A vigilant all-female flight crew
It was a pleasant report the other day that a vigilant Air Peace Airline’s all-female crew uncovered and foiled an attempt to traffic a three-day-old baby boy from Port Harcourt to Lagos. That cheering news was the second in the last six months as in June 2018, the same Air Peace crew also exposed a suspected trafficker of a three-month-old baby on its Lagos-Banjul flight. The two foiled attempts by airline workers point to the fact that many traffickers may have been successful in their enterprise unnoticed.
Apart from the fact that Nigeria is a member and signatory to many International Labour Organization (ILO) instruments, and has adopted Convention 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, there are existing laws in Nigeria, which are supposed to protect children from trafficking, such as the Child’s Right Act of 2003, Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act 2003, the Children and Young Persons Act 1959, the Immigration Act 1990, the Criminal Code 1916 and the Penal Code 1960 respectively.
These laws jointly prohibit child trafficking, which encompasses the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Despite legislative and policy attentions by government, on the scourge of child trafficking in Nigeria, it still appears to be making very little impact; as child trafficking continues to occur nationally and internationally; and in these, Nigeria is a source, transit and destination country. This is embarrassing.
In Nigeria, human trafficking ranks the third most common crime after financial fraud and drug trafficking; but the traffickers are seldom caught. As such, the future of the Nigerian child is threatened by this monster referred to as child and or human trafficking.
According to UNESCO, the common destinations for trafficked Nigerians include the neighbouring West African countries – Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon and Guinea; North Africa – Libya, Algeria, Morocco; and Middle Eastern countries – Saudi Arabia; and Europe – Italy, Beiu. Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom. Recently, South America has also become a point of destination for trafficked persons, particularly Venezuela.
There is also evidence of internal trafficking. Nationally, child trafficking takes place within and inter-state levels. Within states, in the past, we read of how police freed teenagers when they raided homes allegedly being used to force teenage girls to have babies that were then offered for sale for trafficking or other purposes.
Apart from the baby factories, some are trafficked by road to various destinations. For instance, it was reported that on July 21, 2016, the surveillance team of Ebonyi State command of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) intercepted a vehicle allegedly conveying 18 persons including underage children suspected to be victims of human trafficking in Abakaliki axis on their way to Edo State from Bekwara in Cross River State.
However, the latest trend in the trafficking of infants and new-born is somewhat elitist. While law enforcement agencies are mounting surveillance on communities, land borders and roads; the traffickers have resorted to air travel. They have now taken to the use of flights to collapse space and time; and beat the checks at the roadblocks and land borders. Apart from that, trafficking human beings by air, particularly internally is largely stress-free and swift. Once the trafficker successfully checks-in and lands at the destination, the operation is almost a done deal. So, it seems that with the elitist mode of operations, the traffickers are miles ahead in terms of ingenuity in strategies and operations.
However, the elitist mode is now being punctured as eagle eyed, diligent and patriotic Nigerian airline workers are foiling the trafficking of babies by air. Specifically, Air Peace Airline deserves some commendation as it has consistently uncovered and foiled a recent attempt to traffic a three-day-old baby boy from Port Harcourt to Lagos. Similarly, in June 2018, the same Air Peace crew also exposed a suspected trafficker of a three-month-old baby on its Lagos-Banjul flight.
While NAPTIT and law enforcement agencies have been doing their best to curb the baby factory menace and trafficking of children by road, these two foiled cases by Air Peace crew suggest that child traffickers are becoming more ingenious, sophisticated and elitist in their operations and government efforts alone cannot win the fight against the menace. Besides, the airline’s gesture attests to the fact that together we can combat crime and rebuild our country.
The vigilance of AirPeace flight crew, which nipped the trafficking of new-born and infants, suggest that if every Nigerian at the workplace and in the communities and government are at all times alive to their responsibilities to fight against human trafficking, Nigeria will be delisted from countries known for human trafficking.
Therefore, the line agency responsible for combating human trafficking, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person (NAPTIP) should be strengthened for better surveillance and more effectiveness targeted at nipping the challenge in the bud. NAPTIP should ensure that the rescued new-born baby is re-united with the mother.
Meanwhile, NAPTIP should work in collaboration with other agencies and bodies such as Police, customs, immigration, airlines, Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and other corporate bodies, religious bodies, non-governmental organisations, community development associations and other civil society groups to eradicate this unwholesome practice.
Similarly, local NGOs such as Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF), which took a strong stand against women trafficking and child labour; and advocated for the establishment of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP) in 2003 by an Act, amended in 2005 to increase the penalties for trafficking offenders, prohibits all forms of human trafficking, should step up action within the country on the issue of child trafficking.
Again, our world-rated Nollywood should make films to educate Nigerians on the ills of the enterprise. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) too should step up and re-orientate Nigerians on the get-rich-quick syndrome; and “do or die” attitude towards having children and counsel them to adopt children formally instead of the informal mechanism of buying.
In as much as having children outside wedlock by teenagers should not be encouraged, we recommend that NOA should address a culture of stigmatisation and discrimination against girls that get pregnant outside marriage. Reason: most young ladies that go to ‘baby factories’ to have their babies that are subsequently trafficked, do not want to face stigmatisation.
Also, parents have a responsibility of taking care of their children and should act accordingly by knowing the companies they keep, where they go, and whatever they are doing at every point in time because it is not a good option for responsible parents to give out children to strangers for monetary and material gains.
Since child trafficking is a multidimensional social problem caused by socio-economic challenges as well as demand for the exploitative use of children, all aspects contributing to the vulnerability of children to trafficking recruitment must be looked at. As such, the Nigerian government should address the roots of child trafficking in the country by providing a more deliberate and practical means of eradicating poverty, provision of employment, education opportunities among its teeming youth.