Posted by By George Esiri on
Nigerian police have rescued more than 100 children from child traffickers over the last three days, including 56 discovered at a checkpoint in a frozen food truck, authorities said Monday.
LAGOS, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian police have rescued more than 100 children from child traffickers over the last three days, including 56 discovered at a checkpoint in a frozen food truck, authorities said Monday.
Thousands of children are trafficked every year across Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, where there is a strong tradition among families in impoverished, rural areas to send children to the cities in the hope of a better life.
Once there, many fall into the hands of criminal networks which sell them locally or abroad to work as beggars, slaves or prostitutes.
Police said they arrested a woman Sunday after she was caught trying to take 56 children from Mokwa, a remote town in the central Niger state, to work as domestic servants in the commercial hub Lagos.
The children were crammed into a truck used for transporting frozen food, although the refrigeration was not switched on.
"The woman said she brought them with the consent of their parents to be distributed as house-helps in Lagos," police spokesman Ademola Adebayo said. "We are transferring the case to the Criminal Investigation Department."
The children were detained in a police station in the Ajegunle area of Lagos Monday. A crowd of more than a hundred people, some apparently associates of the suspects, gathered at the gates, harassing journalists.
Friday, 52 children from Togo were freed on Nigeria's western border with Benin by border police, authorities said.
Four traffickers, including a man who said he was a pastor at a pentecostal church, were arrested.
Arinze Orakwe, spokesman for the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, said this group was probably destined for forced labor in Nigeria.
"We have quarries in Nigeria which are prone to (using) child labor from Benin and Togo," he said.
Almost all these children have already been turned over to the Togolese embassy in Nigeria, he added.
In 2003, 500 children from Benin were rescued from granite quarries in Nigeria and repatriated.
A government survey in 2003 estimated that there were 15 million children engaged in child labor in Nigeria, and 40 percent of them were at risk of being trafficked for domestic and forced labor, prostitution, entertainment, pornography, armed conflict and ritual killing.
Nigeria passed a ground-breaking law against human trafficking in 2003, but its law enforcement and judicial systems are unable to cope with a growing number of cases.