Human trafficking, an age-long illegal trade is being combatted on all fronts. But just like other societal menaces, the illicit trade continues to flourish despite the effort of government to stamp it out once and for all. It is like a cancer that refuses to go away but grows and spreads as more and more efforts are being made to curtail its negative influence and impact on the society.
Trafficking in human beings has become a major threat to young girls in Plateau State, especially in areas embroiled in communal conflicts and overshadowed by security challenges, resulting in more suffering and hardship for the average family. Victims and survivors of trafficking in the State are mostly from the crisis-prone communities in Bassa, Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Mangu, who feel that they are escaping from the threats of attacks and moving into safety and good life as they move away from the troubled communities. But they are ignorantly moving from one common trouble to a more complicated and suffocating one no thanks to human traffickers on the look out for those to buy and sell as normal goods to be traded in the market.
That explains why many families in Plateau State are agitated about the safety of their young girls who may easily be deceived to run away from the family or be lured away by predators who are on the prowl in the state. The modus operandi of the traffickers is to promise the young girls all that money can afford and make them see a better society from the current hardship they are contending with for survival. But that never really materialise once they are trafficked away from their homes.
Many from the state have already fallen victims of the crime but the trading continues unabated. For example, in 2022, a teenage girl, (name withheld) left Jos for Lagos State without the knowledge of her parents. Before she knew it, she had been taken from the shores of Nigeria to the Gambia by the slave traders. But by sheer stroke of luck and determination by government agencies, she was rescued through the combined efforts of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other related Matters, NAPTIP, the Nigeria Police and their counterparts in Gambia. The State Command of NAPTIP has also rescued no fewer than 100 children from traffickers and the State Commander, Adole Agada, fears the trafficking in persons is worsening. Only last week, no fewer than 14 of such trafficked children aged between 13 and 18 from the Tahoss community in the Riyom Local Government Area of the state were repatriated from Lagos State where they were found engaging in menial jobs in different homes.
Agada, who handed over the children to the state government, said three children were traced and the Lagos State Command of NAPTIP was notified to receive them. At the same time, 11 more children from the same community were stolen and kept in different parts of the state, a development that left their families in agony and despair.
Agada said: “A lot of trafficking is going on in Plateau State while internal and external trafficking are on the increase. A woman was looking for her daughter who is 16 years old. One night, the daughter called from The Gambia and the mother did not know how she got there. We picked up the phone number and connected to the Gambian Police to help us arrest the person who took her there and they were able to do it. They got her out; collected some money that she had made from prostitution there from the woman and the victim was taken to our Embassy in Gambia. Last December, the Nigerian Embassy in Gambia brought her back. The victim was trafficked to Lagos before she was taken to Gambia, the woman is in custody and the case is ongoing in court.
“We have taken awareness to schools, motor parks, churches, and mosques. We still need to do more but we need some vehicles to help us carry out this function. From 2021 till date, 178 victims have been rescued, and about 11 of them are going through skills acquisition. Right now, we have about 14 cases in court, and the state ministry of Justice is prosecuting our cases for us. As we speak, a case is in the court about a lady that was trafficked to Togo,” Agada said.
Plateau government reacts
The State Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, Caroline Dafur, told Arewa Voice that she was sad over the continuous trafficking of young girls by human beings at this age and time. Dafur said: “I am saddened by the reoccurrence of this inhumane behaviour, and more worrisome is the parental negligence and carelessness. Plateau people are known for courage and hard work and economic hardship should not be an excuse to trade human lives and the destinies of our young girls. Since I assumed office, I have had courses to successfully repatriate girls from Edo and Lagos states.The perpetrators of this barbaric act are in custody and must be made to face the law.
“These illegal activities must not be normalised on the Plateau. With the frequency of reoccurrence, we will not just reunite these girls with their families but we are offering them full educational and skill acquisition and scholarships right away to secure their future.”
What should done
The Special Adviser on Gender/Chairperson Implementation Committee of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Commission, Olivia Dazyem, expressed sadness over the situation and called for the immediate take-off of the proposed Gender and Equal Opportunities Commission to address the situation effectively.
“The decision of Governor Caleb Mutfwang to set up the Gender and Equal Opportunities Commission in line with the law is just timely. If you see what is happening, your hearts will go out to Plateau children. Arrangements are being made to move out some children by buses.
We are going to require members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers as key partners to pursue the rescue of our children who have been taken for exploitation as we also embark on creating awareness right into our communities so that our people can stop this wickedness,” the special adviser said.