Dressed as a modest married woman in search of a house help, THE WHISTLER correspondent went to Tipper Garage, Madalla in Zuba after a tip-off about a woman said to run a home full of young girls. Zuba is a border town when travelling to Niger State from Abuja and the date was October 10.
Our correspondent was directed to the house of the Mai Anguwa (Ward Head) of the area, and while there a man volunteered to lead our correspondent to the house. The excited man also offered to inform the woman about our correspondent’s mission—obviously thinking he was bringing business for the woman.
On the way to the house, he had warned that they do not respond to visitors when they come knocking at the door of the house. “If they see strange faces, they will not even answer you. In fact, they will even go and close the gate. The woman in charge already knows us and will attend to you,” he said.
While our correspondent waited outside the gate of the house, the man went inside the compound to announce that they had visitors waiting outside. A peep immediately showed that the compound was busy with many women engaged in house chores around the unkempt surroundings.
THE WHISTLER guide came back to announce that the owner of the place was not around, and only her daughter was available. He encouraged our correspondent to discuss the house help issue with the woman’s daughter.
While still standing by the gate, a young man who came in on a motorcycle was introduced as the woman’s son and together with his sister, they ushered their visitors into a messy little bedroom littered with clothes and dirt, a room which served as both a sitting room and a bedroom.
Four underage girls not above 13 years were seen playing on a bunk, while a lady in her early twenties was lying on another bed. The lady was asked to excuse the visitors.
The son of the owner of the house sat quietly on the bed listening to his sister’s discussion with their visitor about a house help. The daughter of the owner of the house is a young lady still below 30 years.
Drivers Bring Girls In Large Numbers Here
The lady said they usually have girls coming from different states in the north, and once they arrive, they are sent to where they’ll work. But at the time of the visit, they only had one girl on the ground who was called Ummie. But she also revealed that they were expecting some girls the following day.
She said: “Some of them will come tomorrow, Thursday. They will come from Jigawa state.
“A driver brings them to this place. So, you can only come on Friday morning because they will arrive on Thursday night.”
According to her, “They come in large numbers. Even if you like them like these ones (the girls on the bunk), we have them. That one there is my elder brother’s daughter, Ummi, she was also brought from Jigawa state to find a job too.”
She said Ummie was available to be picked and our correspondent could go ahead to pick her up immediately. However, our correspondent insisted on getting more girls so she could make her choice.
As the discussion went on, some of the women in the compound became suspicious of our correspondent. One of them summoned the lady and whispered something into her ears. She must have been cautioned about revealing too much because her countenance suddenly changed. She asked angrily, “Who described this place for you?”
She became hostile and changed the story about young girls being brought from the north for domestic work in Abuja. “We used to get the children coming before but they have finally stopped,” she said, before gesturing for THE WHISTLER to leave the house.
At this stage, the lady’s brother also stood up from the bed and said, “They have stopped bringing them here because our father used to quarrel with her (our mum) each time she brought them.
NAPTIP Fails To Act
On 12th October 2023, THE WHISTLER went to The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and reported the case. Our correspondent was directed to the investigation unit to meet Mr Bassey Ekong, Head of Investigation who requested for a written statement to enable them to formally get official permission from the Director General to work on the case.
Two days later when THE WHISTLER called Mr Ekong, he said the letter had been submitted to the DG’s office who had also minuted on it for action. “So, what we have deduced is to do surveillance work to know the area, the lifestyle of the area, before we work on it.”
Lawyer Speaks On Child Trafficking
John Wunfe Nimfas, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, said the provision of Trafficking in Person (Provisions) Law Enforcement and Administration Act 2015 proscribed such an act as offences and if found guilty, those involved would be sentenced accordingly.
He said: “In my view, to appreciate what child trafficking means, recourse must be made to the 2000 Palermo Protocol (Convention to prevent, suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children).
“According to the Protocol, trafficking of women and children means recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of person through threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction fraud, deception, abuse of power, giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of person having control over another person for exploitation.
“Thus, child trafficking in my view is where children are being tricked, forced or persuaded to leave their homes and are moved or transported and then exploited or forced to work. In essence, it is all about exploitation of a child either for work or sex.
“So, in Nigeria the law proscribed certain act as offences against a child such as child molestation, sexual exploitation, hazardous child labour or slavery-like condition, physical abuse and any act which involves recruitment, transportation or harbouring, sell or receipt of a child within or across Nigerian boarder involving the use of deceit or coercion constitutes an offence and punishable under the relevant laws.”
On the delay in the response of NAPTIP, the lawyer said it may be due to the usual lackadaisical attitude of government agencies.
“We all know how the Nigerian system works, especially the nonchalant attitude of government agencies saddled with the mandate of fighting crimes in Nigeria. The only repercussions I see on the part of NAPTIP, is that members of the public will lose confidence in the institution thereby increasing the rate of human trafficking in Nigeria,” he said.
Weeks After THE WHISTLER Uncovered Child Trafficking Syndicate, NAPTIP Fails To Act is first published on The Whistler Newspaper