Causes and Effects of Human Trafficking in Nigeria

Human Trafficking in Nigeria: Causes, Consequences, and the way forward

Summary: From available statistics, an estimated 500,000 women are brought into the United States of America and Europe yearly for sexual and domestic exploitation and servitude. Of the over 70,000 African victims of women trafficking, Nigerian women account for 70 percent of those trafficked to Italy alone. In this article, we take a look at the causes and consequences of the human trafficking in Nigeria with a view to proffering possible solutions to the problem. Findings indicate that some of the factors responsible for human trafficking in Nigeria include unemployment, poverty, and ignorance. Human trafficking, especially of young girls and women into exploitative commercial and sexual labor, is gaining local, national and international attention from humanity across the globe. Furthermore, human trafficking has far-reaching social, economic, health and political consequences.

What is Human Trafficking?

This involves the act and attempted act of recruitment and transportation of persons (both male and female) within or across borders. However, for the purpose of this article, we shall dwell on women trafficking.

Women Trafficking:

This refers to the recruitment and transportation of women across national or international borders either voluntarily or involuntarily, for sexual or domestic purposes. It also includes the purchase, sale, transfer, receipt or harboring of young girls and women through deception for the purpose of subjecting the women and girls to involuntary servitude.

Women traffickers in Nigeria are organized criminal rings involved in the smuggling (illegal transportation) of women across national borders to regional destinations (e.g. Europe and Italy).

The Trafficking of Women in Nigeria

Findings indicate that trafficked women from Nigeria mainly go to Europe for prostitution, especially Italy, Spain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

According to Advocacy Project, Nigerian women make up 70 per cent of approximately 70,000 African victims of trafficking and about 70 percent of these Nigerian women end up in Italy.

Nigerian women and girls, hoping to escape poverty at home, voluntarily migrate to Europe and America in response to job offers as domestic workers or waitresses. However, upon arrival in their country of destination, many of these women discover to their dismay that it is not the much-expected greener pasture, as the majority of them found them trapped in forced prostitution, saddled with exorbitant debts and compelled to work under unbearable conditions.

Many of those who are trafficked to Europe for prostitution have tended to be from Edo, and Delta States.

Although more than 90 percent of the girls and women trafficked from Nigeria are believed to come from the southern part of the country with Edo State leading ( with 90%) followed by Delta (5%) and the rest of the country trailing with 5%, human trafficking in the northern part of the country is believed to be growing.

Causes of Human (Women) Trafficking in Nigeria

Human trafficking (especially women) seems to be thriving. The global trade of ‘human goods’ seems to have attained a level comparable to those of the illicit trades in drugs and weapons. In terms of numbers, the major victims are women and children who are forced into prostitution or forced labor.

Two main reasons are responsible for the prevalence of human trafficking in Nigeria. These include, firstly, harsh living conditions mostly characterized by poverty, unemployment, and a lack of opportunities in the country, secondly, the demand that exists in the rich countries of the West.

Under such circumstances, the victims are exploited as cheap labor in the restaurant trade or the sex industry through forced marriage and illegal adoption. Some of the trafficked women chose to migrate for sex work because of the realization that the sex trade is profitable.

Due to unemployment in Nigeria, Nigerians seek to migrate to work in richer countries in order to improve their economic standing at home. Often, women migrants who had no access to jobs often take to prostitution as an option.

Another factor behind the trafficking in women in Nigeria is the non-enforcement of legislation criminalizing the practice. Though the Nigerian constitution prohibits the buying and selling of human beings for prostitution, the law has had little impact due to corruption.

In summary, the major causes behind the trafficking of women in Nigeria include widespread unemployment and poverty, a high level of illiteracy and ignorance, poor living standards as well as burdens of desperation of poor and illiterate parents with large families who are ignorant of the consequences of human trafficking.

Consequences of Human (Women) Trafficking in Nigeria

Trafficking in women is a global problem affecting large numbers of girls and women. It is lucrative and is linked with criminal activity and corruption, as it is often hidden and hard to address.

1. Trauma and Abuse:

Women who have been trafficked face a range of dangers, including violence and sexual abuse. Indeed, women’s physical and mental well being is harmed by the isolation they suffer by being confined in closed apartments and the restriction of their movements.

2. Health Impacts:

There is also the more worrisome health impact of women trafficking. Women trafficking pose a serious danger to Nigerian women because of the high incidence of Human Immune-deficiency Virus/Acquired Immune-deficiency Syndrome HIV/AIDS infection among deported Nigerian girls and women.

Actually, in many rural Nigerian villages and even urban centers, it is common to find young women and girls who were sold into prostitution in Italy and elsewhere and who had contracted AIDS abandoned to their fate.

In general, women and girls are more vulnerable to HIV and AIDs infection, thus trafficked girls and women are most at risk. In the case of those trafficked for purposes of commercial sex work, their vulnerability is increased because trafficked persons are unable to insist upon condom use. Moreover, trafficked persons may be forced to perform those sexual practices most associated with AIDS transmission. Furthermore, trafficked persons are forced to have sex with multiple partners. Violence in commercial sex is common; especially where women or children are forced to have sex against their will.

Many trafficked persons have other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) due to forced and unsafe sexual activities. This heightens the risk of contracting HIV by up to a factor of 10.

According to UNICEF, the consequences of women trafficking from Nigeria include loss of lives, increasing prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, increase in violence and crime rate, increased school drop-out rates, impaired child development, poor national image and massive deportation of Nigerian girls and women.


In this article, we identified the causes and consequences of human (women) trafficking from Nigeria to America and Europe. From our findings, poverty is the single most important factor responsible for the migration of Nigerian girls and women for prostitution abroad. Therefore, in order to eliminate the problem of human trafficking from Nigeria, it is necessary to address the issues of poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy adequately.


From the foregoing, the following recommendations are made to stem the tide of the trafficking of women in Nigeria:

Poverty and massive unemployment are the major factors responsible for trafficking of women in Nigeria. Therefore, there is the need to make efforts to address the root causes of the trafficking of women, which among others are poverty and unemployment.


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