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Civil Society And Human Trafficking In Benin City



1.1     Background of the Study

 Human trafficking is a major problem that still exists both in developed and developing countries around the world including Nigeria. The major aim of this project is to safeguard the rights of women and minors below the age of 18 years, used for the purpose of sex exploitation, forced labor, child labor and criminal activities. International trafficking in Nigeria is mainly concentrated in Edo state where families escape extreme poverty by sending a family member or members false hopes to Italy and other countries. Traffickers, often offer women and minors to travel to Europe with promises of good jobs, with an agreement of incur debt which takes 1-3 years to pay.

Edo state, particularly Benin City, has gained notoriety for human trafficking, especially for sexual exploitation. As the world has experienced globalization, the trafficking of human beings for sex has taken yet another turn. Human traffickers, aware of the risks involved in the trafficking of human beings, have set up sophisticated channels and networks for easy and undetected flow of trafficked persons. Irrespective of the interventions by international bodies, non-governmental organizations and national agencies to combat trafficking in Edo state, the region is still a hub for trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation.

In an attempt to combat the case of human trafficking in Benin metropolis, The Edo Women’s Development Initiative, EWDI, recently unveiled programmes and policies aimed at tackling the spectre of human trafficking in persons, especially women and young girls in Edo state.

A statement from EWDI secretariat in Benin City, signed by its secretary, Dr. Rosaline Osemetiti Okosun, said that because thousands of African women from West Africa are annually trafficked to Western Europe for forced commercial sex work, her organization will not rest on its oars until it helps to mitigate the problem.

Nigeria, she continued, is said to be the largest single source of trafficked women in Europe and the Middle East, with an estimated 10,000 Nigerian sex workers in Italy, many of them victims of trafficking.

“What we hope to achieve with our 4th EWDI Conference in Benin is bring relevant stakeholders in government, civil society and religious bodies together to allocate time, resources and energy to first arrest the ugly trend of selling our womanhood abroad. We would then be putting heads together to rejuvenate our cultures, mores and traditions in such a manner as to help with the reorienting of the psyche of our women, mothers and young girls.”[1]

During the IOM Regional Director Richard Danziger to Gov. Obaseki in Benin City in support of moves against human trafficking. He affirmed that “Edo state administration has set the pace in the way it has continued to manage the issue of irregular migration and human trafficking and it has set a template for others to borrow from”. He added that we need to assist the victims but we also need to address the root causes of migration or this problem will carry on.

Edo state plans to ensure the eradication of human trafficking and irregular migration affecting the region by 2020, mainly through its new Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (TiP/SoM) Taskforce-established in 2017 in a bid to provide home-grown solutions to “the menace which has bedeviled the society”.

 Usually women and minors are trafficked from developing countries to developed countries, because they are not provided with employment and education, thereby forcing them to search for better means of living and opportunities around the world. The danger associated with human smuggling gives traffickers an upper hand to exploit the situation and make thousands of dollars; people pass through harsh conditions and intense measure during the process. Thus this research will look into the depth, factors, scope, and implications of human trafficking in Nigeria society with focus on Edo State as a case study.


1.2 Statement of the Research Problems

Benin City has remained the hometown of the most trafficked girls from Nigeria. Several researchers around the world have visited Benin in order to understand the reasons the city has continued to lead other towns in Nigeria as regards trafficking for sexual exploitation. These scholars have left the city with different perceptions of the problem (trafficking). Thus, most literatures have dealt with the problem of trafficking in Benin on the surface without an in-depth study of the people, culture and values. Some posits that prostitution is part of Benin culture, while others contend that poverty and greed are the major forces behind prostitution among Benin girls.

 Predominantly, among these are poverty, large family size, peer pressure, lack of educational opportunities, and lack of employment. Other factors facilitating trafficking in persons in Benin, Nigeria include ignorance on the part of families and children of the risks involved in trafficking, the high demand for cheap and submissive child labour in the informal economic sector, the desire of youth for emancipation through migration, institutional lapses such as inadequate political commitment, non-existent national legislation against trafficking in human beings, and the absence of a judicial framework allowing for the perpetrators and accomplices of trafficking to be held responsible and punished for their acts. Other contributory factors in trafficking in persons in the region include porous borders, corrupt government officials, involvement of international organized crime groups or networks, limited capacity of or commitment by immigration and law enforcement officers to control trafficking at the borders and lack of political will or desire to enforce existing legislation or mandates.

Since time immemorial human trafficking has existed in many parts of the world in various forms but was not considered a serious social problem until recent official discourse and media reporting (Weitzer, 2014; Farell & Fahy, 2009; Gulati, 2011). There is now a consensus that human trafficking is a multifaceted global problem that continues to negatively impact a broad range of people including the trafficked individual, their family and the wider community (Ikeora, 2016). However, given the complex nature of human trafficking, it is difficult to amass reliable data document local, regional, and global prevalence (US Department of state TIP Report, 2016) and it is impossible to satisfactorily estimate the magnitude of profits within this illicit, clanderine, underground economy at the macro level – nationally or internationally (Weitzer, 2014).

Despite documented difficulties in obtaining reliable estimates, there have been numerous attempts at estimating the scope of the problem. For example, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated in 2014 that forced labour and other forms of human trafficking in the private economy reaps some US$150 billion in illicit profits each year.

However, media is one of the challenges confronting the civil society organization in curbing human trafficking in Edo state by furnishing the general public agencies with so much detailed information about the returnees and thereby putting the lives of the victims and members of non-governmental organizations at risk. Also, the media can have substantial effects on how the public perceives and understand trafficking in person and creating public intolerance to the crime and educating the public as to the part they can play in resisting it but they choose to throw that under the carpet, instead they come on air giving appraisal to individuals and institutions which will render them fruitlessly.

There is high level of aid dependency because the main sources of civil society organization funding are from state government and international aid.  Government are slow in processing, responding and acting in partnership situation. Often times, government delay or even default in counterpart funding. Where funds pass through the state agencies or governments give out funds, the recipient are often some obscure NGOs and the funds may be diverted from the means which the funds are sourced. The international organizations may delay or defaulted in remitting the pledges to the civil society organization and non-government organization to finance the anti-trafficking initiatives, skills, health care and community projects that will transform the lives of the rescued victims. Similarly, government while valuing the contribution of CSOs in anti-trafficking work has not been providing any financial support to ensure sustainability of their work. CSOs have had scramble for funding from private entities and international donors.


1.3            Research Questions

In the course of embarking on this research work, a number of questions were being administered to guide this work.

i.                   What are the factors hindering the curbing of human trafficking in Edo State?

ii.                 What problems do civil society organizations encounter in the course of enhanced awareness campaigns concentrating specifically on different forms of sex exploitation?

iii.              What are the government agencies and non-governmental organizations involved in anti-trafficking initiatives in the country?

iv.              Are the victim protection been strengthened through the collaboration/cooperation between the Nigerian agencies and international countries?


1.4             Aim and Objectives of the Study

The study aims at documenting the role of civil society organization in human trafficking in Benin City. The objectives of the study are four folds:

1.     To examine critically the factors hindering the curbing of human trafficking in Edo State.

2.     Promote enhanced awareness campaigns concentrating specifically on different forms of exploitation, especially targeting the demand for sexual and labour exploitation.

3.     To identify the governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in anti-trafficking initiatives in the country.

4.     Describe cooperation between agencies within a country and between countries and challenges and recommendations for good practices.

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study is relevant both theoretically and practically. On the theoretical side, the study will provide the general public with information on the involvement of Edo government and non-governmental organizations in human trafficking. This study intends to add to the body of existing knowledge on human trafficking generally and specifically, female trafficking in Nigeria.

In practical terms, the awareness that this study will create, may serve as a strategy for strengthening crime prevention against human trafficking, especially to the inhabitants of Edo state as well as Nigeria as a whole. It will be useful to the body charged with combating human trafficking (NAPTIP), because this study will further encourage awareness campaigns; when people are informed the chances of their being at risk is significantly reduced.


1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This research work encompasses civil society and human trafficking in Benin City, Nigeria. The efforts they make toward combating the problems of trafficking in humans.

The research work was successfully carried out, but this cannot be said to be without some challenges or limitations. These limitations are not but limited to the following sense of limitation to the study:

Limited information due to refusal of the Edo state government and his entire communities to release the direct document to the researcher was a serious limitation; rather it was interview that was allowed.

Time is a critical resource vital for the achievement of any meaningful research work, and this is resource that is constraint in this study has to be completed within a defined and tight time schedule designated for the entire degree programme workload which includes the regular class work. However, the time devoted to this project work was insufficient for the scope of the study.


1.7 Research Methodology

During the course of this research, interviews and observations were carried out in the area command of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in person (NAPTIP henceforth), a state agency that handles cases of trafficking in Edo state.  

Based on the documented evidence from the NAPTIP report 2018, it was clearly stated that Edo, Kano, and Delta state are leading trafficking in Nigeria. Meanwhile, their response was that 11819 human traffickers were rescued up till December 2018 and Edo State has one-fifth or 21 percent of the rescued victims, Kano has 10 while Delta has 7.2 percent.

Although much work has been done in the general area of human trafficking, there is a general paucity of data especially about the trafficking of women. This is mainly due as Lipede (2007) acknowledged, to the clandestine nature of the trade. This has compelled us to rely heavily on secondary literature sources such as reports, journals, books, newspapers, magazines and the internet for our data.





1.8  Theoretical Framework

 Though there are many theories of social marketing in addressing the problems associated with human trafficking in Nigeria but for the purpose of this research we shall critically examine three theories. They include:

Limited Theory

Research on human trafficking, particularly for labour trafficking, is disconnected from theory, with no attempt to develop a new theoretical framework with which to comprehensively analyse the phenomenon (Gozdziak & Bump, 2008). Currently, poverty and the aspiration for a better way of life are the most cited explanations for human trafficking (Williams & Masika, 2002). Within those studies that have offered theoretical framework for understanding human trafficking in Nigeria (Ebbe, 2008; Jegede et al, 2011; Attoh, 2009; Enaikele & Olutayo, 2011).

Jegede et al. (2011) argue that human traffickers are innovators who have designed their own means to achieve success in Nigeria where riches are over-celebrated, but very limited opportunities exist for many citizens to acquire wealth. To worsen the situation, even those who have followed the institutionalized path of acquiring a good education are left with poorly paid jobs or none at all. Hence, their interests are easily aroused to survive at all costs, including engaging in the business of trafficking in human beings.

Attoh (2009) agrees that within the Nigeria city of Benin’s social classes, those who have internalized the values of success without the attendant means of attaining such cultural goals via a good education or requisite skills tend to be susceptible to trafficking.

Enaikele & Olutayo (2011) also propose the functionalist theory, in addition to George Herbert Mead’s interactionist theory (1967) and Marxian (1867) perspectives to explain the human trafficking phenomenon in Nigeria. The authors argue that human trafficking, as a crime, is both a spontaneous phenomenon and a product of capitalist society characterized by exploitation and reinforced by poverty, inequality, marginalization, limited opportunities or life chances and social exclusion of the victims. In Nigeria, while great importance is attached to success, relatively little importance is placed on the acceptability of the ways of achieving it (Enaikele & Olutayo, 2011).

Omorodion (2009) agrees that the social pressure to accumulate wealth and enhance social status tend to increase the vulnerability of individuals and groups, particularly the marginalized and socially disadvantaged, into deviant behavior or anomie such as trafficking for the sex trade. It is within this context that female exchange their bodies as a survival mechanism not just for themselves, but also for their families.

The problem with these theoretical frameworks is their focus remains on the downstream (individual) and their motivations. While these theories do explain human trafficking to an extent, their predominant focus on the individual and on sex trafficking do not take into account other forms of human trafficking in Nigeria, such as internal trafficking for labour.

Consumer Socialization Theory

Brennan et al. (2014) introduced a series of sociocultural ecological models to address the environment within which an individual’s problem behavior occurs. Sociocultural models extend beyond the individual as decision maker to include social and cultural factors. The sociocultural ecological model chosen as one of the theories for the midstream component of this program of research is consumer socialization theory. In social marketing, consumer socialization theory is the process of developing skills, knowledge, beliefs and attitudes relevant to functioning in the marketplace through social interaction with socialization agents.

Brennan et al. (2014) argue that in order for family members to function as socialization agents they need to provide positive outcomes from the learning process, and these positive rewards need to be associated with the process over an extended period for socialization to occur. Consumer socialization is therefore a lifelong process as consumer continues to learn from others through their lifetimes (Ekstrom, 2006). Awareness of these dynamics is important to social marketers so that human trafficking prevention programs can be directed at the most appropriate family members (Brennan et al. (2014).

Given the role of family members and close associates in influencing individuals into voluntary human trafficking (Cherti et al, 2013; Okojie, 2009; Abdulraheem & oladipo, 2010), consumer socialization theory offers an appropriate lens for exploring the nature of these social influences.

Cultural Hegemony

Another critical theory that explains sociocultural influences beyond the push/pull factors of individual motivation is neo-Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s concept of cultural hegemony (1971). Gramsci initially introduced the concept of cultural hegemony as the practices of a capitalist class or its representatives to gain state power and maintain it. Cultural hegemony has also been used to describe how a particular worldview diffuses throughout society and becomes upheld as the dominant view or as cultural norms.

In Nigeria, interstate and overseas travel or migration as a means to improving individual social and economic condition is an aspiration nursed by most working class Nigerian families as a result of the precedent that has been set by the upper socioeconomic classes of Nigerian society. Cherty et al. (2013) found widespread willingness of parents to send their children to Europe, with 60 percent agreeing that they would send their children to Europe if they had the opportunity. This deeply ingrained hegemony of migrating overseas for greener pastures is perhaps the single biggest selling point of human trafficking for trafficked persons, to which traffickers are able to appeal directly. Furthermore, according to Aghatise (2002) sending female children abroad is a status symbol for many parents in Nigeria. Okojie (2009) agrees that parents actively encourage their daughters to be trafficked abroad using social pressures, such as the example of peers who have gone abroad and assisted their families, to gain their daughters’ acquiescence; and that parents boast about their children working abroad and the economic returns they derive from it, such as cars, houses, investments etc.

Another cultural hegemony evident in the Nigerian case is the unscrupulous pursuit of capital and materialism, where wealth is celebrated and ‘undue honour’ is accorded to wealthy individuals in their communities without regard to the sources of their wealth (Dave-Odigie, 2 008). Also, as Jenkins (2014) observes, Nigerians respect power and money and the belief that ‘my time will come’ is widespread among people. Unlike in many other places where individuals believe their socioeconomic status in society is fixed, in Nigeria everybody is rich-in-waiting (Jenkins, 2014).

 In conclusion, it is evident that sociocultural influences such as family, culture and traditional practices can also contribute to the problem of human trafficking in Nigeria, yet little formative research framed by theory has been conducted on the experiences of these important influences or how they can be targeted for change. Therefore, this research seeks to understand the sociocultural influences of family and culture across human trafficking endemic states in Nigeria, framed by limited theory, consumer socialization theory, and cultural hegemony. The study provides actionable insights that social marketers can use to develop social marketing programs targeting the sociocultural influences around trafficked individuals and vulnerable individuals.


1.9 Literature Review

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery, either by recruitment or transfer of people using force or abduction, deception or receiving payment to get consent of a person to have control over another person (Patrick, 2013). Victims are generally recruited through promises of an education, a good paying job, or marriage arrangements (Angela, 2012) and many other enticing factors. The trafficking of women and children is the most common global problem affecting different communities and countries (Obi & Dilip, 2008). Mainly for prostitution and sex slavery, labor exploitation, transnational organized crimes (John, Benjamin, & Philip, 2012).

Human trafficking has a complex nature involving the violations of human rights, labor standards, and gender discrimination (Rasheed , 2003). Young women, girls and boys are trafficked from rural areas to urban areas in the country to serve as house help with little or no pay for the services rendered (Okogbule, 2013). The supply and demand created a booming business for traffickers because there are low start-up costs, high profits and minimal risks making this trade more attractive for all involved (Louise , 2010).  Nigeria was listed among the world’s top eleven countries practicing modern-day slavery by the United Nations as of 2005, classified as a country that doesn’t fully comply with the efforts to eliminate trafficking (Kathryn, 2009).

Edo state citizens monopolize the Schengen states especially to Italy (Angela, 2012). Nigeria has been recognized as one of the highest countries where youths are unemployed, and forced to look for other alternative like prostitution because it is a quicker means of getting money overtime (Angela, 2012). Conditions at which people are smuggled are unbearable; they go through poor routes just to avoid law enforcement, police roads, and border checkpoints, also to minimize cost for the traffickers (Louise, 2010). Women from Nigeria have been offered assistance on the streets of Palermo (Italy), to separate them from their exploiter and debt bondage to traffickers (Jeffrey, 2006).

Thus, the situation got the attention of ECOWAS policy maker, which put in place a concrete plan of action to tackle the issues of trafficking in West Africa (B., 2012). Slavery has long been regarded as a crime against humanity and prohibited in the International Criminal Court making it punishable irrespective of where it occurred, also a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a legal mechanism for combating the practice.

Nigeria and Italy are heavily affected by the problem of human trafficking of women both minors and adults for sexual exploitation. Sexual abuse include exploitation of prostitution and pornography (Okojie et al, 2003) thus, it is projected that Nigerian and Albanian citizens make up a sizeable proportion of about 20,000 immigrant in women brought to Italy for the purposes of prostitution (Okojie et al,  2003), trafficking of women has dated back to the end of the 80’s. The Nigerian government over the years has expressed her commitment to fighting the trafficking of humans irrespective of their ages, sex and gender. Thus law have been enacted and established to help in fighting this menace. 

Over the past decade, civil society has played a pivotal role in the fight against trafficking in person. A multifaceted and complex phenomenon, trafficking in person must be addressed at various levels. Members of civil society have worked alone or by joining forces with law enforcement groups, legislators, national governments, and international organizations while designing strategies of prevention, protection, prosecution, advocacy, and research.

Whether by (a) raising awareness about the various related issues, (b) empowering at risk communities and individuals to make them less vulnerable to the lure of traffickers, (c) assisting identifying victims and investigating trafficking cases, (d) providing services to victim to guide them along their rehabilitation and reintegration path, (e) conducting research on various aspects of the problem, or (f) advocating for legislative or policy change, the representatives of civil society have significantly contributed to tackling this grave and horrific crime.

With extremely limited funds and other resources, civil society organizations have provided psychosocial, medical, legal and other types of assistance to survivors of trafficking including returnees from Libya and other countries. Under the most constricting conditions, they have also been operating shelters for all victims, women, men, boys and girls, often hosting survivors that public entities cannot care for. CSOs have made relentless efforts to provide skills training and identify viable employment and business opportunities for survivors in a context of economic recession and high rate of youth unemployment in the country.

In addition, given that the mission of civil society differs from that of governmental and non-governmental organisations, its activities in the anti-trafficking sphere may sometimes be regarded as too critical towards governmental policies. While the engagement of civil society in victim support and counselling may be welcomed by the authorities, the critical response of civil society to state activities with regard to  combating trafficking and protecting and assisting its victims, as well as those at risk of being trafficked, may not always be valued and in fact can provoke resentment. In this regard, it is worth underlining that although state and non-state actors, including NGOs, have different interests and roles that can sometimes lead to tensions, there is a clear continuity in their efforts. Moreover, they are expected to have the same ultimate goal, namely, fighting the crime of human trafficking, assisting its victims and improving the overall situation.

Thus, while most anti-trafficking NGOs were initially involved in this work alongside a focus on women’s rights or domestic violence, with the passing of time many more civil society organizations operating in a variety of social fields also adopted an anti-trafficking agenda (or a modern slavery agenda). Such NGOs include those working on human rights, migrant rights, asylum, social exclusion and marginalization, child issues, non-discrimination, corporate social responsibility and business and human rights. Trade unions have also become more active and engaged, as have alternative workers organizations and initiatives.

A sustainable strategy for including civil society in the anti-trafficking response needs to reflect the many contributions that civil society can provide, while at the same time taking into consideration the potential tensions of a governmental/ non-governmental partnership.


[1] 4th Annual Edo Women’s Conference, “Modern Day Slavery: Policies and Programmes to Combat Trafficking in Edo State” 13th July, 2017 url.


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