Expert Voice

World Day Against Trafficking - Different Perspectives on Migration and Trafficking, Reflections from our Work in Nigeria

30 July 2018

When Nigerian migration is discussed in the European context – for example, at policy forums and research conferences, or in the media - a number of key issues are usually mentioned. These include: the experiences of Nigerian people transiting through Libya in order to reach Europe by sea; sex trafficking of Nigerian women by means of juju oaths; and the assumption of a widespread desire to migrate to Europe among the young and growing populations of the region. 

By Claire Healy 

While these may be considered relevant topics on the European agenda, this expert voice suggests ways in which challenges may be addressed from a preventive perspective through effective engagement with local stakeholders – by responding to the key issues and priorities that are discussed in a Nigerian context. On this year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons, we would like to highlight one example of Nigeria’s approach to promoting safe migration and combating human trafficking. One of the most innovative and potentially far-reaching initiatives being carried out by the Nigerian Government, with ICMPD’s support, is the integration of the promotion of safe migration and decent work, and combating human trafficking, into basic and secondary school curricula across the Federal States. 

Migration in Nigeria

With a population of 196 million people, Nigeria is more populous than all the other 14 Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) combined. The capital city Abuja, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is located in the centre of a vast and diverse country consisting of 36 Federal States. Nigerians speak over 500 languages and practise Islam, various Christian confessions and traditional Nigerian religious beliefs. Mobility within the country is common, with people moving between the different Nigerian states to work, study, receive training or carry out their national service year (NYSC). 

Nigerians also avail of their free movement rights to migrate to and work in other ECOWAS Member States, such as Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal. In fact, most Nigerians abroad reside in other West African and other Sub-Saharan African countries, as well as Europe and the US. Over 70% of Nigerian emigrants are men. Nigeria is also an important destination country for West African migrants. 

Placing Nigerian migration to Europe in this context, the number of Nigerians living in the EU in 2017 (around 385,000 people) is equivalent to less than 0.2% of the country’s population. Nigerians comprise less than 0.1% of the combined population of the 28 EU countries (around 513 million).  Indeed, in general, Nigerians are remarkably non-migratory, with just 0.6% of the total population living abroad. 

Yet there is a tendency to extrapolate from the experience of certain groups - such as that of migrants from Edo, a relatively prosperous state in Southwest Nigeria, and an important locality of origin for Nigerian migrants in Italy, Germany and the UK. Indeed, people from this state have an important diaspora community in Western Europe and therefore they are more likely than other Nigerians to emigrate to those European countries for work. But Edo State’s specific migration context is often applied wholesale to all Nigerians or even to all West Africans.

Human Trafficking in Nigeria

According to the Nigerian Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), set up in 2003, most trafficked people identified in Nigeria are either Nigerian or from other ECOWAS countries (particularly Niger, Togo, Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire). Similarly, most Nigerians trafficked outside the country are identified in other ECOWAS countries. Nigerians are also trafficked to Maghrebi countries, EU countries, Gulf States and Russia, as well as China and India.

Within Nigeria, Nigerians are internally trafficked for exploitation in quarries (in Abeokuta, Ondo, Ibadan, Ebonyi and Jos), on cocoa plantations (in Ondo, Ogun and Ekiti), in mines (Jos, Nasarawa and Oyo), in private homes and on streets in cities. The most prevalent forms of trafficking are labour exploitation in mines and quarries, sexual exploitation in prostitution (both girls and women), labour exploitation on agricultural plantations (especially cocoa), domestic servitude (“house helps”), and exploitation through begging (in general and among “Almajiris”) and street hawking. 

Combatting Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration in Nigeria: Teaching Human Trafficking at Schools

NAPTIP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) in order to develop a school curriculum on trafficking in persons and related issues, to be infused into Basic and Senior Secondary Education curricula through relevant “carrier subjects”. The first step was to develop the content for the curriculum, based on NAPTIP’s expertise on the topic and international standards and good practices. The second step was to identify “carrier subjects” such as history and civic education, through which the content on trafficking and migration would be taught.

We invited the Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, to also comment on the initiative:

“About four years ago, NAPTIP thought of ways to create maximum impact in its awareness campaigns, especially for the young ones who are most vulnerable to human trafficking. Then the idea of mainstreaming Trafficking in Persons issues in Basic and Senior Secondary Curricula in Nigeria was birthed. This infusion guarantees that every Nigerian child who passes through Basic and Secondary Schools will be taught on TIP, which will greatly reduce incidences of human trafficking in Nigeria.

Through the Support for Free Movement and Migration in West Africa (FMM West Africa) Project, and with funding from the EU and ECOWAS Commission, the International Centre for Migration Policy  Development (ICMPD) provided support to NAPTIP on two components of the project. One is the mainstreaming of TIP issues into curricula, which entailed infusing TIP issues into selected subjects: Basic Education - English Studies, National Values, (Civic Education, Social Studies, Security Education) Basic Science and Technology (Physical and Health Education), and Senior Secondary Education -  English Language, Health Education, Government and Civic Education. A Teacher’s Guide was developed to aid and guide the teachers in teaching the infusions made, and a sensitisation workshop was organised and held for authors and publishers to sensitise them on TIP, with the aim of guiding them to produce appropriate materials for the students.

The second component of the project involved the production of a Trainers’ Guide, as well as Modules to be used at the NAPTIP Training Resource Centre. These Modules contain all there is to know about human trafficking, as well as NAPTIP and its operations. This is a veritable tool for capacity building and ICMPD have been a dependable and solid partner over the years. NAPTIP could not be more grateful to them for coming to our rescue.As we commemorate the 2018 World Day Against Human Trafficking, and the 15th Anniversary of NAPTIP’s existence, we are proud of the work we have done with ICMPD through the FMM West Africa Project towards the elimination of human trafficking, and promoting regular migration.”

The content that is now to be included in school curricula teaches Nigerian pupils around the country about the risks of exploitation and trafficking. School teachers will educate children on the options for decent work for young people within their home State, and in other States in Nigeria, and for safe and legal migration to other West African countries and outside the region. 

Additional Information

The headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which counts 15 West African states among its members, is in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Since the first ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol was adopted in May 1979, the region has been moving towards facilitating mobility between its Member States and creating opportunities for its citizens through freedom of movement, residence and establishment. Among the challenges in relation to migration and trafficking are safety concerns for teenage children who move for work, especially girls who carry out domestic work and boys involved in begging, and obstacles to free movement across borders due to a lack of awareness among officials about ECOWAS citizens’ rights.

Every year, 30 July marks World Day against Trafficking in Persons, as proclaimed by the UN General Assembly, in resolution A/RES/68/192. This year, the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT), of which ICMPD is a member, is focusing in particular on trafficking in children, who represent 28 per cent of the total victims of trafficking identified worldwide (20 per cent girls and 8 per cent boys). Across regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central America and the Caribbean, children account for an even higher proportion of identified trafficking victims, at 64 and 62 per cent respectively.

Since 2013, ICMPD has been working with the ECOWAS Commission to support policies and practices on free movement and migration within the region. The ECOWAS Commission and the Consortium of Partners – the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) – with funding from the European Union (EU) European Development Fund (EDF) - are implementing a project called Support to Free Movement and Migration in West Africa (FMM West Africa).