20,000 Nigerian Girls Used as Sex Slaves in Mali -- What’s Being Done?

Almost a year after the report was released, has the Nigerian government done enough to bring the girls home?

Posted: 07/18/2011 05:24 PM EDT
Filed Under Nigeria

Last year, a shocking report from the Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) revealed there are over 20,000 Nigerian teens and young women being trafficked to nearby Mali and made to work as prostitutes. Now almost a year later, a recent allAfrica report questions whether the Nigerian government has done enough to return the girls home.


The original report, released by the government agency tasked with combatting human trafficking back in September 2010, spurred a fact-finding mission led by NAPTIP later that year which exposed even more of the harsh realities about the conditions in which the girls are kept. After visiting brothels in Malian cities Bamako, Mopt and Kayes, they found many Nigerian girls (lured across borders by promises of lucrative jobs) were being held in constricted, inhumane conditions and beaten, raped and forced to engage approximately 20 men every night, the allAfrica article states.


After the mission, the agency launched the failed “Operation Timbuktu” initiative, which was supposed to be a collaboration between Nigerian and Mali authorities to rescue the teens and young women.


One Nigerian official, at least partly, blamed the plan’s ineffectiveness on the lack of cooperation from Mali’s government.


“The first thing that is preventing their return is support from the Malian authorities,” Arinze Orakwue, who serves as assistant director of intelligence and communications at NAPTIP, said at the time, the BBC reports.


But the allAfrica report placed the blame square on Nigerian officials:


It is obvious that NAPTIP lacks the intelligence, determination and logistics required to undertake the rescue operation since it involves a foreign country. It seems to hope more on the goodwill of Malian authorities than its own proactive efforts.


Logistical issues, including a language barrier (Mali is a French-speaking nation) are also said to be behind why the operation wasn’t successful.


In the recent Trafficking in Persons Report 2011, Nigeria maintained its Tier 1 status, meaning that it ranked as one of the nations doing at least the minimum to combat trafficking within their own borders. But abroad it’s clearly a different story, as many of those trafficked in nearby nations such as Liberia and even European countries like Luxembourg are Nigerian.


Orakwue still insists the “Operation Timbuktu” initiative is still intact, allAfrica reports. But after many months with little movement on the vast issue, his assurances may not be enough. 


(Photo: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)