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Libyan Human Trade And Other Trafficking

When the United States of America-based Cable News Network (CNN) broadcast how black Africans – mainly from Nigeria – were being sold to slavery in Libya, a fellow African country, my heart momentarily stopped beating. Having worked on anti-human trafficking projects over the years, I had always suspected that slavery or a remnant of it, as was defined 200 years ago, still existed. For me, it is the saddest highlight of 2017.

The initial slave trade which thrived on civilisation gap between providers and users of slaves (say, West Africans and Europeans), was abolished in 1807, some 210 years ago. Today’s slavery – personified by the horrendous incidence in Libya and the general trafficking in persons all over the world – is founded on mutual disrespect for human dignity, poverty and greed. Whether in Libya, here at home or elsewhere, trafficking in persons is illegal, criminal and inhuman.

Unfortunately, Nigeria happens to be at the centre of human trafficking. Reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other such institutions commissioned at different stages regard Nigeria as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. What this means is that we do not only illegally export humans to be used for sexual exploitation and forced labour, traffickers from other countries commit the crime through Nigerian routes, and victims are also transported both from outside the country and within it.

To put the severity of the situation into perspective, human trafficking is the world’s third largest organised crime, after drugs and arms trades. It is a multi-billion dollar ‘industry’. However, the fact that human beings are its commodity makes it a more worrisome social problem than the preceding two. With some 2.5 million people subjected to human trafficking at any given time, it will not be out of place to regard it as a serious global crisis and its eradication requires the attention of all.

Personally, I would like to see a situation whereby what is happening in Libya is treated as a social emergency and humanitarian crisis. Already, over 80 per cent of victims of trafficking are women and children. In fact, a study by the Nigerian Embassy in Italy and referred to in International Perspectives and Nigerian Laws on Human Trafficking, shows that 80 per cent of trafficked persons from Africa are young girls, including pre-teens and teenagers.

The CNN Freedom Project team, set up to amplify the voices of the victims of modern-day slavery, highlight success stories and help unravel the tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life, reported to have witnessed the auction of at least 12 men for as little as $400 each. According to the report, they were told that similar auctions were taking place at nine other locations in the failed country. It has since been made known that the majority of those people are Nigerians who had paid an average of 500,000 naira each to be smuggled to Europe through the Libyan Mediterranean route by powerful cartels of smugglers.

I have had friends argue that those victims got what they deserved since they knew what they signed up for by wanting to reach Europe illegally. While I understand their point, I totally disagree that they do not have the right to dream of a better life for themselves and attempt to realise the dream. A week rarely passes without a news report of shipwreck or of sinking dilapidated ships overcrowded with migrants rescued by international coastguards.

In the case of Libya slave trade, what the Nigerian government should do in the immediate is to enter into firm diplomatic battle with the recognised Libyan government to force it to be more involved in putting an end to the unfortunate act. Also, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) should be strengthened to clamp down on human traffickers and smugglers who facilitate such trips. However, there is no quick fix. Nigerians will continue to embark on such journeys no matter the risk inasmuch as life at home is hard.