Human trafficking is a deep-seated bane in Nigerian society. It is a scourge that has been ongoing since the advent of modern governments, and its presence has not been eliminated yet. The problem appears to be deepening, as evidenced by statistics on incidents reported to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). The report shows that from January 2018 to April 2019, there were 2,113 victims rescued from various parts of the country.
Benin City, Nigeria, is one of the cities known for the highest rate of human trafficking and forced labour in Nigeria. The city is also a source country and a hub for human trafficking activities. The prevalence of human trafficking in Benin City has increased over time, with an estimated 200,000 people being trafficked annually. Mostly, women and girls are sold into sexual slavery or domestic servitude. Others are forced into begging or street vending activities, while some migrate abroad to find work or to escape poverty at home.
Recent estimations revealed over 1,386,000 victims from Nigeria alone, thus, ranking Nigeria 81 among the countries in the world. The Nigerian government has fought this menace but hasn’t been able to curb it successfully. Therefore, citizens are taking responsibility by creating NGOs and recently, they are turning to blockchain technology and what it offers through NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens).
A case is a Nigerian community at PeopleDAO using blockchain technology to sensitize and support survivors of human trafficking, starting from Benin City, Nigeria. This is because the growth rate of human trafficking is on the high side, especially for girls and women trafficked from Nigeria to other countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Italy. Many of these girls are forced into prostitution or domestic labour, while others are forced into marriage. The problem is not new. Since the 1970s, human trafficking has been a problem in Nigeria.
Today, the fight continues, and the Nigerian community, PeopleDAO launched a project called “Journey Owaa”. “Journey Owaa” (The Lost Children of Benin) is a three-part docu-series on human trafficking, exploring the lives of the victims, perpetrators, and those working to stop it. The series will follow people trafficked from their homes in Benin City, Nigeria, to other parts of the world, including African countries and beyond. The series would explore what led them to this fate. It will also explore how traffickers trick families into believing that their children will get educated abroad.
This docu-series will cover how some traffickers take advantage of a lack of economic development to sell these children as slaves. They may promise a better future as they lure them away to areas where they can easily exploit their vulnerability.
Along with the docu-series, PeopleDAO would also release a collection of NFTs inspired by the Benin culture. These artworks would be converted to NFTs, minted and sold. This is a way of fundraising. All the proceeds would go directly to support survivors of human trafficking. Also, the NFTs will be an excellent opportunity to experience the Edo culture. The design of the NFTs is based on various symbols from Edo culture. These symbols are derived from myths, legends, folklore, and folk tales. They are all from the Edo-Nigerian root and still identify in their communities today.
For instance, to the Edo people, the Leopard symbolizes a balance between strength and reservation, menacing and moderation. Most of their symbols include animal representation such as the Mudfish, symbolizing eternal life and survival despite hazardous conditions. Another in the category is the Ibis bird (AKA the bird of prophecy). The bird symbolizes the power to alter history. This collection exhibits deeper meaning and understanding of the Edo people.
Existential Zoomer, the Nigerian filmmaker leading the project, said, “This project is dedicated to all the ones we’ve lost, the ones we’ll never be found and the untold stories, and to the ones we have found but who are scarred and will never be whole again.”
Nigeria has been named by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as one of the most dangerous countries for workers, with a reported 27% prevalence of human trafficking. Tens of thousands of children and adults are prostituted in markets and roadside stalls. They are abused, assaulted, raped, and left to fend for themselves. This is a call to everyone to fight human trafficking in Nigeria.
The community at PeopleDAO is an example of how technology can aid the fundraising process. It’s not a solution for all cases, but it is a huge potential to provide relief to those in need. We hope there will be more organizations like them using technology and leveraging its power as a force for change.