By Sola Jacobs
“Dofi” is her real name, but her trafficker re-christened her “Blessing “and asked her to stick to the name, as she was tutored in a suburb of Irewole Local Government, which serves as dispersal unit of children who are used as labour. The unit is being run by a Benionise woman, who according to her, is married to a Benue man, who is a farmer in the locality.
This was revealed during the OSUN DEFENDER visit to the suburb in company of a woman who had always patronise the trafficker in search of domestic housemaids for its clients in Osogbo and other major towns in the state.
Investigations revealed that there are several points in the state serving as dispersal units for the trafficked children from within and outside Nigeria whose parents voluntarily released to traffickers for economic gains, as such children are either orphan, indigents or termed stubborn children by their parents.
According to the woman who was simply identified as Mama Lucky, in an interactive session with OSUN DEFEDER reporter, who also posed as a client in need a housemaid, most of the parents or guardians that are giving children to her for the illicit business were either unable to meet the basic needs of those children, hence there is a need to give them out as house helps, shop attendants and helping hands.
It was further gathered that in most cases, those children are out of school and are helping their parents on farm during planting season, after which they are given out for house helps in cities and towns, only to be returned to their localities for another farming season.
The medium gathered that the operators of the illicit business have an association, who are either farmers in the village and remotest place or engaging in commercial cycle business, while some of their mistresses operates beer parlour or drinking joints, which serve as dispersal units or offices.
Further investigation revealed that such dispersal units are situated in Ilobu, Ifewara, Ipetu-Ijesa, Osu and Oke-Ila area amongst others.
It was gathered that most of the operators are non-indigene of the state but because of availability of fertile land for farming operations and lumbering activities, they settled in those remote parts to indulge in the illicit trade.
On terms of agreement before a child can be handed over to an individual who want their patronage, the operator often demand for the transport fare of the ward, as well demand for their consultation fees, while a year fees must be paid upfront, when the person is satisfied with the boy or girl presented.
It was gathered that both sexes were available to the client as demands, but with a caveat such child must not be sent to school, as he or she is entitled to stay the client for only a year, after which the contract would be renewed. Such a child might be taken out of the household and replaced with another child.
Mama Lucky, as popularly called could not but confided in the medium that “these days our business is becoming more dangerous as the law enforcement agents are always on our trails and this takes more of our gain”.
The medium further queried whether she was once caught or questioned by the law enforcement agent, and she affirmed that she had been interrogated once by the anti-human trafficking unit of Nigeria Police Force in Osogbo, but was left off the hook afterward.
Sunday, a native of Benue State, aged 14 who serves as a house assistant in a home in Dada Estate, Osogbo told this medium that, “this is the third house in which he will be serving in the state, as I dropped out of the school after my father’s death in a communal clash and my mother had seven children in which I am the fifth child”.
He affirmed that he was ready to go back to school, if his link with the household he serves allows the sponsorship his education.
According to him, he did not know the amount paid to his link to the family whom he simply identified as “Uncle Peter”, but appreciated the household he serves, “because they take good care of me”.
In another encounter with Elizabeth, who claimed to be a native of Akwa-Ibom, but has served as domestic maids in several households in Ile-Ife, Ilesha and Osogbo respectively, said she was orphaned at the age of eight and now she is 18.
“I have had many experiences both good and ugly but it is not too good to be an housemaid. I thank God that now I had learned a trade through the help of the household where I served and I am being treated like one of their own, but I had to fight my Aunty who serves as our link, because she enjoyed the economic gain by shifting me from one house to the other which I refused. This earned me the opportunity to be trained as fashion designer with the help of the household in which I am serving and they had promised to set me up after the completion of my training”.
A police source at the anti-human trafficking unit affirmed the presence of human traffickers in the area aforementioned in the state, especially in rural communities of the state who poses as farmers, but in real sense they are human traffickers.
The source said, “In most cases, they are arrested but their cases died a natural death due to the inability to get witnesses or some intervention from well-meaning members of the society, as the elites women are the culprit who needed this hands to take care of their house or stay with their aged parents”.
He also said on several occasions, the illegal migrants recruited outside the country for house help jobs often bolt away with the valuables of their employers or gradually pilfering their valuables, and deposit it with neighbours or elsewhere.
Police source condemned the acts and agreed on the need to amend the lacuna in the responsibilities and duties of parents and guardian as stated in the Child Right Law, domesticated in the state which among others stated that “a child must work for the growth and development of his/her family” i.e. assist them in point of need, as this portion has made it impossible to prosecute the matter before law court.
She affirmed that even in some cases when an underage is arrested for street hawking, the same section is being quoted.
He however hinted that child trafficking cases in Osun had reduced to its barest minimum, as cases of ritual killings had scared off the operators who did not want to risk been charged for murder and other grievous crimes which might lead to life sentences.
She stressed that the establishment of NAPTIP office in Osogbo, the war against human trafficking will be won but not without advocacy, sensitization, proper community policing, synergy with NGOS group in the state and blocking the lacuna in the Child Right Law through legislative process, as well as collaboration of the member of the public.