Child trafficking is one of the three most illegal profitable trades the world over. It comes next to drug trafficking and trafficking in arms. Child trafficking according to the 2000 Palermo Protocol (Convention to prevent suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women, and Children) has been defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons, through threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, of abuse of power, giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for exploitation
Without a doubt, child trafficking and abuse are serious crimes that have devastating effects on the lives of children. The negative effects of child trafficking in Nigeria can never be over-emphasized and some of these effects range from health defects, high mortality rate, unwanted pregnancy, increase in illiteracy rate, increase in crime rate, the psychological trauma of victims, promotion of other moral decadence like prostitution, drug abuse, abuse of the alcohol, etc.
It has been discovered that culture, poor family background, poverty, upended values, large family size, underdevelopment, rapid urbanization, corruption, cravings for perverted sex, and high illegal financial returns among others are the major factors why many Nigerian children are vulnerable to trafficking.
LEGAL REMEDIES FOR CHILD TRAFFICKING AND ABUSE IN NIGERIA
This writeup aims to highlight some of the legal remedies put in place to address the issue of child trafficking and abuse plus protection of the rights of children in Nigeria. For this write-up, these legal remedies will be highlighted seriatim;
- The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended): The Constitution being the grundnorm of the Nigerian legal order designs the foundation upon which every other domestic anti-child-trafficking law rest. The pertinent sections thereof are sections 17, 34, and 42. A combined reading of the above-stated sections forbids trafficking in persons, including children. The sections guarantee the ideals of freedom, equity, and justice. It also provides against slavery and forced labor or compulsory labor, sexual exploitation, and deprivation of personal liberty of Nigerians. The provision of Section 46 of the Constitution permits anyone whose rights, as guaranteed by these provisions, have been violated to challenge such violation in the High Court of a State.
- Child Rights Act 2003: The Child Rights Act is a federal law that provides wide-ranging protection for the rights of children in Nigeria. It covers various aspects of child protection, including provisions against child trafficking and abuse. The Act outlaws child trafficking and imposes severe punishments on offenders. This Act also sets out the rights and responsibilities of a child in Nigeria and provides for a system of child justice administration and the care and supervision of a child, among other things. Since its enactment in 2003, the Act has been adopted in 23 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Part 3 (sections 21-40) of the Act provides for the protection of the rights of the child vide the prohibition of child marriage, child betrothal, infliction of tattoos, exposure to use, trafficking, abduction, and unlawful removal and transfer of a child from lawful custody, forced, exploitative or hazardous child labor or using children for prostitution, unlawful sexual intercourse, other forms of sexual abuse and exploitation prejudicial to the welfare of the child.
- Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2003: This Act specifically targets human trafficking (including child trafficking) and provides a legal framework for the prevention, prosecution, and punishment of offenders. It establishes specialized agencies and mechanisms to combat human trafficking, including the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). In 2003, the Federal Government of Nigeria, worried by the alarming rates of trafficking in person, enacted the above-mentioned law. The law was amended in 2005 and as a result of the new trends in the crime of trafficking in persons and the need to further strengthen the institutional framework, the Act was repealed and the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 was enacted. The new Act received Presidential assent on 26th March 2015. Being a Federal Law, it applies throughout Nigeria. The enactment defines the categories of offenses dealt with under it. A typical example is the provision of section 64 of the Act which defines the word 'trafficking' as; "All acts involved in the recruitment, transportation within or across Nigerian borders, purchases, sale, transfer, receipt, or harboring of a person, involving the use of deception, coercion or debt bondage to place or hold the person whether or not in voluntary servitude (domestic, sexual or reproductive) in forced or bonded labor or in slavery-like conditions". The Act also provides for varying penalties, upon conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction, against offenders.
- Criminal Code and Penal Code: The Criminal Code and Penal Code, which are applicable in different parts of Nigeria, contain provisions that criminalize various forms of child abuse, such as child molestation, sexual exploitation, physical abuse, and child labor. Offenders can be prosecuted under these laws and face imprisonment or other penalties. The codes contain specific criminal offenses and the corresponding penalties for such offences in Nigeria. The first; Criminal Code, applies to the Southern States of Nigeria, while the latter; Penal Code applies to the Northern States. Under the Criminal Code, there are different specified offences against liberty or slave dealing, which can be applied to prosecute trafficking in persons (children inclusive) and prostitution. Instances of the sections are sections 223, 224, 365, and 369. The Penal Code contains similar provisions to the Criminal Code on trafficking. The related ones are sections 275, 278, 279, and 280.
- Sexual Offences Laws: Some states in Nigeria, while adopting the Child Right Act, have enacted specific laws to address sexual offenses, including those committed against children. Part of these States includes Lagos, Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Ekiti, etc. These laws provide for the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of child sexual abuse and exploitation among others
- International Conventions and Treaties: To further combat the issue of child trafficking and abuse, Nigeria is a signatory to various international conventions and treaties that protect children's rights, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. These international instruments provide a framework for addressing child trafficking and abuse and can be used to supplement domestic laws.
- Reporting Mechanisms: Nigeria has established reporting mechanisms to facilitate the reporting of child trafficking and abuse cases. Nigeria's National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) being a creation of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2003, operates a toll-free helpline (08002255627874) and encourages the public to report cases of child trafficking and abuse. Additionally, individuals can report such cases to the police or other relevant authorities.
It is imperative to note that while these legal remedies exist, their effective implementation and enforcement can be challenging. Adequate resources, training, and coordination among law enforcement agencies, judicial systems, and child protection organizations are necessary to ensure that perpetrators are apprehended, victims are protected, and justice is served. The Government is also enjoined to put in measures to ensure that education and necessary knowledge is acquired by all children. Measures like free and compulsory primary and secondary education will be sufficient to drastically reduce the number of illiterates in a country and as such reduce the rate of child trafficking.
Maintenance of a ledger of sexual offenders, has is the case in Ekiti State for a person who commits rape, should in my opinion be extended to instances of child trafficking and abuse(s) against children to serve as deterrence to perpetrators of this chastenedly act.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.