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One Mother’s Story: Child Trafficking in Rural Nigeria

Arise was saddened by this recent case, in which two young children were abducted from a village in Nigeria. Fortunately, our network partners (NCWR) had recently facilitated awareness-raising sessions in the village, which led to local leaders alerting the police early on, and then keeping pressure on the investigation.

After three months, the children were returned to their mother - many are not so lucky. We are sharing this case, and parts of the mother’s testimony, to illustrate the horrific experience of trafficking victims and the importance of prevention work.

May 20, 2023

Jasmine* said goodbye to her two sons and left her village to seek medical help. A friend, Abigail*, had put her in touch with her aunt, who said she could offer transport and access to healthcare in a nearby town.

With Abigail looking after her children, Jasmine left her small village with the aunt.

After 2 days of travel, they arrived at the home of an alleged nurse. The aunt left her there, explaining that she needed to find money for their return journey. Sensing something was wrong, Jasmine escaped the house that night:

‘I ran out from the house that night and slept in a carpenter's shop. Early in the morning at about five o'clock, I left, and was about looking for the direction to go, when I saw a tall man wearing black from head to toe.The man came out from the north compound and was pursuing me. I ran as fast as I could. I went through one street and hid in a woman's compound, in her kitchen. The man had been looking for me.’

Without funds for transport, Jasmine was forced to return to the nurse and aunt a few days later, demanding to be taken home and to speak to her children. She called Abigail:

‘“Come and talk to your mother” I heard Abigail say, and then she ended the call. I called again, “talk to your mother”, I said hello but I did not hear anybody's voice. “Hello. Hello and answer!” I've called my son three times. I know my own son - he would not stay quiet when I was calling. Never. He would've just said, “eh, mommy, you have stayed long. What is happening?” He would've just said something, but he did not say anything.’

After days of delays and fear rising in Jasmine, she arrived back to her village. Her children were gone. According to the mother, the aunt expressed a fear that Abigail was going to kill her after selling the children. They had been abducted by a trafficking ring, and sold on:

‘Abigail is from the same community as me. I never thought that she could harm me. But she said that my children are handsome, and that I don't deserve to have such kids.’

Thanks to awareness raising and human trafficking response programmes, conducted by Arise’s NCWR partners in the community a few months prior, the community chief alerted the police with concerns about human trafficking very early on. Police forces, spurred on by Arise’s partners, painstakingly tracked the children through the trafficking ring, and located them in August, three months after their initial abduction. They have been reunited with Jasmine.

Chinomso Osuji, Arise Nigeria Coordinator, explained how the case reflected the importance of prevention work, and continuing to educate and warn communities about the threat of trafficking:

‘Arise works in Nigeria to prevent human trafficking in some of the worst affected areas. We do this by building the capacity and supporting the anti-trafficking projects of local groups, like Catholic sisters, who are highly effective anti-trafficking agents, but often lack the resources to expand and deepen their reach.

The mother of the missing children had travelled to a neighbouring town for medical attention, with her children in the care of her colleague, Abigail*. Tragically, Abigail and her alleged aunt were part of a network of traffickers, who abducted and sold the children. Through an awareness campaign, a mother’s testimony and a police investigation, all supported by our local partner, a chain of traffickers was identified and arrested, and both children were rescued and returned.’

This case is a stark reminder of how close agents of human trafficking are to us, our network and our beneficiaries at all times. Arise is deeply committed to continuing this essential work in a region plagued by this heinous crime, while ensuring the safety of those on the frontlines.

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