Human traffickers are applying new methods to evade arrest. Some of their new methods are riding on motorcycles, donkeys and disguising as politicians. In 2015, about 34 suspected human traffickers and their victims were apprehended while about 16,096 irregular immigrants were refused entry into Nigeria through Katsina land borders.
At least 468 persons were repatriated from Katsina State to their respective countries. Also, about 5,448 Nigerians were not allowed to leave the country illegally. Most of those who were rescued from the traffickers were from Edo, Delta, Imo and Kogi states. They were aged between 18 and 35 years.
Unsuspecting victims, including footballers, are often lured with stories of greener pastures in Europe. Investigations revealed that the victims, who are usually not asked to pay for the services the traffickers render to them, are moved to Libya through Niger Republic for an onward movement to Spain or Malta in Europe.
It is a syndicated operation that mostly occurs through phone calls.
According to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), upon arrival to their destinations, traffickers subject their victims, who would have sworn to oath, to various inhuman treatments.
“You were taken to a shrine to swear an oath of secrecy and allegiance to somebody and made to work and pay certain expenses. Once at the destination you were controlled in many ways: your passport is seized, you are not permitted to freely call your parents or loved ones, you are intimidated, beaten, raped, stripped naked etc. You are not allowed to move freely. You are escorted to and from work while someone else takes away the payments for your work,’’ the agency stated.
Some of the victims end up in Libya as they can’t cross the sea to Europe, while many die trying to cross the Sahara desert. They are subjected to slavery and other untold inhuman conditions to recoup the traffickers’ investment on them. They are often made to engage in forced labour, prostitution or drug-related businesses. There’s often to end in sight to their suffering.
From available statistics, no fewer than 212 persons were rescued in the last 10 months. Among them were 104 males and 108 females. Most of the rescued persons were intercepted at Kongolom and Babban Mutum border posts of Katsina State, which shares border with Niger Republic.
Although there are three internationally approved border posts at Baure, Kongolom and Jibia, there are numerous illegal routes in and out of both countries.
Almost on a weekly basis, the Katsina State command of the Nigeria Immigration Service releases a list of intercepted human traffickers and their victims. And the rate at which Nigerians fall prey to the gimmicks of the traffickers is quite alarming.
Irked by the growing surge in human trafficking in Nigeria, several communities at the hinterland are forming alliances to arrest kingpins and their victims before they get to the borders. Already, operations are ongoing at Charanchi and Kankara. Every moving vehicle is thoroughly checked and their occupants subjected to questioning.
Some of the rescued victims who spoke to Sunday Trust on Sunday regretted that their hope of getting to Europe for greener pastures was dashed.
Asked how he started the journey, Esosa Atiba said he was contacted on phone through one Samaila who arranged their movement from Edo, through Abuja, to Katsina. He said Samaila invited them to Abuja where he provided a Sienna bus for transport to Katsina.
“To embark on this journey I sold my motorcycle at N50,000, left my 58-year-old mother and used the money to move in search of greener pasture to Libya,’’ Atiba said.
For Blessing Okoduwa, a mother who was apprehended with two of her siblings - Godsent Awail, 4, Maria Awail, 3 - it was an end of a journey to reunite with her husband who was already in Libya. Mrs. Okoduwa said she decided to travel through the Katsina route because she was told that it was cheaper. “I normally go through Lagos, but I was told that it could cost me few amount of money to move through Katsina border,’’ she said.
A driver, Mohammed Awwal Rabiu, who was arrested recently in Daura with victims of human trafficking, said he did not know the identities of some of his passengers who asked him to cross them over the border. “I run my taxi in Kano and they approached me to drive them to Daura and Maimujiya in Niger. I never knew their mission,’’ he said.
An immigration officer, who did not want his name mentioned, told our reporter that parents of victims do not help matters. He said that recently, he contacted the mother of one of the victims who, instead of appreciating the efforts of security agents, turned hostile and accused him of making her waste N300,000. He said the woman sold her belongings to raise the money for her daughter to travel to Europe for greener pastures.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, the Katsina State commandant of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammed Rabiu Yaro wondered why Nigerians would want to seek greener pastures in Europe against all odds. He said it was dangerous to embark on journeys of uncertainty.
“Our investigations revealed that most of the people who cross the border en route Agadez in Niger Republic through Libya to seek employment in Europe do not have travel documents.
“It is important to note that the victims were misled by the traffickers, whose business is to ferry persons across the borders through illegal routes. But we are prepared to deal with the syndicate. Katsina will no longer be used as a transit route for human trafficking.
“Human trafficking has become a very serious issue in Nigeria. For this reason, the government, in collaboration with the Italian and other European governments, have been fighting this menace. We are equally working closely with our Nigerien counterparts.
“On a daily basis, these traffickers evolve new methods to evade arrest. Some of them use posters of the All Progressives Congress (APC), with pictures of our dear president and the Kano State governor to deceive security operatives along the highway. But luck ran against these ones in the process of stop-and-search.’’
Nigeria is a signatory to the Transnational Organised Crime Convention and its Trafficking in Persons Protocol, which took place on December 13, 2000. The convention tasks participating countries to criminalise human trafficking, all forms of exploitation and related activities against human beings.