Human trafficking is a social problem that is currently generating a lot of concern globally, especially in countries like Nigeria, where it is highly prevalent. The widely acceptable conceptualization of human trafficking is that of the United Nations which posits it as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of threat or the use of force or other means of coercion, of abduction or fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability or 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 in this sense is said to include at a minimum, prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practice similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (See Palermo Protocol, 2000)
Thus, human trafficking entails three dominant issues. These are: the actual act of trafficking: cajoling, the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring custody of persons, as well as related acts such as the threat or the use of force, bully or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, manipulation of the vulnerable. While exploitation include for prostitution, forced labour or services, slavery or practices akin to slavery, servitude or mutilation of victims bodies and forced rituals. Women trafficking are best noted for their sexual exploitation which is quite high. It brings high profit and is a low risk trade for those who organize it, but detrimental to victims and non-victims. The former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan described the phenomenon as an outrage and a worldwide plague, conducted throughout the world with near impunity, in many cases, attracts penalties far less severe than drug trafficking.
The vulnerability of prospective victims is common due to prevalent poverty, high rate of unemployment and the huge influence of corruption. As a result, victims are easily lured in more than one ways. For instance, Evie, a victim of women trafficking remarked that: “they, the traffickers have agents who go around convincing young ladies about the huge prospects of making it abroad, citing the harsh economy in Nigeria as even a worse prospect for them, but are never told the truth”. Noting also, “that reality begins to dawn on the girls when they are being subjected to forced rituals and oaths”. “Unfortunately, the reality becomes glarer when get to the country and you see yourself being traded off like commodity to other agents, confined, raped, threatened and compelled to prostitute, of which resistance could make them harm you or threaten to kill you”
Another victim of women trafficking, Suzy, reveals further that:” the moment they begin to compel you to sleep with as many clients as possible, you are reminded of the false bill, which is the cost of bringing you abroad, often, this figure is doubled and redoubled for you to pay to get your ‘freedom’. She however, stated that “some victims may end up paying through their nose for years, yet they will be gagged and prevented from escaping”. It should be noted that many victims of women trafficking cut across pre-teens, teenagers to adults and are trafficked distance away from their homes to other cities within the country or other climes. While they are economically exploited irrespective of their health or psychological conditions. Many victims are subjected to cheap labour, housemaids, hawkers, beggars, strippers, prostitutes and subjected to other forms of servitude akin to slavery.
The global concerns against this phenomenon is based on the grave dehumanizing conditions that goes with this crime. Stunning data on women trafficking by Women Watch (2012) posits that about 500,000 women are lured into the United States of America and Europe and Asia annually for sexual and domestic servitude. Of the staggering 80,000 African victims of women trafficking, Nigerian women are said to account for an alarming 70% of those trafficked abroad. This makes Nigerian government so concerned about the social problem.
Admittedly, the trafficking of women with all its ramifications amounts to a debasement of womanhood and abuse of several human rights. In view of the dehumanizing condition of trafficked women, the phenomenon is beginning to attract attention from several quarters. This stems from the realization that the social problem, being a national and international crime, means that no one state or government has the power and the resources to eradicate it wholly. To say the least, the effects of women trafficking on its victims have been realized, through various longitudinal studies to be debasing, devastating, dehumanizing and uneconomical. Women trafficking encompass every facet of the victims, and non-victims lives.
Women suffer and indignity and humiliation as trafficked victims. Besides, in the course of transportation, many have died some others injured as a result of the difficult terrain and weather they are subjected to. The constant media reports about such ugly development have become a huge source of embarrassment to Nigeria’s integrity. Internal trafficking of women is not a new phenomenon. Apparently, many states in Nigeria are more affected by internal trafficking.
It has been going on with the trafficking of women from rural communities to major cities such as Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Asaba, Benin, Onitsha, Owerri, Aba, Calabar, Warri and Port-Harcourt, predominantly for prostitution as well as exploitative domestic work, scavenging and begging. The incidence is a little more precarious in Lagos, Edo State, Cross River, Akwa Ibom State, Imo and Ebonyi states, where women traffickers hold sway, having so many rings, agents and sponsors.
Generally, women trafficking involve the trafficking of victims, usually women through borders legally or illegally. The victims are either given proper travel documents or without proper documents as they are trafficked to unknown destinations, and in most instances, the victims being trafficked are unaware of the implications of their adventure. And sometimes victims face consequences such as molestation, arrests and deportation while being trafficked to destination.
Some critics trace the remote causes of women trafficking to the negative effects of poverty, unemployment, poor education, exacerbated by corruption, and mismanagement of the economy in the past two decades. Nigeria has gained unenviable notoriety as transit, source and destination country for women trafficking, due to the huge number of women being subjected to conditions of forced labour and forced prostitution from Nigeria and in Nigeria.
Women trafficking could be traced to numerous factors such as spiraling record of poverty, high level of ignorance and large family size among other things account for the reasons why girls and women fall easy prey to the antics of traffickers. Similarly, the financial distress of most poor guardians makes them vulnerable to the whims and caprices of traffickers who lure their girls with supposedly rewarding jobs but only to cajole them into prostitution and forced labour in America, Europe and in Asia as well as in major cities in Nigeria.
There are evidences that point to the fact that human trafficking has divergent negative impacts on its victims. That such impacts range from minor to serious health implications as well as minor and serious traumatic and post-traumatic disorders, that often leave victims devastated enough to live a normal life. The trafficking of women has a number of far-reaching psychological, socio-economic, health and political consequences. Besides, when the psychological implications are not tackled, other health complications may result, even an outright death may result. That is to say that apart from mounting extensive enlightenment campaigns, beefing up immigration security, creating the legal frameworks and organizations meant to tackle women trafficking, the role of the rehabilitation process is paramount to the reintegration of victims of women trafficking into the Nigerian society.