Internet as new gateway for human trafficking, by Gift Luckson
It’s without a doubt that the advent of the internet opened up a vista of opportunities in all aspects of social networking, especially in the area of business transactions. However, this technological jackpot from which mankind is now able to interact without borders has equally created an expressway for infamous transactions to be carried out by evil perpetrators with all ease. Human trafficking or trafficking in persons is one heinous crime that is gaining an alarming increase in volume by the day, especially in Nigeria.
Human trafficking involves the recruitment or possession of people by force, threat, or deception to exploit them. It is the illegal movement of a person into or within a country.
With the advent of technology and the use of social media, the buying and selling of human beings become very easy as the internet provides easy access to a larger pool of potential victims with no geographical limitations, thereby increasing the ease with which traffickers can locate and recruit their victims, control and organise transportation, communicate amongst perpetrators, and hide criminal proceeds with a simple click on a keyboard.
Traffickers tend to use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims, they also use deceit, financial gift, and flamboyant lifestyle as bait to hoodwink victims to believe those things are better and rosy on the other side.
Human trafficking in Nigeria affects all 36 states including FCT, this criminal venture is fueled by unemployment, insecurity, poverty, hunger, and deprivation, making the victims more vulnerable.
The National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) revealed that there has been a shift in human trafficking from physical to virtual recruitment, where traffickers assess and negotiate with their victims via the different social media platforms in the country.
These traffickers have also caught on to the digital transformation of society via technology, Director General NAPTIP, Fatima Waziri-Azi said.
According to NAPTIP, it is estimated that between 20 to 40 million people are in modern slavery every year globally. Human trafficking earns estimated profits of $150 billion annually for traffickers. Also, an estimated 71% of human trafficking are women and girls while men and boys account for 29%.
Some of the avenues where trafficking occurs include fake business massage, job advertisements, escort services, and relationships.
Many victims become romantically involved with their traffickers and are then forced or manipulated into prostitution, while others get lured in with false promises of a job.
Human trafficking is a vicious cycle of cruelty and exploitation in which survivors of trafficking tend to remain isolated and intimidated all their lives. The victims that endure severe physical and sexual assaults by multiple sexual partners and beatings tend to live under constant mental and physical threats.
On the 2nd of July 2022, Delta State Police Command arrested three suspected child traffickers in Omerigboma, Oko, a community in Oshimili South Local Government Area of the state.
Police spokesperson in the state, Bright Edafe, said the police discovered that a 13-year-old girl was about to be trafficked to Onicha-Ugbo, another community in the state, for prostitution.
The suspects, Ada-Obi Oguguo, 38, Chidinma Osita, 36, and Nkiruka Ikechukwu, 30, who were all females were into prostitution and recruit young girls into the trade. On June 22 the women attempted to traffic a 16-year-old girl, Chidinma, to Mali for prostitution but the operatives foiled their attempt.
Similarly, on the 30th of May 2022, police in Oyo State apprehended three suspects Kingsley Okani, Opeyemi Comfort and Alabi Hammed in connection with alleged human trafficking from Nigeria to Mali, Burkina Faso, and other African countries.
The Oyo State police commissioner, Ngozi Onadeko, said the suspects were arrested while transporting their victims to Saki, the border town of Nigeria and Benin Republic.
The traffickers also confessed that they have already sent two of their victims to Mali.
When the parents/guardians of the victims were contacted, they denied knowledge of their children’s movement to Ibadan.
Statistics show that millions of Nigerians are trafficked worldwide yearly, with victims from different communities, ages, races, and gender.
The Director General of NAPTIP, Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi, revealed that traffickers sometimes make nude videos of their victims and threaten to share the explicit images online if they don’t cooperate with their evil schemes.
She said the Agency has entered a partnership with Facebook and the National Centre for Missing And Exploited Children in the United States, to tackle online crimes. The partnership will ensure that Facebook sends alerts to a targeted community to help find missing children in Nigeria.
Nigerians have been urged to remain vigilant while using the internet and social media so as to mitigate the risk of people falling victim to online scams.
Similarly, parents have been advised to be observant in order to recognise traffickers who offer suspicious jobs to their children.