With the dwindling national economy, especially during the years of military rule, came the unprecedented escalation of engagement of children in labor in Nigeria. The labor industry, particularly the informal sector, have been fed by the trafficking trade. The major causes for the reemergence of this form of modern slavery, which are poverty, fallen standard of family values and lack of parental control, have contributed immensely to the escalation of the illegal trade of trafficking. Nigeria is notorious for the subjection of children for various forms of child labour and the trafficking of millions of children internally and across the borders for purposes of domestic work, prostitution, farm work and other forms of labour.
Forms and Routes
Internal trafficking of children typically involves the recruitment and transportation of children from the rural areas to the urbanand city centers, for different forms of labor and under exploitative conditions. For decades, children predominantly from rural communities such as Shaki in Oyo State, many parts of Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Benue and Kwara States have been recruited by traffickers and trafficked to cities like, Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Kano, Calabar and Port -Harcourt.
The modes of recruitment range from voluntary placement of children with traffickers by parents or guardians with their consent to have the children transported to the cities for labor. Sometimes, children seek out the traffickers on their own out of peer pressure, curiosity for city life and / or lack of alternative opportunities. Occasionally, they are simply kidnapped from their villages by traffickers or their agents.
The children are then usually transported in large numbers, cramped up uncomfortably for long distances in large lorry trucks. Once arrived at destination, they are housed in very poor conditions in most cases with 20 or 30 of them living in one or two-room apartments and sleeping on bare floors while awaiting placements with prospective employers. Food is provided only for survival and is invariably deducted from the earnings of the children later at an inflated cost.
Traffickers force internally trafficked children into labor such as domestic service, shop-attendance, catering service, head-loading, bakery hands, hawking and prostitution. The conditions of labor are exploitative and slave-like. For instance the children who were recently rescued from slave camps in Ogun State were found to be between the ages of 4-16 years. They were made to work in open camps where they dig the soil with their bare hands, to get stones, which they break by hitting one stone against another to get granite at illegal mining sites. Each child collects almost a tipper load of stone per day. They are poorly fed merely for survival and made to sleep on bear floor in open air. Their working hours is between 16-18 hours per day. They rarely have their baths and are denied proper clothing. Some of these children claimed to have been trafficked into Nigeria and in the mining sites for about three or four years!
As domestic workers, the children are subjected to12-18 hours of cleaning, baby care, cooking and other forms of household chores. They are the first to get up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night. Most of them are also denied basic school education. Indeed, with the increasing need to augment family finances both women and men in the cities now work outside their homes. House-helps or assistants have therefore become a necessity to perform household chores and take care of the kids while the parents are gone to the office. This need has escalated the demand for children who are cheaper and pose a lesser security risk for the families that employ them. A conservative estimates of domestic servants show that over 80% of them are children, most of whom are trafficked victims.
The wages paid to the children average about N1000 or an equivalent of less than $ 10 US dollars per month. However, a large percentage of these wages are deducted by the traffickers as repayment for the upkeep of the children before employment and the facilitation of employment.
Nigeria constitutes a recruitment, transit and destination centre for externally trafficked women and children. Children are recruited predominantly from South Eastern States such as Akwa Ibom, and Cross Rivers and trafficked mostly by sea to Gabon, Cameroon and Guinea to work on farm plantations. Children are also recruited from the town of Shaki in Oyo State and the trafficked to Guinea, Mali and Cote d'Ivoire to work as hawkers and domestic servants.
WOCON Ebonyi provided school Uniforms to Children to supplement their Parent's effort xperience has made evident the importance of sensitizing the major stakeholders in the rural community, which is often a source for the victims of trafficking. In the Program for the Withdrawal and Re-integration of Children in Domestic Service and Prostitution was designed to address this issue in the rural communities of Nigeria. WOCON, in partnership with the ILO / IPEC National Program, began the program in 2002 in the town of Shaki, Oyo State. This rural border town was a breading ground for traffickers. A comprehensive program of open-air campaign, market outreach and a consultative forum was therefore conducted to raise awareness amongst the townspeople.
The community claimed that one of the major reasons for child trafficking was the lack of income generating ventures available to them. WOCON proposed the commercialization of honey as it is an abundant product in the town so as to provide employment and income for the adult population. WOCON staff then made a representation to the State Government on behalf of the Shaki Community for the grant of cooperative credit facilities to assist the community in the Honey production. At the end of the program not only did the stakeholders in the Shaki community vow to stop placing their children and wards in the hands of traffickers, they also established severe sanctions against those who violated the agreement. Since then, WOCON has used the success of this program as a model to be replicated in other rural communities around Nigeria.