Human trafficking: How Nollywood, traditional rulers and businesses can come to the rescue – Magnus Onyibe

Human trafficking: How Nollywood, traditional rulers and businesses can come to the rescue – Magnus Onyibe

If the title of this essay suggests that l may be advocating that all our unemployed youths become Nollywood moviemakers or actors in order to discourage them from embarking on the perilous trip to Europe through illegal routes, it is misleading because that is far from the case.

However, it would help if most of our unemployed youths were gainfully engaged in moviemaking, because unemployment is at the heart of illegal immigration to Europe.

Although, it appears patently unrealistic, Nollywood can be one of the game changers in the human trafficking conundrum.

How can the fledging Nigerian movie industry, which marginally contributes to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) come to the rescue of illegal immigrants to Europe, you may be wondering?

Obviously, not as a source of employment. But when it is used as a counterforce to the powerful influence of Hollywood movies which have been the agent provocateur for youths migration to Europe, it can change the tide.

Bad governance manifesting as oppression, conflicts, wars and famine have been cited as the key aggravator of illegal migration, but movies, which portray Europe as a land flowing with milk and honey and as such serve as bait to the poverty stricken and restless African youths are yet to be identified as a contributory factor.

At least, we can all agree that with the fantastic portrayals of heaven on earth in Europe through movies, it is easy for impressionable African youths (who are the major consumers of such make-believe stories) to become hell bent on migrating to Europe where they hope they could literarily pick up gold from the streets.

In the light of the forgoing, what needs to be done to reverse the mindset of our youths who have been hoodwinked by Western movies is to engage Nollywood moviemakers to produce movies that would depict the reality in the Western world.

That’s where prolific Nigerian producers like Zeb Ejiro, Kunle Afolayan, Mo Abudu, Zack Amata, Fred Amata, Jeta Amata, Zik Zulu Okafor, Ralph Nwadike, Stephanie Okereke and AY Makun to mention a few, can come into the picture by rising to the occasion.

For instance, most African youths are not aware that the economies of some western European countries such as Italy and Greece, as well as most Eastern European countries like Romania and Hungary are in the doldrums and as such, most of their citizens are roaming the streets of richer countries such as Germany, France and the UK seeking for means of livelihood.

Without job opportunities for those Europeans, what chance does the unskilled African immigrants have?

When such existential realities are presented in movies to the hitherto brainwashed minds, they may be jolted into reality and remain in their country where the philosophy of the average African being his brother’s keeper is still the predominant culture. This philosophy is better than the European attitude of every man fending for his or her self.

The use of movies to change mindset is not a novelty as the UN and the Planned Parenthood Federation have in the past adopted the same method in promoting birth control in Africa.

And the strategy was largely adjudged to be efficacious, more so as the overwhelming evidence of tv being a powerful influencer has been accepted over the years in other spheres.

Another strong factor driving illegal migration/human trafficking is what can simply be referred to as the juju factor/effect.

As Nima Elbagir, CNN investigative journalist stressed in her documentary on the trade of human beings in Libya, traffickers compel victims to swear to oaths or drink concoctions composed of their pubic hairs and other private parts of their bodies as they lure them with promises of jobs abroad.

Due to the fear of juju, such victims of illegal migration are compelled to adhere to the agreement even when it becomes clear to them that they have been duped and the agreement would lead to their enslavement.

Notably, the reason victims are terrified by the oaths stem from the fact that voodoo is generally feared in the Edo/Delta areas of Nigeria, which the CNN documentary identified as the key source of trafficked human beings.

As part of his contribution towards ending modern day human trafficking, the highly respected Oba of Benin in Edo State, HRM Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare ll, who is the chief custodian of the culture and traditions, has intervened.

As a royal gesture, the highly respected king recently called all the chief priests and voodooists of the kingdom to his palace and directed them to nullify the efficacy of the juju with which human traffickers apply in silencing the youths who are deceived into believing that decent jobs were awaiting them in Europe only to end up being sold into slavery.

With the Oba’s denunciation of human trafficking and nullification of voodoo administered on victims (possibly symbolic), the people would be emboldened to report traffickers to the authorities in destination countries and family members of victims could also be bolstered to report their accomplices to crime prevention agencies in their home countries without fear of repercussions.

With Nollywood enlightening the youths to the reality in Europe and traditional rulers weighing in with their modest contribution of placing a curse on traffickers thereby relieving potential victims of the juju burden, the next critical segment of society whose contributions can go a long way in stemming the obnoxious trade in human beings is the business community.

About 40 years ago, in the bid to stop migration of the Chinese from the hinterland to the British-governed and more prosperous Hong Kong, Mao Zedong, then premier of China, encouraged entrepreneurs in Hong Kong to set up factories along the coastlines of China that would create employment for the army of the unemployed Chinese men and women that could have been desperately seeking to cross the seas into the more prosperous British colony.

After the factories were set up to absorb the hordes of hitherto unemployed Chinese, the need to cross over to Hong Kong was drastically reduced if not eliminated.

Replicating the Chinese experience in Africa may be a veritable and timely solution to the menace of human trafficking being fuelled by illegal immigration which is also triggered by poverty and strive currently ravaging the Africa continent.

That perhaps explains why the citizens of Sudan, Niger Republic and Nigeria, which are the hotbed of conflicts, are the most traded as slaves in Libya.

Recently, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the richest man in the world, who is also a leading philanthropist, reportedly stated that Nigerian billionaires are not generous.

With the exception of Aliko Dangote, the richest African, who has been helping to financially mitigate myriads of humanitarian disasters on the continent, Gates believes other Nigerian billionaires are not doing enough to help the poor.

Remarkably, Tony Elumelu, founder of HEIRS Holdings and a string of businesses ranging from banking, power and hospitality through his foundation, TEF, has also been engaging in philanthropy via his entrepreneurship mentorship programme for youths across the African continent.

With a mission to train thousands of Africans yearly via $100 million set aside for spending on the programme over the next 10 years, Elumelu is certainly contributing his widow’s mite.

While the humanitarian gestures of Dangote and Elumelu are commendable, they are like a drop of water in an ocean. Obviously, a lot more needs to be done by both local and international entrepreneurs alike.

And this is the point at which development agencies of the OECD-club of the richest countries in the world have to come into the loop as they have critical roles to play.

Through strategic partnerships between entrepreneurs in human trafficking destination and source countries, viable social investment projects can be sited on the coastlines of Africa to absorb the restless youths who would otherwise be crossing the dreadful Sahara desert and tempestuous Mediterranean Sea in search of the proverbial greener pastures in Europe.

In the light of the forgoing, where are the 1% multi billionaire Americans who control 95% of the wealth in the USA as a survey recently published by New York Times revealed?

American multi billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren, Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch, who are behind fast selling brands that are massively consumed by the victims of human trafficking/Slave trade worldwide, should stand up to be counted by facilitating the establishment of factories that would produce some of the components needed in their super brands.

As the songwriters that produced Band Aid, promoted by the musician, Bob Geldof to support victims of famine in Africa several years ago aptly noted, “There are people dying and it’s time to lend a helping hand”.

The song also reminds us that “we can’t go on pretending day by day that someone somewhere will soon make a change”.

Then it concludes by emphasising that “There is a choice we’re making. We’re saving our own lives”.

The lyrics of the song are so apt and the last stanza is so true because when the rich in both the developed and developing world elect to help the poor by creating employment for them through businesses, which also enable them earn income, they will be saving their own lives.

That is simply because the poverty inspired antisocial behaviours characterised by the crime of terrorism, which does not discriminate between the rich or poor and always leaves tears and blood on its trail, are the ugly fallouts of lack of compassion for fellow human beings as opposed to being our brother’s keeper.

The aforementioned American billionaire investors need not be reminded that as God’s creation, we all have shared interests and common humanity, so they can’t stand by and watch.

Instead, they must make the decision to change the despicable narrative of human trafficking compelled by illegal migration by partnering with fellow African billionaires also earlier listed to set up employment creating ventures on the shores of Africa.

Exponents of crowd funding and other innovative funding strategies should also not stand aside and look as fellow human beings wallow in misery or die trying to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.


Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and former commissioner in Delta State, sent this piece from Lagos.

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