Social and economic conditions in Nigeria contribute to the problem of human trafficking, which gained global media attention following the recent abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram militants. Arnab K. Basu and Nancy H. Chau are professors at Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. They have recently concluded a project on Transnational Human Trafficking and have written a number of articles on the subject.

Basu and Chau say:

“The abduction of schoolgirls in northeastern Nigeria by the Boko Haram militants has led to intense media spotlight on the continuing violence in northeast Nigeria, the Nigerian government’s military tactics in the region, as well as the government’s inability to effectively negotiate for the girls’ release. The deplorable actions of the Boko Haram militants have been punctuated by further threats that the girls will be sold off as slaves.

“This particular instance of kidnapping thus raises a bigger human rights issue in West Africa – that of human trafficking – especially of girls and women – across international borders. The possibility that some of the kidnapped girls might have been moved across the border is not far-fetched. After all, Nigeria is a hub country for trafficking as designated by the U.S. Department of State, that is, it is both a host country for trafficked victims from neighboring countries as well as a source country from which victims are trafficked across borders, sometimes as far as to western Europe.

“With a high degree of income inequality, low scores on governance indicators like corruption, internal conflict and a significant population of internally displaced persons, Nigeria exhibits some of the key indicators of a source country of trafficking, which foster an environment where human traffickers can operate with relative ease.

“Nevertheless, Nigeria has been a signatory to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, commonly known as the Palermo Protocol. The Palermo Protocol is the first global legally binding instrument aimed at facilitating international cooperation in investigating and prosecuting human traffickers. Additionally, the United Nations launched the Blue Heart Campaign in 2009 that funds governments, intergovernmental as well as non-governmental organizations to safeguard the well-being of the victims of human trafficking.

“Evidence to date suggests that Nigeria has yet to implement and enforce the Palermo Protocol or take advantage of the Blue Heart Campaign effectively. While international pressure is on the Nigerian government to rescue the kidnapped girls and seek a solution to end the violence in the northeast region of the country, it would be worthwhile for the international community to actively encourage the Nigerian government to honor its’ international Human Rights commitments and end human trafficking within and across Nigerian borders.”

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