As reported over the past five years, Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Nigerian trafficking victims are recruited from rural areas—especially the country’s southern regions—and, to a lesser extent, urban areas. Women and girls are victims of domestic servitude and sex trafficking and boys are victims of forced and bonded labor in street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarrying, agriculture, textile manufacturing, and begging. Many of the more than 9.5 million young boys studying in Quranic schools, commonly known as Almajiri, are subjected to forced begging. Traffickers operate “baby factories”—often disguised as orphanages, maternity homes, or religious centers—where women are held against their will, raped, and forced to carry and deliver a child. The children are then sold, sometimes with the intent to exploit them in forced labor and sex trafficking. Nigerian traffickers take women and children to other West and Central African countries—including Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cabo Verde—as well as to South Africa, where they are exploited in forced labor and sex trafficking. Nigerian women and children are recruited and transported to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, and held captive in the commercial sex industry or forced labor, including forced begging in Morocco. West African children are subjected to forced labor in Nigeria, including in granite and gold mines. Women from West African countries transit Nigeria en route to Europe and the Middle East, where they are subjected to forced prostitution. Nigeria’s ports and waterways around Calabar are transit points for West African children subjected to forced labor in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.
Authorities identified Nigerian trafficking victims—often exploited by Nigerian traffickers—in more than 29 countries during the reporting period. Officials report an increase in Nigerian women and girls subjected to sex trafficking within Nigeria and throughout Europe, including in Italy, Austria, and Russia; an international organization estimated 80 percent of all female Nigerian migrants in Italy are or will become sex trafficking victims. Nigerian sex traffickers operate in highly organized criminal webs throughout Europe, and many sex trafficking victims begin to work for their traffickers in exchange for leaving sex trafficking themselves. Nigerians are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Finland. During the reporting period, Spanish and Moroccan officials dismantled a Nigerian-led criminal group that subjected at least 39 Nigerian women and girls to sex trafficking in southeastern Spain. Nigerians are increasingly exploited in Libya; lured by the promise of reaching Europe, traffickers keep victims in “control houses” or “prostitution camps” located on the outskirts of Tripoli and Misrata and subject them to sex trafficking and—to a lesser extent—domestic servitude until they can repay travel debts; before victims repay the debt, traffickers sell them again. During the reporting period, ISIS captured at least seven Nigerian women and girls in Libya and exploited them in sexual slavery; some of the victims had been transiting Libya en route to Europe. Before departure for work abroad, many Nigerian women participate in a traditional ceremony with a juju priest; some traffickers exploit this tradition and tell the women they must obey every order or a curse will harm them, which prevents victims from seeking assistance or cooperating with law enforcement. Some victims’ parents encourage them to obey their traffickers and endure exploitation to earn money. During the reporting period, authorities observed criminal gangs—some of whom might have had ties to so-called student cults—partner with organized crime networks to transport Nigerians to Europe for exploitation.
Reports indicate government officials and security forces committed sexual exploitation—including sex trafficking—and such exploitation is a major concern in nearly all of the 13 IDP camps and local communities in and around Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, which hosts IDPs affected by the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram. “Gatekeepers” in control of some IDP camps, at times in collusion with Nigerian policemen and soldiers, reportedly force women and girls to provide sex acts in exchange for food and services in the camps; in July 2016, an NGO reported camp leaders, policemen, soldiers, and vigilante groups exploited 37 women and children in sex trafficking among seven IDP camps in Maiduguri. In July 2016, a Nigerian research organization surveyed 400 IDPs in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states, and 66 percent said camp officials sexually abused women and girls, some of which constitutes sex trafficking. Various NGOs and news outlets continued to report that children in IDP camps are victims of labor and sex trafficking, and some alleged government officials managing the camps are complicit in these activities.
During the reporting period, Boko Haram continued to forcibly recruit and use child soldiers as young as 12 years old and abduct women and girls in the northern region of Nigeria, some of whom it subjected to domestic servitude, forced labor—including in suicide attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad—and sexual slavery through forced marriages to its militants. International organizations continued to express concerns about the arrest and detention by the Nigerian government and security forces of children for alleged association with Boko Haram. Authorities arrested more than 1,365 children between January 2015 and October 2016 for their or their parents’ alleged association with Boko Haram and did not report screening them for trafficking. Among the more than 1,365 children detained, 455 remained in detention as of December 2016, including 78 boys aged 13-17 whom NSF determined to be combatants; in one case, authorities kept 58 children in military detention for four months. The government prohibited the recruitment and use of child soldiers, but NSF used children as young as 12 years old in support roles such as messengers, porters, and guards. Credible observers reported NSF interrogated children in detention for later use as collaborators to identify Boko Haram members among newly arrested persons. The Nigerian military also conducted on-the-ground coordination with elements of the CJTF —a self-defense militia involved in fighting Boko Haram that is not part of the Nigerian government—including the Government of Borno State-funded, Maiduguri-based CJTF. An NGO noted the term CJTF is now used to describe a number of self-defense vigilante groups operating in northeast Nigeria, some of which have tenuous ties to the Maiduguri-based CJTF. Credible observers, including NGOs and an intergovernmental organization, reported CJTF continued to recruit and use children, possibly compulsorily, and used children as young as 12 years old mostly to man check points, conduct patrols, spy, and apprehend suspected insurgents.