By Philip Obaji Jr.
The Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, United Kingdom, and Centre for Children’s Health, Education, Orientation and Protection, Nigeria, have criticised Facebook following revelations that children, especially girls, were being trafficked from a refugee camp in Ogoja, Cross Rivers State, after being advertised for labour exploitation on the popular social networking platform.
The groups slammed Facebook for permitting child trafficking to take place on its service and also being slack to take action when such incidents happen.
In a joint statement, the non-profit organisations expressed dismay that it took Facebook 29 hours to suspend the account of the suspect, after investigative journalist, Philip Obaji Jr, had reported the account in contravention of the company’s policies of responding to enquiries within 24 hours.
The report revealed details of a named person, who had used his Facebook page to advertise photos of Cameroonian girls fleeing the ongoing conflict in Southern Cameroon’s Anglophone region.
This conflict has so far displaced millions of people with several thousand staying in refugee camps across Southern Nigeria.
The NGOs were exceptionally concerned that despite this case being reported to Facebook, it took the online platform hours to take action, thereby putting the victims at further risk of harm.
In one of the Facebook posts cited, the person had uploaded an image of a girl he claimed was “intelligent, hardworking and about 17,” and asked persons “interested in hiring her as a maid to inbox me.”
The organisations recalled that this would not be the first time Facebook would be accused of enabling child trafficking on its platforms.
“In 2018, Facebook was severely criticised by NGOs in South Sudan and across the world that its site had been used for the auctioning of a child bride in the country.
“Human trafficking is a growing global problem with over 40 million people at risk, according to the International Labour Organisation.
“Nigeria is known as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking victims with over one million trafficked each year, according to the Global Slavery Index.
“Human trafficking and slavery is illegal in most countries around the world, including Nigeria,” the NGOs said.
Debbie Ariyo, Chief Executive Officer of UK-based AFRUCA, an anti-child trafficking organisation, said, “It is concerning that social media platforms are increasingly being used by human traffickers to facilitate the sale of human beings, with little being done to address this. Social media platforms have become the 21st century slave markets. This has to stop.”
Betty Abah, Executive Director of CEE-HOPE Nigeria, stated that it appears Facebook has a discriminatory approach to addressing crimes against vulnerable children in Africa than other more advanced parts of the world.
“I do not believe Facebook would have failed to act if this was happening in a European country,” she added.
Both organisations urged the relevant government agencies in Nigeria to act to secure the well-being of refugee children in the country, and investigate the child trafficking allegations to ensure all perpetrators are brought to book.
They also called on Facebook to investigate the case as well as tighten its safeguard mechanisms to ensure that crimes such as human trafficking are completely eradicated on its platforms.