Child trafficking is a global menace that involves the transfer, harboring and kidnapping of children for forced labour and other explorative purposes. The vulnerabilities of these children are preyed upon, they are then kidnapped and introduced to all manners of exploitative acts, mostly sexual. In fact, statistics indicate that children account for 27% of human trafficking victims globally, with two of every three victims being girls. The United Nations Survey also points to one of every three cases of human trafficking worldwide is a child. Although this issue has been prevalent since time memorial, global bodies and world governments are beginning to address it squarely, in a bid to totally eradicate the menace.
Experts note that low-income countries have the highest proportion of child labour suppliers and West African countries are among the low-income regions where this menace is endemic. The International Labour Organization (ILO) asserted that the African continent alone accounts for the highest prevalence of children aged between 5 and 17 years old. On the involvements in West African countries, UNICEF also noted that some countries in West Africa are estimated to have over 40 percent of the children aged 5-17 engaged in child labour.
Security challenges have exposed children in Plateau to child labour.
The growing pandemic of child trafficking in Nigeria has raised serious concerns, with this problem catalyzing other numerous social issues. Reports indicate that this menace is worsened in the northern parts of the country, where immense insecurity and violent clashes have aggravated the situation. One major factor that has contributed to the increase in child trafficking is the poverty in most rural areas. Traffickers are able to exploit this vulnerability to traffic children for domestic labour or commercial sex services. Surveys have shown girls to be trafficked for sexual exploitation and boys for labour. Plateau is one of the states where this menace is most prevalent. As a result of the sectarian crisis in 2001, the state has been faced with numerous security challenges that have destroyed lives and properties, rendering people poor and exposed widows and children to trafficking and child labour.
Plateau State Emergency Management Board reported that recent research suggests that no fewer than 3000 children have been displaced in three communities in the Maingo District, Bassa Local Government Area due to the violent clashes between cattle herders and farmers. The National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking of Persons, also noted this menace as a humongous one in Plateau State, pointing out that all the Local Government Areas in the state are either source points, transit or destination points for trafficking. The agency is said to have recorded 85 cases with 146 victims from March 2021 to date. Stakeholders complained about traffickers disguising as missionaries who have come to help children from the ongoing crisis in the state, only to exploit them.
Gorro urges government to demystify the child rights act.
Adole Alexander, NAPTIP’s state commander in Plateau State said that in 2021, 68 children were rescued from a fake orphanage, Our Lordship Orphanage, in Jos. He noted that the perpetrators were trafficking children from Adamawa, Taraba and local government areas in the state like Riyom and Langtang. Toyin, for instance is one of the communities with largest number of trafficking of minors and of NAPTIP’s sensitization exercises in this community, the residents seem so complacent about curbing this situation. Experts have thus noted that concerted efforts with all stakeholders are paramount to salvaging this menace.
Rev. Samuel Gorro, a peace advocate noted that the child right act must be broken down to the people through orientation, so that they can fully understand the situation. He also said that the government must further support initiatives targeted to help women and children in communities ravaged by conflict. The Child Protection Network in Plateau have also said its members collaborate with organizations to solve the child trafficking issues in the state. Plateau State Government has also promised to continuously combat this menace. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in the state declared that the state government’s provision of counseling services, housing and empowerment programs for child trafficking victims, would all be increased and access to services would be improved.
Civil Society organizations also call for proper documentation of IDPs.
The Civil Society Organization has also urged the government and relevant stakeholders to ensure that the IDPs were adequately documented. Gad Shakami, the Chairman of CSOs in the state noted that this would ensure the mitigation of the conflict impact, whilst also urged the government to put in more efforts in resolving the conflict and preventing future ones. Mr. Silas Abdulsalam, the founder of Displaced Women and Children Foundation has also called on the state government to enact a special desk at the State Emergency Management Agency, responsible for responding to displacement calls in the state, to help facilitate data collation. He admonished NAPTIP to collaborate with CSOs and other grassroots organizations for effective intervention and apprehension of traffickers.