The Nigerian Immigration Service stated on Friday that an investigation has been launched after two of its workers were arrested on allegation of trafficking girls out of the country.
According to the UN, an estimated 20,000 girls are taken illegally in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, where 70% of the 190 million population live on less than $2 per day. The vast bulk of them make their way to the European continent.
“We have received information that two of our personnel were arrested yesterday at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos while attempting to facilitate the trafficking of some underage females out of the country,” spokesperson James Sunday said in a statement.
We have contacted the comptroller general of immigration about this, and an investigation has commenced, he added.
He didn’t say how many girls were involved, nor did he say anything about their ages or where they were supposed to be brought. The departure of people by criminal gangs, who typically go by sea rather than air, has been a major source of concern for authorities in the west African country.
According to the British authorities, Nigerians are the fourth most common source of human trafficking to their shores, and Nigerians make up the majority of African migrants who travel to Libya and attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in boats to reach Italy.
According to a poll conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) last year, 80 percent of Nigerian girls arriving in Italy by sea are likely to be victims of human trafficking or exploitation.
According Human Right Watch, there is no accurate statistics on how many women and girls are trafficked from, into, and within Nigeria. According to the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Nigeria is frequently recognized as one of the countries with a high number of trafficking victims worldwide, particularly in Europe, with victims detected in more than 34 countries in 2018. The majority of Nigerian trafficking victims in Europe are from Edo State, one of Nigeria’s 37 states, and travel through Libya. In recent years, the number of “potential” Nigerian trafficking victims in Italy has increased. According to the most recent available data, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded a 600 percent increase in the number of possible sex trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea in 2017, with the majority arriving from Nigeria. According to the organization, 80 percent of the women and girls arriving from Nigeria—whose numbers had increased from 1,454 in 2014 to 11,009 in 2016—were prospective victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in Europe’s streets and brothels.