A community in Imo State South-East of Nigeria, is fast becoming notorious for enslaving their own children, especially their females. The name of this African community is Agwa in Oguta L.G.A. the residents are primarily farmers, and produce multiple children to help farm the land. Poverty for many years has been ravaging their land due to uncontrollable environmental issues which have created reduced harvests. The devil, in one opinion, recommended another source of revenue which is enslavement of their children for economic stability. These children for the most part do not go to school, instead, they are raised to labor the farms at early ages without any freedom of choice or options.
This….the initiation into a lifetime of slavery. At the tender age of 8 or so, their parents begin the arrangements with the local slave recruiters to sell them off to the highest bidder. The children will at first work as domestic servants, or restaurant attendants at an agreed upon fee. After successful negotiations with the agents confirming salary and other conditions, the parents then give their written consent, and the child is taken away and placed in a pre-arranged home. Typically, these notorious slave agents are well known amongst the Nigerian communities. The majority of these slave transactions are most often made via the telephone. The agent collects a mutually agreed upon commission for each child he/she successfully delivers. These agreements are much like the period of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade era, when Africans were taken away and used as “A Beast of Burden”. The average monthly child slave wage is about 3 or 4 thousand naira, and is sent directly to the parents by the local slave agent. The tragic result at the end of this negotiation is that the children are now at the mercy of a ‘master”.
Many of these children sold are severely mistreated in their new environments. The females are typically used as sexual objects by the men of the house. A percentage of these enslaved girls become pregnant, and are sent packing for reasons such as allegations of stealing. Those that believe they can find a safe haven to return to their parents, are often beaten, and sent back to yet another home by their greedy parents. Some of these victims change masters numerous times before the age of thirty, and by then, they know no other way of living. Many of the families in the community are involved in this form of modern day slavery. The mothers and fathers of these innocent victims rely on this type of income as a means of their own survival.
A young girl in particular from the community named Joy, recently attempted suicide to register her protest about the inhumane treatment she had received from her own parents. In her rebellion, she then ran away before she was to be shipped off to another home by her heartless guardians. This young girl has never once seen the four walls of a teaching classroom. She is completely illiterate, and can not even spell her own name. Joy’s story is one of a series of unfortunate circumstances, and is both sad and pathetic! In her new assigned home, Joy found her innocence lost, in addition to a pyramid of encounters far too horrible to mention. From that point on, she has never stopped slaving for her selfish, lazy parents. Sometimes I wonder says the girl “did these people really give birth to me?, I hate my parents most especially my mother”. This girl has been completely de-humanized to the point of attempting to end her own life. She was left feeling helpless, hopeless, and unworthy of being a productive individual in any aspect of life as it should be. As fate would have it, a good Samaritan came to her rescue at the right time and saved her from a existence with quite possibly a tragic ending.
Government must step in now, and stop this modern day slavery. The people of Agwa need to be re-oriented to know that this evil practice of selling their children for money is against all laws of goodness and nature. A skill acquisition center can be established by government as a resource to recall their children back to their homes. These centers would target helping the children to learn empowerment skills, and eventually restore their self esteem. Government can also go a step further by arranging soft loans, interest free, for the people of this community to be able to assist and care for themselves. Bottom line “this practice of children for sale is inhumane and must not be tolerated on any level!