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Human Rights

Locked Out – Nigeria’s Trafficked Children Have Never been to School

This is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Riana Group.

LAGOS, Nigeria, Oct 31 2019 (IPS) - “Human trafficking is when someone is taken from Nigeria to another country to be a prostitute. Or, to do other illegal jobs that are not good for humanity,” said Kingsley Chidiebere, a commercial motorcycle rider in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.

He is one of the over 27 Nigerians interviewed so far by IPS who thinks human trafficking is when a “lady goes to Europe to prostitute herself”.

Though a father himself, Chidiebere, like others interviewed, does not know that children are trafficked to other countries and within Nigeria as well.

Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) April to September 2018 report indicates females are the overwhelming majority of identified victims in Nigeria. According to the report, most rescued victims are now from Kano State, closely followed by Edo State. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), founded in 2003 in response to the country’s high rate of human trafficking, said while most of the victims of trafficking here are women, children and men now make up a significant portion of trafficked victims compared to a decade ago.

  • In a 2014 report,  NAPTIP said children comprised 28 percent of detected victims, and men, 21 percent. 
  • NAPTIP said that the two most-reported human trafficking cases here include cases where women are prostituted internationally and the employment of children as domestic workers. In many cases these child labourers also suffer physical abuse. 

Human trafficking and modern day slavery involve the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain and is a $150 billion global industry.

Two thirds of this figure — $99 billion — is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while another $51 billion results from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities. 

Nigeria remains a source, transit and destination country when it comes to human trafficking. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its 2016 Global Report On Trafficking In Persons says globally more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected between 2012 and 2014.

  • In Nigeria, 42 percent of detected victims between 2012 and 2014 were adults, with the remaining numbers accounting for children.
  • The UNODC reports 69 countries reported to have detected 21,251 victims from Sub-Saharan Africa between 2012 and 2014. Nigeria had 1,030 detected trafficking victims. Of these, 322 were adults (61 males, 261 females) and 708 were children (458 boys, 250 girls).
  • “More recently, reports have surfaced that children in northern Nigeria are being forced by the terrorist group Boko Haram to carry out suicide attacks, the ultimate form of exploitation.
  • “Earlier this year, UNICEF reported that suicide attacks by Boko Haram rose 11-fold from 2014 to 2015, and that 20 percent of the attacks were committed by children as young as eight,” the report stated.

Barrister Julie Okah-Donli, the Director General of NAPTIP said parents who give their children away to work as domestics are endangering them. She warned that these kids end up in the hands of human traffickers. 

The 2018 Global Slavery Index Report reveals Nigeria ranks 32/167 of the countries with the highest number of slaves. The report indicates Nigeria produces no fewer than 1,38m slaves. According to Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the average age of trafficked children in Nigeria, is 15. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

Nigeria’s government agency responsible for tackling trafficking reported in 2016 that 75 percent of children trafficked within the country are trafficked across states, while 23 percent of the kids are trafficked within states. Only two percent of those who are trafficked are trafficked outside the country. The boys in the yellow and pink shirts are pictured transporting goods from the market during school hours. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

In 2006, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report indicated child trafficking was the third-most common crime in Nigeria after drug trafficking and economic fraud. UNESCO highlighted Nigeria’s gross poverty, corruption, conflict, climate change/resulting migration and Western consumerism as factors which increase vulnerability to being trafficked in the country. The boys in the yellow and pink shirts are pictured transporting items they had begged for from the market during school hours. Like most trafficked children they don’t understand or speak English. These boys spend their days begging for money and food. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

In January, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report stating that the number of modern day child slaves constitute almost one-third of all global victims. A young boy works at a shop during school hours selling palm oil from morning to night for the ‘madam’ he works for. He said she brought him to Lagos from a village and away from his family. Where the village from where he comes is, he doesn’t recall. When asked by IPS, he said he did not know his age. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS


A report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) reveals shocking statistics: 99 percent of the 4.8 million victims of commercial sexual exploitation in 2016 were women and girls, with one in five being children. The young girl pictured here has never been to school and has marks from flogging over her hand. She timidly tells IPS that rice fell on her hand, but the signs of beating are clear. She lives with the person for whom she sells rice for and does not know her age. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

The Global Slavery Index reveals women and girls represented 84 percent of the 15.4 million people in forced marriages, and 59 percent of those in private, forced labour. The Index maintains that modern day slavery is most prevalent in Africa with Nigeria being one of the leading countries where the practice thrives. Africa, has no fewer than 9.24 million modern day slaves with an average vulnerability score of 62/100. When young women and children are trafficked to Lagos from Northern Nigeria, mostly Kano and Kaduna state, they have no where they sleep. Often their traffickers make them sleep in the streets and beg for money which they hand over to the person who trafficked them. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS


The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.

The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalisation of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

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