The spate of human trafficking in Benue state has been on the increase lately as JOHN SHIAONDO reports.
Two weeks ago, the Benue State Police Command nabbed a suspected human trafficker in Makurdi, the state capital.
It was gathered that the suspect, identified simply as Doosuur, was apprehended in North Bank area of Makurdi on Tuesday, 2nd May 2023.
A source who didn’t want to be named said the suspected child trafficker was caught by youths in the North Bank area who handed her over to the men of the Nigeria Police, Operation Zenda unit, for further investigation.
According to the source, the suspect has been into this business since 2018. “She is reported to have been on the run all these years but luck ran out of her when she was apprehended in north bank by the youths.
“She confessed to have been in the business of children trafficking since 2018 and have, so far, taken four children to Lagos and sold them to a Lagos based trafficker for a sum of N700,000 each,” the source said.
Police/NAPTIP confirm report
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, (PPRO), SP Catherine Anene, confirmed the incident saying the suspect is with them.
Meanwhile, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NAPTIP), has confirmed the incident saying the suspect is a serial offender.
NAPTIP Commander, Makurdi Zonal Command, Gloria Bai, said the suspect, whom she identified as Grace, has been in the business of kidnapping and selling children with her cohorts adding that the command is currently prosecuting her case in court.
“This is not her first time like she claimed. We still have a case with her in court on a similar case. I came to Benue in the year 2020 and I arrested that woman myself. We have been with her in court since 2021 and the court has not ruled yet.”
She urged the public to always report such cases to NAPTIP for appropriate and prompt action.
The evolving trend
It could be noted that, there has been an upsurge of cases of human trafficking in Benue recently with several arrests.
The victims mostly are children, young boys and girls lured by the traffickers with claims of providing a better life for them.
Although Benue has domesticated the Child Rights Act, children in the state are still being trafficked to most parts of the country to serve as domestic help, farm assistants, or even sex workers.
While some parents willingly give out their children, sometimes human trafficking syndicates trick others into giving out their children.
The recent is worsened by the current attacks by herdsmen on communities in the state resulting in displacement of people.
Stories are told of people who go to the IDPs camps to take some children on the pretext of assisting the parents, but turned them to sex workers, child labour and other dehumanized jobs.
Coming to terms with the enormity of human trafficking within its domain, the state government had set up anti-human trafficking task force, which had been working with the anti-trafficking agencies like NAPTIP.
All the efforts notwithstanding, stakeholders reveal that child trafficking is on the increase in most rural communities of Benue and is being fuelled by the constant displacement of families in affected communities.
This is in addition to poverty and lack of basic social amenities in those communities, including schools, especially senior secondary schools.
Although statistics regarding the sheer magnitude of child trafficking is difficult to come by, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 10,000 children are trafficked each year.
In 2021, most trafficked victims rescued by NAPTIP (2021 Report) were from Benue (12.3%). Prior to 2020, however, Edo state led the pack.
In Benue, age-long practices, poverty, lack of basic social amenities and ignorance contribute immensely to parents trafficking their children to cities.
A lot of human trafficking activities are going on in the villages. The traffickers freely move from one village to the other taking children from their parents with a promise of good and descent life.
However, many of these children, who usually leave their villages with excitement, often regret taking such trips due to the ill-treatment they receive on leaving home.
Some of the victims in most cases lost their lives, others lost their sanity and some who are lucky to return home alive, come back worse than they left.
The authorities on their part have been making efforts to curb the menace with several arrest being made.
Though in 2023, cases of trafficking seems to have reduced, 2022 was a boom with many arrest made by the security operatives in the state.
Human trafficking endemic in Benue
It would be recalled that the director-general of NAPTIP, Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, in February 2021, described Benue as endemic in human trafficking.
Ibrahim spoke in Makurdi during the inauguration of the Benue State Task Force on Human Trafficking.
“Almost all the states in Nigeria are affected by irregular migration and human trafficking but Benue state is endemic for trafficking of children for domestic servitude, exploitative labour in farms in the western part of Nigeria, and sexual exploitation in brothels.”
Some reported cases
It was surprising that just two days in 2022, no fewer than 38 people mostly young boys and girls were intercepted in separate places in Benue state when they were to be trafficked outside the state.
The first incident involved six victims and a suspect who were picked up recently at a motor park in Makurdi.
According to Mrs Bai in a statement, the suspects were rounded up following the receipt of a call from a concerned citizen.
She said, during the early hours of Friday 7th January 2022, the Makurdi Zonal Command received a call from a concerned citizen from Duku Motor Part at Wurukum Makurdi, alerting the command of a suspected case of human trafficking involving seven ladies of which one was the suspected trafficker.
According to her, officers of the command arrived Duku Motor Park some few minutes after receiving the call and met the six ladies and the suspect who said they were all traveling to Lagos.
“The victims were between the ages of 16 and 24 years by facial analysis. At the time of the arrival, the Nigerian police were also on ground because they were also called on the matter.”
She further said that about N500,000 was found on the suspect alongside some foreign currencies which raised the suspicion that the victims were to be moved to destination outside the country yet to be determined.
She also disclosed that the ladies were all moved to the office of the Nigerian Police in company of the officers of NAPTIP and the police carried out preliminary investigation which were later transfer to NAPTIP for further investigation and possible prosecution.
She commended the management of Duku Motor Park and concerned citizens who alerted the authorities.
The NAPTIP boss also warned criminally minded members of the public to desist from such evil act or be prepared to face the wrath of the law.
Also on Saturday January 8 2022, the Benue State Police Command intercepted two buses loaded with 32 young girls and boys at Ameladu area of Gboko local government area.
It was gathered that the buses were purportedly heading to Ede in Osun state when they were intercepted.
The young people were made up of 13 boys and 19 girls with the oldest being about 25 years.
It was gathered that a young woman identified as Mrs Linda Angbiandoo Akaasema who was in charge of the young girls and boys claimed that they were returning to Osun where they were schooling after visiting Benue for the festive period.
She claimed to be running an orphanage home registered in Benue but operational in Osun.
The suspect disclosed further that the children were from Zaki-Biam, Jootar and other towns in Ukum local government area of the state sharing boundary with Taraba state. The woman however could not provide evidence that the children were already in school and only visited home.
“The suspect could not provide any proof and unable to provide any document to identify herself, what she said was that she forgot all her documents while leaving Osun state.”
Police spokersperson Catherine Anene confirmed the report that they received such a case.
Again within the same year another suspect, Mnena Kwaghmande, 29, was nabbed with her victims in a Gboko hotel by the agency officials in collaboration with the NSCDC.
State Commandant of NSCDC, Dr Philip Okoh, who had paraded the suspect before handing her over to NAPTIP, said that on interrogation, it was discovered that the suspect had told parents of the young girls whom she picked from Vandeikya that she was taking them to go and sell food at her restaurant in Bukina-Faso.
The victims, who were mainly teenagers, disclosed that the suspect was their relative and had told their parents that she was sick and therefore needed them to go with her to Bukina-Faso to help sell food in her restaurant.
The state NSCDC commandant warned parents against releasing their wards to people who promise them greener pastures, while stressing that such journeys had and are still landing many in unimaginable troubles.