If you've ever hired a domestic help below 18 years - the official age of labour in Nigeria, then you've effectively committed the crime of child trafficking. If you've ever visited a residence or commercial  business where persons under the age of 18 years are used as hired labour, and have not raised concerns with relevant authorities, you equally share some guilt as you've aided and abetted.

Indeed, we are surrounded by victims of one form of child trafficking or the other every day. It's Ekaette who serves as a maid to a busy banker couple in Lagos somewhere, Chike who serves as a shop assistant in Ikeja market, they're the children whom we go past begging on the streets of Lagos and even children who are forcefully recruited to the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) to fight Boko Haram up North. 

To be clear, child trafficking can be defined as the action or practice of illegally procuring and relocating children, typically for the purposes of forced labour or sexual exploitation.

In the broader sense, human trafficking is an extremely lucrative business that rakes in over $32 billion annually world wide, with child trafficking specifically raking in about $billion. Human trafficking is also the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking).

Nigeria, in particular, consistently ranks as one of the top countries engaged in this horrible practice, and is considered a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. 

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Often times, what happens is children in rural areas are lured to the city by relatives or professional child traffickers with the promise of education and a "better life in the city". But this is hardly ever the case as such children are used instead as maids, shop assistants (omo ise/nwa boy) or even sex slaves in urban areas of Nigeria, while others still are smuggled overseas.

In view of the menace of human trafficking, the Nigerian government, in March 2015, passed amendments to the previously existing 2003 Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act, increasing the penalties for trafficking offenders. 

The law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes a minimum penalty of five years' imprisonment and a minimum fine of one million naira for labor trafficking offenses. It further prescribes a minimum penalty of five years' imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses and a minimum fine of one million naira; and the minimum penalty increases to seven years' imprisonment if the case involves a child.  

There are also further amendments restricting the ability of judges to penalise offenders with fines in lieu of prison time.

In spite of all of this, child trafficking continues to surge in Nigeria. Still in celebration of Children's' Day, here are 7 disturbing facts about child trafficking in Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, you should know.

1. A United Nations (UN) fact-sheet states that child trafficking is one of the fastest growing organised crimes with an estimated 1.2 million victims per year, of which 32% are African.

2. Nigeria ranks very high in the global business of child trafficking and serves as an origin, transit and destination points. The country not only serves as the origin of child trafficking to Europe, America and Asia, but it is also a transitional point for some West Africa countries including Benin Republic, Togo, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Mali among others.

3. Within the country, majority of domestic servants are under aged children recruited from such states as of Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Ebonyi, Kano and Kaduna.

4. As of 2006, the number of child workers was put at about 15 million. In the same year, UNESCO also ranked trafficking as the third most common crime in Nigeria after economic fraud and drug trafficking.

5. A 2010 United States Department of Labour report claimed Nigeria is witnessing the worst forms of child labor, particularly in agriculture and domestic service as most children in rural areas work in agriculture of products such as cassava, cocoa and tobacco. Said children typically work long hours for little pay, with some children getting exposed to pesticides and chemical fertilizers in cocoa and tobacco fields because of archaic farming practices or because they are deployed as forced labour without protective gear.

6. According to the 2014 Global Slavery Index, an estimated number of 834, 000 Nigerians were living in slavery. Also the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and other related Matters (NAPTIP) reported in its Fact Sheet that the average age of trafficked child is 15 and that Nigerians make up 60-80 percent of the girls who are trafficked for sex trade in Europe.

7. In June 2011, the BBC reported that at least 10 children are sold daily across the country.

As the government continues to tackle the menace of child trafficking, it is also our collective responsibility as citizens of Nigeria to combat this horrible trend by desisting from hiring underage children. We must also never hesitate to report such incidences to the relevant authorities, for it is only when we start to look out for one another that we can truly tow the path of change.

Every child deserves the right to a good education, say NO to child trafficking today.