National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and other related matters, NAPTIP, has said that it would arrest and prosecute anyone involved in practice of using minors as house help which it says is a form of human trafficking.
The head of press and public relations of the agency, ArinzeOrakwe, in an interview with our reporter said that it is a crime to have any child living outside of his/her immediate family environment as a house help according to the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003, as amended in 2005.
According to him, available report shows that many Nigeria women and children are still trafficked internally and to various part of the world.
“One of the greatest tragedies of our time is that parents traffic their own children for personal benefits,” he lamented.
He condemned the way parents consented to human trafficking, adding that ignorance and poverty are the causes that needed to be addressed.
Section 50 of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 of Nigeria defines trafficking as including: “…all acts and attempted acts involved in the recruitment, transportation within or across Nigerian borders, purchase, sale, transfer, receipt or harbouring of a person involving the use of deception, coercion or debt bondage for the purpose of placing or holding the person whether for or not involving servitude (domestic, sexual or reproductive) in force or bonded labour, or in slavery-like conditions.”
Orakwe noted that the law also made it a criminal offence to keep a child in a brothel.
He threatened that any brothel that habours under aged girls will be closed down and the property confiscated by the governmentwhilethe proceeds will be used as compensation for the abused children.
He recalled that a brothel at No. 1, Anjorin Odoguyan StreetIkorodu, Lagos State was sealed up and confiscated about two years ago when children were discovered there.
“In a situation where brothel is sealed, NAPTIP will seek an approval of the court after the conviction of the culprit for the property to be sold and pay the victim as a compensation for the trauma they passed through,” he stated.
A recent report of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, shows that not less than 52 million people across the world work asdomesticservants,and only 10 per cent of them are actually protected by existing labour laws.
The report also states that in 2012, 72 per cent of the population of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa engaged in vulnerable employment, which includes domestic service, mostly undertaken by minors and women.
In major Nigerian cities, the demand for domestic servants such as house maids and cooks is quite high because of the long hours of work and traffic which keep most couples out late.
Orakwe noted that aside from using minors as house help, football is now also a veritable means by which Nigerian boys are trafficked. Finnish President, Sauli Niinistö, confirms this trend and asked authorities here to look into the manner by which Nigerian boys leave the country on false contracts.
The NAPTIP spokesman lamented the attitude of many states in Nigeria towards adoption of the Child Right Act which protects the rights of children, adding that Nigerians are playing politics with the lives of the children if states refuse the adoption.
“These states are inadvertently promoting exacerbating conditions that promote traffic in persons because that is what the law is supposed to do, but we are not doing it. We are playing politics with the lives of the children,” he lamented.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child enjoins that “Member States shall undertake to disseminate the Conventions principles and take all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the Rights recognized in the present Convention.”
Against this background, a draft Child’s Rights Bill aimed principally at enacting into law in Nigeria the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was prepared in the early 90’s. But it is only after about ten years with several heads of government and heated debates by the parliamentarians that the Bill was eventually passed into law by the National Assembly in July 2003.
President Olusegun Obasanjo signed it into law in September 2003 and it was promulgated as the Child’s Rights Act 2003.
About 16 out of 36 states have adopted the Child Rights Act. Although the law was passed at the federal level, it can only be effective if the state assemblies enact it as most cases occur in the states.
Quoting Nelson Mandela who said that there is no other window to the soul of a nation than by how it treats its children, Orakwe implored other states to adopt the Act in order to deal with the issues hindering the protection rights of children such as children living on the streets, children affected by communal conflict, drug abuse, human trafficking, child labour and the weaknesses of the juvenile justice system amongst others.
Organizations including the United Nations’ Children Fund, UNICEF and the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC among others had earlier called on states to adopt the Child Rights Act in order to adequately protect the rights of children.
Orakwe blamed Nigeria’s downgrade in the performance of the global trafficking compliance rating by the US State department from 1st tier to 2nd tier on poor funding of the agency and non-articulation of programmes that seek to develop and protect children.