that a demonstration of political will to diligently prosecute offenders would serve as deterrent to those engaged in the nefarious trade, irrespective of their social status. There is also a need for a sustained sensitisation, especially in rural areas, on the dangers posed by ‘good Samaritans’ who offer better lives for children away from the watchful eyes of their parents and guardians. A culture where little children are expected to provide for, or supplement, their family upkeep should also be discouraged while the authorities must put in place guidelines on the hiring of domestic household staff through certified agencies.
It is shameful that Nigeria is regarded not only as a transit route for this illegal trade in human trafficking but also a source as well as a destination. But with little children now becoming merchandise for what has become another emblem of shame, the authorities must wake up and tackle the menace urgently.