July 20, 2024

Outrage as traffickers force teenage Nigerian girls into prostitution in Ghana amid economic hardship

As the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) intensifies campaigns against human trafficking and aggressively goes after the barons who are neck-deep in the illicit, inhuman business, more Nigerians, particularly young girls, keep falling victim to their antics.

Every day, there is one media report or another about what Nigerians who were trafficked to Arab countries like Libya, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as Africa, Europe, and America, go through in their countries of destination.

However, the economic hardship in Nigeria is not helping matters, as many of the victims were merely deceived with promises of mouthwatering job offers.

Last week, the social media space was awash with reports of some Nigerian teenage girls, aged between 15 and 18, who were trafficked to Ghana and forced into prostitution. According to one of the videos that trended online, a man identified as the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) Ghana branch, Calistus Elozieuwa, alongside his team, was seen speaking with the rescued girls.

According to him, his organisation got information that a Nigerian guy brought the ladies to Ghana and was maltreating them, including forcing them into prostitution and other things. He noted that as soon as he got the information, he sent a rescue team to the place.

“Fortunately, when they got there, they were able to rescue the girls and arrest the culprit,” he added.

Out of the 10 girls, seven were from Imo State, Southeast Nigeria, while the remaining three were from Plateau State, Northcentral Nigeria.

Three of the girls from Imo State, according to the investigation, are from the same parents: a set of twins and their elder sister. Some of the rescued girls were identified as Miracle Odunukwe (Ideato, Imo), Chiamaka Ikechukwu (Ideato, Imo), Celina Danjuma (Jos, Plateau), Mary (Plateau), Divine (Orlu, Imo), Joy Ayuba (Plateau), Odunukwe Happiness (Ideato, Imo), Nwachukwu Amarachi (Ideato, Imo), and Odunukwe Onyinyechukuwu (Ideato, Imo).

Since the news broke out, Nigerians have been commenting on the development, with some blaming the parents. Others attribute the development to the harsh economy, which is pushing many young Nigerians out of the country in search of a better life.

Those who hold this view blame the government for what has happened to the young girls. However, there are others who attribute what happened to greed. To them, the girls voluntarily decided to embark on the journey because they wanted to make money at all costs and not necessarily because anybody deceived or forced them.

Those who hold this opinion said most of the girls knew what lay ahead and decided to go for it because they wanted to get rich at all costs.

Chief Elozieuwa described the mastermind of the ugly event as very wicked, luring three sisters from the same parents away from Nigeria to Ghana and forcing them into prostitution. “The parents are not aware. They take these girls under oath and force them into prostitution,” he added.

According to the report, the girls were told they would be given sales jobs when they got to Ghana, but when they got there, they were forced into prostitution and other inhuman activities.

Chairman/CEO of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has visited the girls after NIDO informed her Commission of the development. Commenting on the development, Dabiri-Erewa, who was accompanied to Ghana by representatives from the Imo State Government, including the Deputy Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Amara Iwuanyanwu, and the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Nkechinyere Ugwu, commended Elozieuwa and his team for their efforts. She emphasized the need for a permanent solution to eradicate human trafficking in Nigeria, saying, “We must declare a war against human traffickers.”

She urged parents to always question the whereabouts of their children when taken away by relatives or friends. She called for collective efforts to ensure traffickers are named and arrested.

A statement issued by the Media, Public Relations and Protocols Unit of NiDCOM said the rescued girls would be handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which will hand them over to their respective states for counseling and rehabilitation.

The Acting Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Adeoye Ifedayo, also commended NIDO in Ghana and stressed the need to put a stop to human trafficking. The delegation also met with the high echelon of the Ghanaian Police, who pledged total cooperation in the war against human trafficking.

The representative of the Imo State Governor, Iwuanyanwu, reiterated the government’s commitment to the welfare and well-being of the rescued girls. Similarly, the Plateau State Governor, represented by the Commissioner for Women Affairs, pledged to cater to the welfare and full rehabilitation of the stranded girls.

Speaking on the development, a Migration Consultant and National Secretary of the Network Against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labour (NACTAL), Nigeria, Osita Osemene, said what has happened was not a new trend. He stated that the incident was being celebrated because the criminal activities of the traffickers involved came to light; otherwise, such things happen often.

“These days, a lot of things have changed in terms of children being used as commodities. Again, children at that age now have a high desire to make it big. This is applicable to boys also.”

He noted that the scourge is not restricted to young girls, because young boys are also endangered. He revealed that after the girls were rescued, there was also another incident where about 18 teenage boys of the same age bracket were intercepted and rescued in Ghana.

“In short, after the girls were rescued, there was another report that about 18 Nigerian boys of the same age bracket were apprehended by the Ghanaian police. They were taken to Ghana to engage in internet fraud, popularly called ‘Yahoo Yahoo.’ Somebody engaged them, and they were being used to make money in a fraudulent way for that person.

“They were in a kind of captivity in Ghana because the money they were making was not for themselves but for the person who took them there.

“So, it is an ongoing trend that the underage are being manipulated and lured into crime by some criminal gangs. It is not as if it is a new thing; it is just that it is now on the increase.

“Cases of young boys and girls aged 15 and 16 being lured into cyber crimes and prostitution (sex trade) are becoming alarming. They use them, exploit them, and dump them. And Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, and Benin Republic are now the destination countries. It is a regional business that is currently booming,” he stated.

On what should be done to stem the tide of the ugly trend, he said the awareness is there but it is still not enough, as more enlightenment is needed, particularly to educate parents.

“For some time now, the government has embarked on some kinds of awareness campaigns against the scourge. However, I think there should be an increase in awareness all the same, and the government’s seriousness in entrenching our value system in families should also be improved upon.

“This is because many families have lost our value system. Parents are involved in this mess. If you check very well, you will be surprised that most parents are aware that these young children are embarking on these kinds of journeys. But, what they don’t know is what the children are going to do over there.

“So, I think there should be an intentional increase in the level of enlightenment campaigns to create more awareness in some of these areas, particularly for the parents,” he said.

Osemene, whose organisation, NACTAL, through regional cooperation, took an active part in the rescue of the girls, said there is also a need for collaboration between countries to ensure that human trafficking is minimally reduced. “I commend the Ghanaian police; they are trying. For being proactive and able to bust and arrest some of these criminals, it shows they are on top of their game, and I commend them.

“But, there is the need for increased collaborations and partnerships between law enforcement agencies and governments of various countries. The civil societies also need to cooperate on a regional basis.

“This particular case of the 10 young girls in Ghana is being celebrated today because as soon as we got wind of the development, we initiated a regional cooperation platform. The Nigeria-Ghana Cooperation, comprising some civil society organizations from both countries, including the Nigeria Police, the Nigeria Immigration, NAPTIP, as well as the Ghana Police and the Ghana Immigration, came together to ensure that a swift intervention was taken, and that was how the girls were rescued.

“This was also with the support of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission led by Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and the NIDO in Ghana. It was the combined efforts of all these agencies and groups that ensured that the girls were rescued and kept in a safe place before the Nigerian government began to look at how to bring them back to hand them over to NAPTIP for proper investigation.

“There should be a proper investigation to know those who perpetrated it because we are aware that somebody was behind the crime. Somebody initiated it and carried it out,” he said.

On his level of involvement in the rescue of the girls, he said: “I participated in the rescue operation as the National Secretary of NACTAL, Nigeria. It was on that platform that I participated in the response mechanism that was set up. We have a regional platform, which I am also a member of because NACTAL is a member of the West Africa Coalition Against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (WACTIPSOM). We communicated and collaborated with our members in Ghana to ensure that the people who perpetrated the evil act were brought to book in Ghana.”

Also commenting on the incident, a migration expert, Mrs Amaka Nneji, said greed is a serious motivating factor for some of the young girls. She said she realized how deep the mess was in the course of her job as a migration counselor with a non-governmental organization, Seefar.

“When we started our campaign against irregular migration, I didn’t know that girls of that age were involved until about 100 girls of that age were intercepted on their way to Libya. That was when I started going to secondary schools to campaign.

“So, a lot of young girls want to get rich at all costs, and this is because of the situation in the country. Girls as young as 13 and 14 years old are already chasing money through prostitution. I think it is also caused by greed.

“A lot of girls want to make money, irrespective of their means. It is not as if they were forced or deceived. If anybody is telling you that it is their parents who forced them into that; I want to tell you that it is not true.

“They just decided on their own to do what they were doing. It is a personal decision by most of them. All I need to tell young girls is to be careful and be smart in their relationships with men and women at all times,” she said.

In his contribution, a public administrator, Mr. Anthony Ugwuoke, decried the level of moral decadence in society. “You can see the intricate web of this immoral syndicate; from Jos, Plateau State, north-central Nigeria, to Imo State, southeastern Nigeria. Who would have imagined this? My brother, it is a classical case of moral decadence in today’s girl child,” he said.

He also blamed it on poor parenting and bad governance, saying, “This basically stems from loose parenting and the abysmal failure of successive governments in Nigeria.

“If we blame it on the misuse of social media, whichever way in our contemporary world, we are spot on. Blame it on dysfunctional governance, you are right. Blame it on the gullibility and/or innate zeal in a girl child to exploit her world, you are also not wrong.

“However, the buck still stops at the table of the government. If, for instance, the government provided these children with basic and functional education, there could have been a paradigm shift from these disgusting social frivolities to more productive engagements.

“Over time, our successive governments have failed on their own part of the social contract of governance with the citizenry.

“Come to think of it, did these children disappear into thin air here in Nigeria, and somewhere down the line, reappear in Ghana? Of course, they went through our porous borders, either bribing their way through, or getting the better part of our security agencies due to negligence.

“I can tell you for free and you can take it to the bank, that if these children are not properly treated, given a clean bill of health, and rehabilitated, I bet they shall remain shadows of their former selves, and most likely, a direct negative influence on other children in their ecosystem.

“For the mastermind, he should have known by now that the leg that moves hurriedly to perform evil has an eye that monitors here and there to expose it.

Comfort Adebisi, a victim of a similar crime in Lebanon in 2020, noted that most girls fall victim due to their inordinate quest for a greener pasture. She said traffickers would always make mouth-watering offers, which most often are too hard to resist for the young girls. “But, they will never know that all the promises are a mere ploy to lure them to a foreign land and turn them into sex slaves,” she said.

She noted that the girls must have been promised wonderful jobs in Ghana, not knowing that they would end up as prostitutes. She advised the government to step up its enlightenment campaign against trafficking in persons. She also suggested that stiff punishment should be handed down to culprits when apprehended to serve as a deterrent to other intending traffickers.

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