As I walk down the street during my final days in Lagos I find myself scrutinizing the face of every school age child I see hawking goods to cars stuck in the every present Lagos traffic. “Is that one trafficked?” I ask myself. “Or maybe that one over there. That one looks trafficked.” In reality I have no idea and with only two days left before I go and knowing there is virtually nothing I can do to help I don’t have the courage to ask.
As if to redeem my own helplessness I make sure to stare down policemen who stand idly by watching the children every time I walk by them. Today I dished out my most hateful glare for the policeman who was actually buying groundnuts from a child who clearly belonged in school. But he didn’t notice me and in truth it didn’t really make me feel any better.
Walking under an overhead pass I watched a boy look quickly around, and then slowly remove the basket of groundnuts he was carrying on his head and place it on the ground. He sat slowly on the curb and placed his head in his hands. After resting for only a moment he quickly jumped up, looked around and started hawking peanuts again.
I have no way of knowing if this boy was trafficked but seeing him reminded me of the big NAPTIP case in which they busted a container full of 67 children being trafficked from Niger State into Lagos. Though the children were as old as 16 and as young as 6 their average age hovered around 9 or 10, children sent away by their parents to make money for their families in Lagos. Most of the children ended up as domestic help or hawkers on the street selling goods like groundnuts, water and oranges. Their trafficker took half of their earning each day as her payment for sheltering them and providing them with work. After paying their “madam” most children could expect a profit of around 50 Naira per day. This is the equivalent of about 35 cents. So children that should have been in school were instead working 12-hour days in the hot sun earning essentially nothing.
Though the rescue of these children made great headlines and NAPTIP had one of its first great success stories, to the traffickers these children were hardly missed. With a seemingly bottomless pool to pluck from these children were easily replaced and the business of making a profit off of the sweat of trafficked children has barely missed a beat.
Posted By Laura Cardinal (Nigeria)
Posted Aug 16th, 2006