For long, Ebonyi has been infamous for several reasons. It has been described as a factory where house helps, kids hawking on major streets of urban cities, children that labour at rice mills and quarries and others are produced in large quantity.
But right now, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP) is getting worried about the state. NAPTIP said Ebonyi State produces about 75 per cent of the entire victims of child labour and kid hawkers from the South-East.
The agency, fully committed to the prevention of all forms of human degradation and exploitation, in an effort to stamp out human trafficking, liberate the vulnerable, especially women and children from dehumanisation, exploitative employment and ensure their rehabilitation and effective reintegration into society, recently embarked on a sensitisation drive to the womenfolk to campaign against child abuse.
The Enugu Zonal Head of the agency, Mrs. Nkiru Emmanuel, went round the communities in Ebonyi State, talking to the women and men alike against the ills of child abuse and exploitation and engaging the under-aged in labour at rice mills and quarries.
Emmanuel frowned at such abuse and warned that the agency would not spare anyone found to have abused the under-aged, engaged them in exploitative labour, slavery and sexual exploitation, forced labour and other related matters.
She reminded them that such an offender risks being sanctioned according to the law as stipulated in the statute book.
According to the Zonal Head of the Agency, NAPTIP came into existence as a response to the scourge of human trafficking, child abuse and child labour in the country.
She told Daily Sun in an exclusive interview that the agency was in Ebonyi State, which falls under the Enugu Zone made up of Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia and Imo States, because the state was plagued with different types of trafficking and child labour.
Her words: “In Ebonyi particularly, child abuse is noticed. Most of them are not sending their children to school. Instead, they send them out to beg, hawk, work in the quarries and also in the rice mills. That is why we are particular about Ebonyi. And also, this issue of house help syndrome is endemic in this state, even child labour. When I talk about child labour, it involves both sexes. And when I talk about house help, it involves both sexes.
“We have house girls, house boys and the victims we are getting in this South-Eastern zone, 75 per cent of them are from Ebonyi State. So, that is why we are using this meeting of women to sensitise on this issue. In Ebonyi, there are 13 local government areas and each of these local governments has its different days of meeting and all the communities in the local government are represented at the meeting.
“So, we wish to sensitise them so that they will be able to carry out the message to the grassroots because our mandate this year, particularly, is that everybody must hear about this evil called human trafficking and child labour.”
Asked what the core message to the women was, she replied: “The message is for every woman. We are the pillars, the foundation in every society, every state.
“So, when you educate a woman, you have succeeded in educating a nation and some of our mothers are the ones sending out their children. So, we want them to know what is happening. Like, if you don’t have access to the child you are sending out, you can’t call the child… And some of these women are in the rural areas. They don’t even know where Lagos is and you are sending your child there and you can’t even travel to where your child is located.
“So, don’t send your child where you don’t know or have access to. Don’t you see it as a result of poverty?
“Yes, poverty is part of it, but there are other factors. Being uninformed is one factor because they can’t come and deceive you or I. It is only the uninformed, the uneducated ones that they can deceive. And when a woman cannot take care of the number of children she has, she decides to give out some.
“Another factor is greed because they have the food, the clothing and shelter, so what are you looking for? Maybe you have a bungalow, and you are looking for a storey building. You now decide to send out your child to get the money for you. Another factor is laziness. Some parents are lazy and even when you talk to them, they become aggressive and angry about it and will ask you if they are not their children.
“On the issue of those that work in rice mills and quarries, we have carried out sensitization where we invited them and sensitised them.
“Then, after that, if it continues we have to arrest them.”
Emmanuel mentioned offences that attract various sentences as procurement of any person for illicit intercourse with another person; causing or encouraging the seduction or prostitution of any person under 18 years and the procurement of any person less than 18 years to have unlawful carnal knowledge, either in Nigeria or outside Nigeria.
She explained that there were two types of trafficking; internal and external.
“While internal trafficking is all about street begging, house-help syndrome, forced marriage kidnapping, ritual and unpaid labour, external trafficking is all about exploitative labour, pornography, prostitution and homosexualism, drug peddling and recruitment for war,” she said.
Emmanuel also spoke about the causes of human trafficking.
She said: “They include, ignorance, low level of education, unemployment, poverty, greed, increased demand for cheap labour and peer pressure, while negative effects of human trafficking include, among other things, impaired growth on children, negative impact on national image, bad health such as HIV, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and negative effect on the country’s culture,” she explained. Mrs. Emmanuel argued that women should effectively participate in curbing the trend.”
She urged women leaders to select trustworthy women to form a committee in charge of taking children outside their homes.
“This committee should also be in charge of human trafficking activities in their area and should report back to us as a kind of follow-up,” she suggested.
She also advised that women should not give out their children to unknown persons or allow their children, especially the girl child, to be taken to places where they would not have access to them.
She cautioned against handing out their female children to people of questionable character who might want to use them for prostitution outside the country.
The NAPTIP boss reminded the women that children are gifts from God and as such proper care should be accorded them.
Emmanuel also warned them to be careful of people with sugar-coated tongues who come to take away their child promising to do all sorts of goodies for the child.
She said many people come with the intention to take them for prostitution and slavery outside the country where they are subjected to all kinds of forced labour.
While noting that even boys are subjected to prostitution, she advised mothers to monitor the whereabouts of their children.
She said: “You should be sure of where your child is. Even some that take them as house helps also use them as slaves from one family to the other only to collect money.”
She warned that those found indulging in such abominable acts as well as parents who use their children to beg for alms would equally face the consequences as prescribed by law.