A report by an international human rights group, Walk Free, has stated that more than 1.6 million Nigerians are trapped in modern slavery.
According to the report, Nigeria ranked fifth among countries with the highest number of people in modern slavery in Africa.
The report, released on Wednesday, May 24, revealed that an estimated 50 million people across the world are living in situations of modern slavery.
The report titled ‘The Global Slavery Index 2023’ noted that approximately 28 million people are in forced labour while 22 million are in forced marriages.
Walk Free said the largest estimated numbers of people in modern slavery are found in India, China, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Türkiye, Bangladesh, and the United States.
It said the countries collectively account for two in every three people living in modern slavery and over half the world’s population.
The increasing number of people in modern slavery was attributed to the struggle to provide basic needs and safely seek protection as conflict damages infrastructure and disrupts services.
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“Those who try to flee conflict-affected areas may be targeted by traffickers at any point on their journey. The countries with protracted conflicts have some of the highest overall vulnerability to modern slavery, and relatedly, a high prevalence of modern slavery.
“These countries include Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mali, Pakistan, Iraq, Central African Republic, Sudan, and Libya.”
The lingering terrorism in the North-East and North-West regions of Nigeria increases the vulnerability of Nigerian children and women to modern slavery, the report observed.
Nigeria, DRC and South Sudan were listed as three countries facing protracted conflict and widespread displacement. Surveys on experiences of modern slavery and related abuses were conducted among IDPs residing in displacement sites in North Kivu province in the DRC, South Sudan, and North-East Nigeria.
The report added: “An estimated one in 60 IDPs in North-East Nigeria experienced at least one of these slavery-related abuses. In North-East Nigeria, Boko Haram and its factions have recruited thousands of children to undertake support roles or engage in violence, including suicide attacks.
“The group has also abducted girls to be forcibly married or provide sexual services to its members.
“Nigerian girls seeking employment as domestic helpers to help pay for schooling are also subjected to domestic servitude.”
Noting that breakdown in the rule of law enables perpetrators to act with impunity, Walk Free explained the parties involved in conflict recruit children into their ranks, forcibly marry women and girls to their members, or force civilians to perform labour or sexual services.
The report stressed that Nigeria in past years had been proactive in its response to modern slavery.
“Over the past four years, many African countries have taken actions to improve their response to modern slavery. Nigeria and South Africa have taken the most action, while Eritrea and Libya have taken the least.”
According to the report, the number of orphanage homes in Nigeria contributed immensely to modern slavery.
“In Nigeria, some orphanages have been linked to “baby factories,” where traffickers hold women against their will, rape them, and force them to carry and deliver a child for the purpose of selling.”
However, the report also stated that the assessment conducted showed that Nigeria had the strongest responses against modern slavery in Africa.
“Nigeria (54 per cent), South Africa (53 per cent), and Rwanda (50 per cent) have the strongest responses to modern slavery in the region. Nigeria and South Africa both strongly address risk factors to modern slavery and provide adequate protection to citizens overseas.”
The report equally noted that Nigerians had a 76 per cent level of vulnerability to modern slavery.
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