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Overview of Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking exists in Nigeria and around the world today, and it affects women, girls, children and youth.

Human trafficking leaves no country untouched. Nigerians are trafficked right here and outside the borders. It is closer to us than we can imagine.  Anyone can be trafficked; it doesn’t matter if the person is rich or poor, educated or uneducated, in rural or urban area.  This is the greatest human rights violation, and you can do something about it.

We cannot pretend as if human trafficking does not exist. We cannot turn our back to victims. We cannot overlook or neglect the vulnerable ones. We have to take action, and nothing but action. Most importantly young people need to actively get involved in combating human trafficking, because it is a threat to their future.  

If we don’t do something now, something worse will happen, and more people will become victims to human trafficking. Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking; it does not matter whether you are rich or poor, from rural or urban area, big or small, male or female, etc.

Martin Luther King (Jnr) made it clear when he said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”. Human trafficking matters and should be a concern to everyone. There is an urgent need for more young people to be in the forefront of combating human trafficking, and no one needs to wait until he is directly affected before speaking out against this evil.  William Wilberforce said, “Let it not be said that I was silent when they needed me”.

Meaning of Human Trafficking:

According to United Nations, “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or 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. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;”


It can also be referred to as a recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments for the purpose of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, and other forms of exploitations and abuses.

Simplified Definition:

Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

 It occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to compel another person to provide labor and services or engage in a commercial sex act.

  • Internal human trafficking involves from rural to urban or from urban to urban
  • External human trafficking involves from a country to another country.


Imagine the Statistics

  • According to United Nations News Centre, an estimated 27 million women, girls, boys, and men are currently victims of human trafficking globally. This number of victims is more than the population of Zambia, Namibia, Australia, Netherlands, North Korea or Togo.
  • According to 2016 Global Slavery Index Report, there are 875, 500 Nigerians who are victims of modern slavery.
  • Also, a report by DePaul University’s International Human Rights Law Institute finds 80 percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, with some as young as 6.
  • The number of people trafficked across international borders (transnational victims) every year has been placed at 800,000, 50 percent of whom are children and 80 percent women and girls (U.S. Department of State, 2007).
  • According to United Nations, each year $32 billion is generated from the exploitation of victims of human trafficking.
  • According to Millions Suffer in Sex Slavery(News Max 2016), more than 30, 000 victims of human trafficking die every year as a result of abuse, hunger, disease and torture.
  • 71% of trafficking victims around the world are women and girls and 29% are men and boys.
  • A human trafficker can receive up to 2000 percent profit from a girl trafficked for sex.

Statistics from International Labour Organization

Human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, according to the ILO report from 2014. The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector:

    • $99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation
    • $34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities
    • $9 billion in agriculture, including forestry and fishing
    • $8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers (house maid, etc) under conditions of forced labor or bonded labour.

Millions of young people who are unemployed, uneducated, unskilled, discriminated, marginalized, maltreated at home, driven out of the their home, facing community crisis, and uncared for are vulnerable to human trafficking.


If you don’t take action:

If you don’t take action against human trafficking:

  1. More young people will be trafficked.
  2. More young people will die as a result of human trafficking. Maybe 60, 000 or more death yearly.
  3. Our unborn children and little children maybe in the situation of human trafficking

House Help Are Now House Slaves

A lot of ‘house helps’ are now  ‘house slaves’ because children are moved from different parts of Nigeria to the urban areas for ‘house help’ with a promise of going to school, getting paid, and this eventually leads to denial of promises and exploitation of their services. The widespread practice of entrusting poor children to more affluent friends or relatives may create vulnerability in Nigeria.  Women have been enslaved as domestic workers in homes  in Nigeria and other countries. This practice consists of “giving” children away, often in exchange of money, with the motivation to give more opportunities to children to escape a situation of chronic poverty and access a better life.

A Weapon Against The Future of Young People:

The future of so many young people has been hampered, their dreams frustrated and potentials caged because of the triumph of human trafficking. For years, human trafficking has continued to thrive in the shadow and in the silence of others. Young people are mostly vulnerable and susceptible to trafficking in persons. Our girls and women are trafficked and used as money generating machine. Our boys and young men are used as tractors or heavy duty machines.  It saps the very potential of our nation by frustrating the aspiration of our young people.

They are often preyed on by traffickers and lured with false promises of love, money, employment, scholarship, or better life. Some are sold into trafficking by their parents, boyfriends, friends, or acquaintanceswhile some are abducted from their school, homes, playground, streets etc.

Many victims are sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, and significant others, whereas others are unwillingly and forcibly kidnapped by traffickers.

Why Human Trafficking

Despite all the efforts made in combating human trafficking, it still thrives.  Nigerian government has used different approaches to combat human trafficking, but it seemed that more young people are getting trapped by the perpetrators.

Very Close To You:

Human trafficking isn’t just in your town – it’s in your home, since human trafficking victims are forced to make many of the products we use everyday.   If your kitchen is stocked with rice, chocolate, fresh produce, fish, or coffee, those edibles might have been harvested by trafficking victims. If you’re wearing gold jewelry, athletic shoes, or cotton underwear, you might be wearing something made by slaves.

We Can End It

The good news is not only that we can end human trafficking around the world, we can end it within a generation. But to achieve that goal, everyone needs to work together.

What Causes Human Trafficking

  • Traffickers: The trafficker’s willful decision to profit by compelling people to work or prostitute is among the factors that lead to human trafficking. Human traffickers are desperately and greedily searching for any slight opportunity to prey on young people, especially women. They can go extra mile, even kidnapping anyone for the purpose of exploitations.  Traffickers are constantly scheming to exploit others, and as well as bring greedy people into their network. Greed has poisoned that soul of many, and made them see their fellow human beings as  as money generating machines. Any person that has exploitative tendency or show some signs of deceiving people to make undeserved profit may be a potential trafficker.
  • Poverty: Many young people and parents want to get out of their situation, so they risk everything to leave where they are or to send out their children to those they feel will support.  This creates situation of vulnerability, and traffickers promising jobs, scholarship or greener pastures in towns or in other countries take advantage of them for exploitation.  Upon their arrival to another state, city or country, captors take control.
  • Political Instability: Political instability, militarism, generalized violence or civil unrest can result in an increase in trafficking as well. The destabilization and scattering of populations increase their vulnerability to unfair treatment and abuse via trafficking and forced labor.
  • Ignorance/Illiteracy: Traffickers can prey on victims or their parents’ lack of education or ignorance of what human trafficking is. However, it will be very difficult, if not impossible for traffickers to lure a young person who is knowledgeable about human trafficking and its indicator.  Most people fall victims to human trafficking because they weren’t informed about the scourge, its causes, effects and indicators.
  • Social and Cultural Practices: Many societies and cultures devalue, abuse and exploit women and girls, creating perilous living conditions for these women.  With little opportunities of upward mobility and with little value placed on women and girls, they are more vulnerable to human trafficking. In some families, girls are seen as burdens and liabilities, and lack family support, and experience family pressure which precipitate their involvement into sex industry.
  • Lack of Contentment: Here, the constant search for wealth is responsible. People are often unsatisfied with what they have, even if they have perfectly decent living conditions, so they try to go out there in search of a better life.
  • Family crisis or maltreatment at home: When children or teenagers face family crisis leading to parents’ divorce, they become vulnerable to trafficking. Also the maltreatment of children can create a situation of vulnerability, especially when they become desperate to leave their home due to maltreatment against them. When we rescued Shaibu and counselled her, we observed that she was maltreated by her step-mother, which made her succumb to the promise of a stranger.
  • Demand for Sex:  They are also targeted because of the demand for women in sex trafficking.
  • Low Self Esteem:  Some people do not have self-esteem either they are not educated (illiterate) or want to have a better life or they may end up leaving the country by all means possible.
  • Demand for cheap labor: The service industry, particularly restaurants and kitchens, are common exploiters of human trafficking. There is also a demand for cheap domestic and agricultural labor. Employees are often initially promised a safe work space and a steady salary, only to later find that they are paid nothing or less than minimum wage after working over time and enjoying no freedom whatsoever.
  • Community Crisis, Insurgency, Political Tussle, War and Environmental Factors/Natural Disaster: War, community crisis, flood, insurgency, civil strife, and political tussle may lead to massive displacements of populations, leaving poor people, orphans and street children extremely vulnerable to trafficking.
  • Desire to migrate and to study or work in the urban city and abroad: This desperation makes young people quick to accept any offer to travel.
  • Lack of adequate legislation and of political will and commitment to enforce existing legislation or mandates are other factors that facilitate trafficking in persons.
  • The practice of entrusting poor children to other people: Poor parents sell their children, not just for money, but also in the hope that their children will escape a situation of chronic poverty and move to a place where they will have a better life and more opportunities
  • Porous border: When a nation’s borders are not guided and meticulously monitored, it will encourage traffickers to take advantage and move their preys.

Effects of human trafficking

  • Societal Effect:   It separates children from their families. Most of the victims are treated as collaborators of the crime and not as victims. They are deprived of education, human rights, and rights to health and to freedom. Victims of human trafficking may experience discrimination and stigmatization in the society, from their family members, colleagues, friends, and even those who rehabilitate them. The victims always struggle to gain acceptance in the society from the stigma after being rescued. The victims are likely to become withdrawn and tend to be suicidal.
  • Psychological effect: The victims suffer from lack of self-esteem, emotional disturbance, disorientation, and depression and are scarred for life. They may develop deep psychological disorders that they struggle with for the rest of their lives even if they have been rescued. The victims are likely to become withdrawn from friends and family members.
  • Health effect:  Victims of sex trafficking often suffer serious physical abuse, broken bones, burns, and starvation. They are exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, Gonorrhea, etc.  There can be pregnancy, resulting from rape or prostitution. There are instances where victims suffer infertility from chronic untreated sexually transmitted infections or botched or unsafe abortions.
  • Victims of labour exploitation suffer from malnourishment and serious dental problems. These are especially acute with child trafficking victims who often suffer from retarded growth and poorly formed or rotted teeth.
  • Economic effect: Human trafficking causes government a huge amount of money to address, especially in rescuing and rehabilitating the victim. Those who are trafficked have talents and ideas. Thousands of young people with talents and ideas that will benefit a country economically fall victims to human trafficking, and this reduces the human capital of a nation.  Human trafficking destroys the future of any society.
  • The victims have potential to contribute to the development of their countries, but through human trafficking, they are exploited and often times they may not function effectively in the society.
  • This gives rise to wastage of resources, poor standard of living, and high crime rates. Human trafficking slows down the economic growth of a nation.
  • Death: According to Millions Suffer in Sex Slavery NewsMax, More than 30, 000 victims of human trafficking die every year as a result of abuse, hunger, disease, torture, etc.



Purpose For Human Trafficking

  1. Sex trafficking:   Sex trafficking is the recruitment, habouring or movement of people especially women, girls and children with force, deception or fake promise for the purpose of sexual slavery, sex services or other forms of sexual exploitation.

What Victims of Sex Trafficking Are Used For

Women and young girls are sold to traffickers, locked up in rooms or brothels for weeks or months, drugged, terrorized, and raped repeatedly until they become more loyal to their traffickers. The victims of sex trafficking are used for prostitution and escort services, pornography, stripping and exotic dancing, massage palours, sexual services publicized on the internet or in newspaper, restaurants, bars, etc. The trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation can be in different forms, which include: [read more=”Read More” less=”Read Less”]

a.  Forced prostitution: This involves the use of force, coercion and deception on victims to engage in commercial sex, to make money for the madam/pimp.

b.  Child prostitution: The prostitution of children is a form of commercial sexual exploitation of children in which a child performs the services of prostitute, usually for the financial benefit of an adult.

c.  Child pornography or forced pornography: Child pornography, sometimes called ‘child abuse images’, refers to images or films depicting sexually explicit activities involving a child. Abuse of the child occurs during the sexual acts which are photographed in the production of child pornography. There are numerous websites advertising for prostitution. Many of these sites involve young girls victimized by sex trafficking. Many of the pictures are altered to give the impression of older girls engaged in the activity freely and voluntarily.

d. Domestic Sexual Slavery/Exploitation: This involves the habouring of a victim in a place where she gives sexual services to her trafficker or any person, even if there is no financial benefit to the trafficker.

Victims trafficked into prostitution and pornography are usually forced into the most exploitative forms of commercial sex operations. Sex trafficking operations can be found in highly-visible venues such as street, as well as more underground systems such as closed-brothels that operate out of residential homes. Sex trafficking also takes place in a variety of public and private locations such as massage parlors, spas, strip clubs and other fronts for prostitution. Victims may start off dancing or stripping in clubs and then be coerced into situations of prostitution and pornography.

Methods and tactics traffickers use to recruit their victims

Traffickers target their victims on the internet, including social media platform,  on the telephone, through friends who have already been victimized, through relatives, at the mall/market and even in after-school programs where their families believe they are safe.

Often times they convince victims that they love them and manipulate that false love to sell the victims’ bodies for sex. Threats of violence keep victims under the control of the trafficker and in constant fear, preventing their escape.

Some of the common patterns for luring victims into situations of sex trafficking include:

  • A promise of a good job, better, education, or better lifestyle in another country
  • A false marriage proposal turned into a bondage situation
  • Being sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, relatives, employers, and boyfriends.
  • Being kidnapped by traffickers
  • Promise of modeling opportunities and other related activities.

2. Child labour:  Child labour refer to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful.

Child labour includes: children engaged in agricultural labour, in mining, in manufacturing, in domestic service, construction, scavenging and begging on the streets. These children typically work long hours and for little or no pay.

3. Forced labour: Forced labour refers to situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation or by more subtle means such as accumulated debt, retention of identity papers or threat of denunciation to immigration authorities. It can also be seen as a situation where a person is not free to leave his or her work because of threats, debts, or other forms of physical or psychological coercion. (International Labour Organization)

4. Bonded labour: Bonded labour, also known as debt bondage, is a form of human trafficking that involves the trafficker recruiting the victims as a way to pay off debt. A person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan or expenses made on his/her head. The person is forced into working for very little or no pay.

Debt bondage occurs when a person is forced to work to pay off a debt. They are tricked into working for little or no pay, with no control over their debt.

Often times, bonded children are delivered by their parents in repayment of a loan or other favours given in advance. The children work like slaves, never knowing when their debt will finish

5. Organ removal (organ trafficking/harvesting)

Organ trafficking is the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of living or deceased persons  by the use of force, threat, abduction, of fraud, of deception, coercion, fake promises, and disguise to:

  1. Request for a person’s organ.
  2. Harvest the organ.
  3. Make people donate their organ.

either for financial gain or any other reason. The organs can be kidney, liver, heart, or any other parts of the body.

Organ trafficking is on the rise, as transplant surgeries increase around the globe. It is real and thriving. It is obvious that there are far more people in the world in need of a new organ than there are organs available. There are more than 150, 000 patients waiting for organ transplant, yearly, though not all see available organ. Most of these patients are desperate to get new organs and save their lives.


According to the UN Gift Hub, organ trafficking falls into three categories:

  • Traffickers who trick the victim into giving up an organ for no cost;
  • Those who convince victims to sell their organs, but who do not pay or who pay less than they agreed to pay;
  • Doctors who treat people for ailments which may or may not exist and remove the organs without the victim’s knowledge.

According to the World Health Organization, around one in ten organ transplants involve a trafficked human organ, which amounts to around 10,000 each year. Kidneys are the most commonly traded organ.


6. Trafficking for Rituals:  Trafficking for rituals involves the removal of body parts including skulls, hearts, eyes and genitals which are sold and used by deviant practitioners to increase wealth, influence, health or fertility. Most often, victims are kidnapped or deceitfully transported to another location before they are killed, and for that reason this form of ritual killing constitutes human trafficking

7. Forced marriage: Trafficking for Forced Marriage is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, especially girls by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payments for the purpose of marriage.

Girls are taken abroad or to a different location within the country, either unaware of an impending marriage or having been coerced into agreeing to the marriage. They often face physical and psychological violence, their documents are removed and their movements closely monitored so they cannot leave or seek help. These forced marriages are characterized by domestic and sexual servitude, physical and psychological violence and often severe restrictions on the movement of these girls.

8. Suicide bombing and Child Soldier:  Trafficking for suicide bombing is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, especially girls by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payments for the purpose of using them for suiciding bombing or as child soldiers.

In Nigeria, and other countries, children are kidnapped or coerced to be suicide bombers. In 2015, over 200 school girls were kidnapped, and some of them were used for suicide bombing. Also, there are instances where terrorist groups recruit underage or minors and coerce them to carry out suicide bombing, or engage them in other forms of terrorism.

9. Baby factory: There are occasions where young girls and mothers are coerced or paid to fall pregnant and give birth in the factory, known as Baby Factory. There are recent cases where women are either trafficked or paid to stay in a secluded place, get pregnant and thereafter their babies are taken away from them. The babies are either sold to desperate couples or adoptive parents or used for rituals. Some of the girls/women who are forcefully taken to baby factory live in squalid condition without adequate pre and post-natal treatment. The conditions in the factory are unhygienic and totally unsuitable for child birth and the babies.

10. Trafficking for Football

Victims of human trafficking, especially boys, are trafficked through illegal football academies or other means, with a promise of playing in foreign football clubs.   Young footballers are trafficked out of Africa every year. Most are taken to Europe in the belief that it will be the first step in their journey to earning a lucrative contract as a professional footballer. Some of these boys are minors.  Often times, they are promised trials with major clubs or guaranteed a contract. In reality, most of them have been conned by scheming agents and middlemen, intent on cashing-in on the dreams of some of the world’s poorest and most desperate people.   In West Africa, there are unlicensed, unregulated football academies, greedy coaches, agents, and foreign middle-men who are preying on young or underage footballers.

11. Trafficking for Begging:  Some of the children who are trafficked are forced to beg in the streets, and most times made to steal for the captors. Child begging may sound innocuous, but many of these children are subjected to extreme abuse, including mutilation to make them more easily pitied, and thus better potential earners. They may be disfigured by having an eye gouged out, a limb amputated, or being otherwise visibly scarred. Most children are bought or kidnapped, then forced to beg or pick pockets on the streets under threat of beatings.

12. Trafficking for Domestic Servitude :  According to BC Justice system, Trafficking for domestic servitude covers a range of situations, all of which share certain features: subjugation, intimidation and an obligation to provide work for a private individual, excessively low or no salary, few or no days off, psychological and/or physical violence, limited or restricted freedom of movement, denial of a minimum level of privacy and health care.

Most domestic servants are exploited for their labour in private homes. Most are required to clean the house, do the laundry, cook meals, maintain the lawns and gardens and look after the children, elderly relatives and pets. Most are required to be available at all times and work every day, for little or no pay, and may be verbally, physically and sexually abused by members of the household.

Living in the household of the employer, the domestic worker may constantly be required to be available to work day and night, often in living conditions that are unacceptable and subject to abuse, humiliation, discriminatory behaviour and punishment.

The issue of housemaid is a labour matter, which traffickers use to exploit their victims.  It  can occur when an exploiter takes someone’s daughter/son with a promise to take care of her, and send her to school, but  end up restricting her from going to school, subjects her to house chores, and denying her freedom of expression, movement, etc

The house maid only eats when others have finished eating. She only sleeps when other children have slept. She sleeps on the floor while other children sleep on the bed. When she falls sick the Madam gives her Paracetamol and tells her to continue with unending house chores, but when the madam’s children are sick; they will be taken to clinic/hospital.

Also, both adults and children can be trafficked to be used as house slaves.

Most domestic servants are exploited for their labour in private homes. Most are required to clean the house, do the laundry, cook meals, maintain the lawns and gardens and look after the children, elderly relatives and pets. Most are required to be available at all times and work every day, for little or no pay, and may be verbally, physically and sexually abused by members of the household.

Hear from a Victim:   Jane was a victim of child trafficking. She was taken away from her village and trafficked to Gabon, via Cameroon. “I was only eight years old at the time,” she says. “A woman that we knew took me away while my mother was ill in the hospital. I was a child, and I had no choice but to follow her.”

“We spent two days at sea before reaching Cameroon and later Gabon, where she handed me over to a friend of hers,” remembers Jane. “After about one month, she took me to her house where I met my sister, who had been taken from our home some months earlier.’’ Jane’s experience was no different from that of thousands of children who are victims of trafficking in Nigeria every year. She was abused, exploited, and refused education and care. She had to work, selling items like cigarettes, kola-nuts and liquor at a street corner. “My two years with the woman in Gabon were painful. We were not allowed to go to school while her children were able to get an education. We had no clothes and wore tattered dresses and we were very often beaten and denied food. When we were offered meals, they were leftovers, and the quantity was often measured in proportion with the money we made from the day’s sales.’’

Jane and her sister were also engaged in domestic chores, including laundry and cooking for the woman’s family. “My sister and I lived under forced labour and the harsh treatment inflicted on us attracted the attention of a neighbour who called in the police to come to our rescue.’’

Jane’s case was reported to the Nigerian embassy in Libreville, Gabon, which facilitated the intervention of the Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF),a UNICEF-assisted NGO engaged in the rehabilitation of girls trafficked abroad for either forced labour or prostitution.

Eventually, Jane and five other Nigerian kids were rescued and flown home. It was the end of her nightmare. Although she re-established contact with her mother and siblings, WOTCLEF found out that it would not be possible to send Jane back home, given the difficult situation of her family.

Instead, Jane and her sister remained in the NGO’s shelter in Abuja, where she presently lives with 13 other children. WOTCLEF is also supporting her education.

“I am better off today, thanks to WOTCLEF, UNICEF and other individuals”, says Jane. “They have given me the opportunity to start a new life.”

(*Her name has been changed to protect her identity.)