Fred Ezeh, Abuja
For long, human trafficking has constituted a global threat to mankind. The evil deeds of the cartels involved in human trafficking have continued to assume different dimensions, in spite of global response to the modern-day slavery.
The network of human traffickers is in continuous search for loopholes that could be used to beat government forces and, of course, make more fortunes.
The resilience of these traffickers has become a source of worry to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the agency of the Nigerian government that has the constitutional mandate to respond to cases of human trafficking and other related activities.
Alongside other relevant government and private agencies, NAPTIP had previously launched an onslaught against human traffickers, baby factories and such other cases, and tremendous success was recorded.
The agency, it was gathered, was able to block various channels hitherto used by the traffickers to make a fortune out of trafficking in human beings.
But in spite of the several sophisticated measures adopted by NAPTIP, the cartels has continued to up their game to, perhaps, beat the agency’s systems.
NAPTIP recently raised the alarm that some dishonest persons and network of traffickers had perfected plans to recruit and traffic Nigerian youths as part of the 2018 World Cup tournament.
The agency alleged that the traffickers floated unregistered
football supporters clubs, unofficial government delegations as well as unrecognised youth bodies to collect money from some desperate youths to ferry them out of the country, using the World Cup as cover-up.
According to NAPTIP, these wicked traffickers with collaborators at the destination countries have also arranged with their cohorts in Europe to facilitate the defection of the victims out of Moscow.
Aside from the conventional transit of young girls to foreign countries for prostitution and domesticate labour, NAPTIP also said it had uncovered a new way through which the network of human traffickers services the interest of its customers.
The latest trend, the agency said, is that traffickers now invest massively in orphanages in the guise of philanthropy and charity, taking advantage of the weak regulatory system in Nigeria.
It added that the traffickers float unregistered orphanages across different locations with which they successfully ply their trade unchecked with the help of their cohorts.
NAPTIP director-general, Julie Okah-Donli, who stated this at a recent meeting with journalists in Abuja, painted a picture of how unregistered orphanages make a fortune out of innocent Nigerians, which she said could be responsible for the upsurge in the proliferation of unregistered orphanages and such ‘homes’ and foundations in the country. She said it could also be responsible for the high incidence of missing children and teenagers in schools, as well as the sudden disappearance of babies from hospitals, churches, markets and other places.
The children, she said, are assembled at the unregistered orphanages and sold to their clients. She drew the attention of states’ ministry of women affairs and the departments of gender and social welfare to the upsurge in the nefarious activities of the fake orphanages and baby care homes that specialise in outright sale of children.
Her words: “On a daily basis, kind and generous Nigerians visit orphanages with large quantities of food and non-food items as well as cash to either celebrate their birthdays, wedding anniversary or any other breakthroughs.
“But shortly after that, these items disappear. They are, undoubtedly, sold off by the operators of these orphanages, thus denying the children the opportunity of good food.
“Same thing happens with children in these unregistered orphanages. Our preliminary investigation confirmed that the network of human traffickers works in synergy with some hospital officials and some other undercover agents to get these babies.
“It is sad to imagine that children that are brought to life with much joy and hope, are deceitfully trafficked from remote villages under the pretence of giving them good life in the city, only to be displayed as wares inside those unregistered structures called orphanages and later sold for various purposes.”
She advised those involved in what she termed such barbaric acts to quit and embrace legitimate sources of income or face the anger of NAPTIP.
The NAPTIP boss also raised the alarm that the human traffickers have also shifted their attention to teenage boys who are desirous of making a career out of football.
“Football is a lucrative business now and many teenage boys are very much interested in the game. But they fall prey to human traffickers who had promised them opportunities in various football academies
abroad, which most cases turned out otherwise,” she said.
Okah-Donli urged the relevant government bodies to review the sections of the law that permit floating orphanages at random, even by people of questionable character. She also said that NAPTIP had commenced advocacy with the various legislative houses across the country so that they could expand oversight roles in this regard with a view to checkmating the activities of human traffickers.