How human traffickers lure victims

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By Funke Busari

For ages, human trafficking has been known to mankind. There was the sale of Joseph to Egypt by his brothers, as recorded in the Holy Bible. Biblical and Islamic historians and archaeologists claim that the incident occurred about 4000 years ago.XxxxxxXxxxxx XxxxXxxx

According to the Bible, Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery for 20 pieces of silver by his 

brothers, out of hatred for being the favourite child of their father.

This concept is no different today, as human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring and/or receipt of a person, while the act employs threat or use of force, deception, abduction, the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability, or other forms of

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 coercion. The purpose of human trafficking is exploitation, which can include the prostitution of others, forced labour, slavery or servitude.

In the 21st century, human trafficking has taken different dimensions.

Beyond the common ways which humans have been trafficked against their wishes, the menace seems to have metamorphosed into criminal enterprise.

Sport enthusiasts have fallen prey to cross border traffickers due to promises of better professional prospects from their supposed scouts to places like Europe or Asia.

Fast forward to 2022, exploitation of young footballers in developing countries, particularly being trafficked from South America and Africa into Europe and Asia did not in any way nosedive.

Director of the Public Enlightenment Department, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Mr Josiah Emerole, explained at a forum in Asaba, Delta State that more than 15,000 children are trafficked into Europe every year with false hopes of making it as professional footballers.

“Traffickers, representing themselves as “agents” of foreign football leagues, prey on families desperate for a better life for their children, convincing the families to pay the traffickers “fees” to create the opportunity for the players to try out for European football teams, then absconding with the money and often leaving the young footballers stranded in Europe and other parts of the world.”

But that is not all there is, about human traffickers exploiting their target.

Though surrogacy, is fast gaining ground in the country, commercialising the act is unfavourably frowned at, at least in this part of the world.

In Nigeria, surrogacy is not expressly prohibited. It is also not legally acknowledged, as there is currently no Law regulating surrogacy in Nigeria, not even a mention of it in the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015, a legal framework for the prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership.

It is safe to say that commercial surrogacy is when a woman carries a child on behalf of a couple through a well defined arrangement to hand over the child to the commissioning parents at birth.

Recently, there were cries for help by a woman, Fortune Obhafuoso to a frontline non-governmental organisation, the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC. She was appealing to Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, to retrieve her missing baby said to have been likely abducted by a police officer, Samuel Ukpabio, one Mrs. Tosin Jeremiah and another woman. This, indeed, revealed what some persons do to have a child they could call their own or acquire fortune for themselves.

The 35-year-old teacher and a mother of three children from Edo State said she got to know about surrogacy through a movie, which led her to research the concept online and got connected to a surrogate agent when she surfed on a social media app, Facebook.

She explained that the agent promised to give her accommodation, which explained why she left Edo State with her children to do surrogacy in Lagos.

According to her, the payment plan was that after delivery, the couple, who wanted to do the surrogacy would pay her N1.4m. But the whole plan was based on her conceiving first.

She stated that the agent said the couple would pay N50,000 on transfer day and after confirming that she was pregnant, she would get N100,000. The agent, she noted, said the couple would also put her on a N50,000 monthly allowance, and give her N100,000 wardrobe allowance; and secure her N300,000 accommodation, among other entitlements.

She also explained that at a point the plan failed and she was unable to convince the commissioned parent for another attempt.


Her experience gives an inkling that commercial surrogacy involves a defined arrangement.

NAPTIP’s Emerole disclosed the form this trick could take. Hear him: “The surrogacy trafficking trade uses the same network that is used for domestic work and sex trade from poor regions into urban areas. Unmarried girls are impregnated with embryos without their consent. Others are confined in homes and when some girls try to run away, they are caught, brought back and beaten.”

Concerning the distraught mother of Baby Joseph, WARDC’s Founder, Dr. Abiola Akinyode-Afolabi, at the 2023 commemoration of International Women’s Day, IWD highlighted her plight.

She said women could not morally be celebrating the day when one of them has been denied the joy of motherhood. The group urged the law enforcement agencies to buy into the use of technology in addressing sexual and gender-based violence among other crimes being perpetrated against women.

She said she was also concerned about the silence on the transfer of a case against Mr Samuel Ukpabio for unlawful abduction and human trafficking of a-day old baby of Mrs Fortunate Obhafuoso to NAPTIP. She noted, however, that the police said they had arrested suspects who were already in custody.

Dr Akinyode-Afolabi said: “On February 6, 2023, a petition addressed to the Inspector General of Police to transfer the case against Mr Samuel Ukpabio; a Police officer at the Child Trafficking Department, Panti C.I.D of the Nigeria Police Force, Yaba Lagos, for Abduction and Human Trafficking of a day-old baby of Mrs Fortunate Obhafuoso to an unknown person and destination.”

Though an allegation was reportedly made by the police officer, Ukpabio, against the embattled woman, it is yet to be confirmed by any law enforcement agency. But WARDC is optimistic that the intervention of the law enforcement agencies, women groups would uncover whether a ring of human traffickers was responsible for the abduction of Baby Joseph.

Baby Joseph was said to be barely six hours old before supposed agents of government from the police and Women Ministry took him away from his mother under duress.

Another means that human traffickers employ is orphans trafficking. In this case, orphanages recruit children to attract donations, while others are used to steal, bait and commit all sorts of crimes.

In some cases, girls are usually tricked with employment as domestic staff and they end up in baby factories/baby farms and their babies get harvested in illegal facilities strewn around the country.

The babies are sold for between N300,000 and N500,000 depending on the sex. Boys are sold for N500,000 and girls for N300,000.

A case of such was that of Christiana Iyama and Margaret Ogwu.

Iyama according to a preliminary report by the Ogun State Police Command, were arrested in the Agbado area of Ifo, Ogun State, where she allegedly harboured Margaret and employed the services of a man to impregnate her. She then collected the child on delivery.

Thereafter she sold the baby for N400,000 to one of her customers, Police Spokesperson SP. Abimbola Oyeyemi said sometimes last year.

However, such acts are usually attributed to economic gain.

The list is endless, but it appears many of the culprits have been having a field day because of the difficulty in bringing them to book, either because of the complicated nature of the case or collusion on the part of the law enforcement agency.

Just recently a convicted human trafficker, Charity Omoruyi, alias ‘Jeff Joy’, who has been hibernating in Nigeria was extradited to Italy to serve her jail term.

But WARDC has vowed that Baby Joseph’s case would not be swept under the carpet.

The group is challenging the police high command not only to unravel the mystery behind his disappearance, but to locate his whereabouts and bring the culprits to book no matter how highly placed they are in the society.