‘Nigeria is a transit route for most human traffickers’
Ebelechukwu Belmon Nwuzor is the President/Founder, Sympathy Worldwide Foundation, a Lagos-based non-governmental organisation. In this interview with DANIEL ANAZIA, she speaks on the difference between a domestic worker and child labour, legality and illegality of child trafficking.
Is there any difference between contracting domestic staff and child trafficking as the case may be in Nigeria?
YES! There is a difference. People who contract domestic workers should do so within the stipulated age that describes adulthood. A child is not supposed to be working for anybody (staff) of any individual or organisation. When children are moved from one place to another, in search of the so-called greener pasture, for whatever situational reasons, that is child trafficking, which culminates into child labour. So if a domestic staff is a child, this does not apply in all ramifications of staff description.
What are the legalities and illegalities?
The legalities and illegalities are really massive. The Child Right Act (Nigeria) 2003, clearly stipulated what the life of any child should be. Any government, parent, guardian, institution, service agency, organisation or body responsible for the care of a child must know that: The best interest of a child should be paramount consideration in all actions. The child is to be given protection and care necessary for his well-being; the right to survival and development; the right to a name; the right to freedom of association, and peaceful assembly.
Also, the child must be given the right to leisure, recreational and cultural activities; the right to health and healing services, among others. The list is endless. Ninety per cent of the time, the afore-mentioned rights are abused and negated, which leads to child underdevelopment and mortality.
When the legal right of a child is taken away from him, it automatically becomes some illegalities. The challenge here is that the legal frameworks are very weak; as such a lot of crime against children, especially regarding child trafficking, go unpunished.
As an NGO involved in the campaign against human trafficking, especially in the area of commercial sex hawking, have you encountered any case(s) and what were your experiences?
Yes, as a social worker and NGO, I have encountered commercial sex workers in Nigeria and the experience is horrible. This is because in most cases, we are dealing with people whose journey into commercial sex work began with some close relatives moving them (trafficking) from one part of the country to another (Lagos, Abuja) with a promise to change their lives for the very best.
But, on getting to their destination, the supposed promise land, it became rather a hell. Multiple cases of rape abound, which end up pushing them to hawking sex on the streets, instead of being raped most of the night by their so-called benefactors without pay. Victims in this regard do not trust anybody. Most of them tell you, if their family members or close friends could de-humanise them, why should they trust you as an NGO offering help.
So, in this case, you are dealing with people who really need help, but are ignorant of how much help they need to get, and how urgent this help is needed in their lives. On the other hand, some of the sex hawkers are willing to give up the trade, but don’t forget that addiction poses a seriousness challenge to this decision. Again, I tell you, this question is ambiguous, and cannot be totally treated in one interview.
Investigation shows that porous border, especially in the Southwest has led to the rise of the trade. Do you think government has done enough to stamp out the trade?
Indeed, the investigation about the porosity of Western Nigeria borders is correct. Nigeria is a transit country to most traffickers before their final destination to Italy, Belgium, London, and other parts of Europe and US. Also, women/girls are trafficked into Nigeria, through these borders as domestic staff, but in earnest, they were brought for commercial sex reasons.
Government, should see that the porosity of these borders are checked and more stringent measures be applied in their checks regarding women/girls entry and exit of the country. That way, the trade will be curbed.
What is your advice to those who are constantly in need of these domestic staff, those contracting them out, the victims and their parents?
Well, my advice to those in need of domestic staff is to contract them through the legal channel. A lot of adults are in need of jobs. Employ adults to work, and not children.
Child trafficking and child labour are punishable offence in Nigeria. I will suggest that parents, who give their children (minors) out to others for work should also be punished. It will be one of the fastest ways of curbing the menace. Parents should give birth to the number of children they can cater for. It is not ideal to give birth to children and watch them suffer in agony and die in most cases. Also, victims should be brave enough to speak up.