Friday, January 25, 2008

Human Trafficking: Authorities in Nigeria begin identifying the parents of 105 children trafficked to serve as beggars or servants

Ruth, 13, doing her homework. From the age of five to nine she was denied the right to go to school and had to work selling water at a market in Gabon, after having been trafficked from Nigeria

Authorities in Nigeria have started identifying the parents of 105 children found packed on a lorry last week who they suspect were trafficked to serve as beggars or servants after their parents allowed them to go away with strangers who promised to feed and educate them.

The children, all boys between four and 18 years old, were coming from Kano state in the north and had been driven to a town close to Nigeria’s political capital Abuja, when the police stopped the lorry at a checkpoint on 17 January.

“The conditions in which the children were found made the policeman suspect that these children were being trafficked to serve as beggars or domestic workers,” Orakwue Arinze, the spokesperson for the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), told IRIN.

“The children were packed like sardines in a lorry meant to carry goods and that could contain a maximum of 15 persons,” Arinze said. According to NAPTIP, they were hungry, had swollen legs and were traumatised.

Four men arrested by police said they were taking the children to a school in Suleja, 400 km away in Niger state, to learn the Koran. If found guilty of trafficking, they could face up to 14 years in jail, the NAPTIP said.

Globally, child trafficking is one of the fastest growing organised crimes with an estimated 1.2 million victims per year, of whom 32 percent are African, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

NAPTIP said the children all came from Kuru village, 80 km south of Kano.

“The parents didn’t realise they were doing something bad. There is no school in that area,” the head of NAPTIP in Kano, Ahmed Mohamed Bello, told IRIN by telephone.

“They decided to send their children away to Suleja because they heard it had been raining there, so the children would be able to farm in the morning to feed themselves and go to Koranic school in the afternoon,” he explained.

The lack of education and the poverty of the area are behind the decision to send the children away, Bello said.

In view of the clandestine nature of the crime it is difficult to determine how many children are trafficked in Nigeria, but with between 50 and 70 percent of the population living on less than a dollar a day, human trafficking is believed to be widespread in the country.

Last October, Nigerian police intercepted 57 children trafficked from the southern Cross River state to Lagos, the economic capital, according to NAPTIP.

Six million Nigerian children are estimated to be at risk of trafficking for domestic and forced labour, prostitution and pornography every year, according to a national survey conducted by the International Labour Organization in 2003.

"The fact is that once these children are taken out of their communities they will be devoured by wicked people, easily abused and molested," said NAPTIP’s Arinze.

The government agency to fight human trafficking was created in 2003 to help implement a then newly-created law prohibiting all forms of trafficking in persons.

Published with the permission of IRIN
Disclaimer: This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its member states
Photo: Copyright