Causes of Human Trafficking in Nigeria

Causes of Human Trafficking in Nigeria

In this article, we take a look at some of the factors that force women and girls into the human trafficking industry. Poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, seem to be the root causes of this phenomenon.

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking can be defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

In other words, human trafficking (trade in human beings) can be defined as act of moving a person or persons after having recruited the person, from one place to another with the promise of giving the person a job or an offer to marriage, using fraud, deception, coercion or force.

In whatever way we look at the phenomenon, the end result of trafficking is forced labour or sexual exploitation, either which is a gross infringement on individuals fundamental human rights.

Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

The crime of human trafficking is therefore a crime of exploitation.

Nature of Human Trafficking in the Nigeria

Some factors responsible for human trafficking, which however are not peculiar to Nigeria are: poverty (a principal driving force), ignorance, illiteracy, greed, inequality, gender-induced cultural bias, persistent unemployment, high demand for cheap labour; desire for youth emancipation; poor leadership; porous borders, lack of strong political will; access to education, sex-selective migration policies, HIV and AIDS, AIDS Orphans, human deprivation, etc.

There are two different kinds of trafficking that Nigeria is notoriously known for: internal and external trafficking.

Internal trafficking is in the form of domestic servitude and street begging, while external trafficking is mostly about sex trafficking and domestic labour. It is important to note that the dynamics of the trade sometimes differs from one zone to another. For example, Edo/Delta is majorly known for sex trafficking and accounts for 95% of incidence of trafficking in Nigeria. Lagos and Ogun are known for child labour and domestic servitude while Benue and Sokoto for street begging and domestic servitude.

Trafficking in persons, in particular women and children, is enhanced by a number of factors. In the case of women and children trafficked from Nigeria, the difficult socioeconomic environment and deep-rooted poverty, are major reasons for human trafficking.

Nigeria is said to be the main supplier of children for labour into different parts of the West African sub-region or across much of Africa. Girls are trafficked for domestic labour while boys are trafficked into informal sectors on plantation.

Furthermore, some forms of human trafficking that have been identified in Africa and Nigeria include child trafficking for domestic and work in farms, sexual trafficking of women and children within and overseas. Recently, trafficking in Nigeria had taken another dimension, as it has incorporated baby selling and organ harvesting.

Statistically, Edo State of Nigeria accounts for an exceedingly high proportion of trafficked women taken into prostitution beyond the shores of the country. However, the Nigerian government has not been resting on its oars with regards to curbing the rising trend of human trafficking in the country. In 2003, the national assembly promulgated the law to combat human trafficking in the country.

The imposing of life imprisonment for human trafficking shows how serious the Nigerian government views human trafficking, especially the trafficking of children or minors.

The agency established to ensure this Act is implemented is the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), which has been very active in trying to combat the menace with the collaboration of other security agencies.

Though the law enforcement agents had been making concerted efforts, much ground still needs to be covered in the war against human trafficking. For every trafficker that is apprehended, there are several hundreds who may be utilizing some of the many unmanned illegal routes across the country’s borders. This makes the war against human trafficking in Nigeria a difficult one indeed.

Causes of Human Trafficking in Nigeria

1. Porous Borders:

Human trafficking in Nigeria is blamed on the problem of limited capacity of customs and immigration agencies to police the country’s borders as well as the lack of a legal frameworks and policies to fight against this crime.

2. Poverty:

A major cause of human trafficking in Nigeria is poverty. Poverty in Nigeria wears a multitude of faces and numerous dimensions, ranging from inadequate income to unmet basic needs.

For poor women specially, it is a factor that impedes their access to employment, educational opportunities and other resources.

Poverty could be seen as a capability deprivation evidenced in the ability to function in the society so as to achieve certain doings’ constitutive of well-being. Most trafficked women lack assets and capabilities to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives.

Despite enormous incomes derived from oil sale, the scope of poverty has become a national embarrassment.

The situation is worse for most women who are the hardest hit by the current economic recession. They constitute the majority of the unemployed, the poor, and the socially disadvantaged.

For these women, the social dimension of poverty manifests itself in terms of low status, lack of dignity or self esteem, vulnerability and even marginalization.

As a result of these factors many women are currently being forced to leave home and look for work elsewhere. For these women the choice is mostly between exploitation in employment, or survival on the margins. Living on the margins has been known to result in women’s vulnerabilities, especially to human traffic barons.

3. Illiteracy:

Certainly, there are close linkages between poverty and widespread illiteracy as well as unsafe and un-informed migration, and a lack of awareness of HIV/AIDS.

Illiteracy deprives the poor, especially trafficked women, the information and control over their lives necessary for protection against HIV. This situation may lead poor migrant women (due to powerlessness) to risky behavior in order to survive, and at the same time prevent them from taking protective actions.

Not well equipped educationally and economically, many of the trafficked women are exposed to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. There is a close relationship between human trafficking, international prostitution and the augmented threat of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

Available reports show that the country has in recent years witnessed an alarming increase in incidences of HIV/AIDS.

Women are the most vulnerable group with regards to HIV/AIDS menace and women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS can be attributed to biological, economic, cultural and gender norms, gender relations and sexual practices.


In Nigeria, the human trafficking in (trafficking in women) for the purpose of sexual exploitation is an increasing type of organized crime. In this article, we examined the causes of human trafficking in Nigeria to include poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, etc. In our submission, human trafficking in Nigeria is a cruel act that ought to be addressed holistically. There is the need to tackle the problem through policy, action at different levels. This will go a long way to prevent trafficking, and provide support and protection of victims.


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