‘Trafficking act prohibits using any child below 12 years as housemaid’
Head, Press and Public Relations of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Human Trafficking (NAPTIP), Josiah Emerole, speaks with COLLINS OLAYINKA on the trending issues in human trafficking.
What is your Agency doing to curb child/ human trafficking?
As you may be aware, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) was established in 2003 pursuant to the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPPLEA) as Nigeria’s focal Agency to fight trafficking in persons. This Act was amended in 2005 and re-enacted in 2015 as the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPPEA) 2015.
The Agency has been carrying out this mandate diligently with the support of other law enforcement agencies, members of the society as well as the media. In fighting this modern day slavery, we employ the 4 Ps- Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership. Under Prevention, we mount public enlightenment campaigns in different areas where various strata of society are made aware of the problem, the modus operandi of traffickers, how to stem the tide, how to report the cases and how the various groups could work together to prevent the crime. In dealing with this we use the strategy of ‘Whole of government and Whole of society’.
In Protection, the victim is the focus here. As a result of the high profit involved in trafficking in persons, traffickers are ready to do everything possible to keep their victims in perpetual bondage and the business of NAPTIP is to stop them, protect and rescue victims. To this effect, we have nine shelters located in various places in the country, where the victims are given psychosocial assistance, new skills and protection pending when they are ready to be reintegrated into the society. In Prosecution, we are empowered to arrest, detain and prosecute all those that run contrary to the trafficking Act. To date, no fewer than 310 persons have been convicted for offence of trafficking and many cases are ongoing in various High Courts across the country.
On Partnership, it is important to note that no one agency can successfully end trafficking in persons hence the need to collaborate with other relevant organisations and members of the society.
What is the difference between contracting underage housemaids and child trafficking?
The issue of housemaid is a labour matter, which traffickers use to exploit their victims. It is important to note that traffickers engage their victims in various exploitative activities for their selfish benefits. These activities include: Child Labour (use of underage children for various activities including house-help), forced labour, prostitution, street begging, hawking, stealing, forced marriages, pornographic production among others.
The victims are got through deceit, coercion, abduction and so on. They are made to believe that a good life was on the other side, while the reverse is the case at the final destination. The trafficking in persons act prohibits the use of any child below 12 years as housemaid anywhere in Nigeria or taking a child of the same age from Nigeria to a foreign land to do the same. Section 23, subsections 1 (a) and (b) is very instructive here. This section makes it an offence for any person to employ, require, recruit, transport, harbour, receive or hire out a child under the age of 12 as a domestic worker; or employ, require, recruit, transport, harbour, receive or hire out a child (Under 18) to do any work that is exploitative, injurious or hazardous to the physical, social and psychological development of the child. The punishment for these offences is a minimum term of six months, but not exceeding six years imprisonment, without an option of fine.
When is the use of underage housemaid illegal and an offence?
At all times and as long as the trafficking in persons prohibition Act remains. You see, many of us have become so lazy not to do the least work in our homes or ask our own children to do the house chores, but would rather want to engage other people’s children to do it
Even our education system makes it compulsory for a child to complete his first nine years in school, before engaging in any other thing. But we circumvent this all the time by capitalising on the poverty of the people and engage their underaged children as servants in our homes.
What is our advice to Nigerians on the adverse effects of engaging in child trafficking?
My advice is very simple. We should leave underage children to develop like other children, irrespective of the social status of their parents. You cannot fight poverty by exploiting innocent children. This only widens the circle of poverty in our land. The law is no respecter of persons, so we should stay away from every activity that exploits our children in whom the future of our country would be placed on.