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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Child slavery arrest in Lagos

This Nigerian girl narrowly avoided slavery
By Barnaby Phillips in Lagos

The police in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, are holding a well known society woman on suspicion of child trafficking following the seizure of a minibus full of young children apparently being driven to her house.

The arrest comes at a time of growing international concern about child trafficking in the West African region.

The Lagos police commissioner told the BBC that 16 children had been discovered in the minibus.

Mike Okiro told the BBC that the children were all between one and a half and nine years old.

They were crammed into a minibus coming from the central city of Ilorin which was stopped by suspicious policemen on the outskirts of Lagos.

Motives

A crowd of hundreds of curious people quickly gathered to see the children being taken to a nearby police station.

A woman who is well known on the Lagos party scene is now being questioned.

The police say that she has told them that her motives are humanitarian, that she takes care of the children of prostitutes and drug addicts.

The police are now looking into the veracity of these claims.

Poor families in West Africa often give up their children to work as plantation labourers or house servants.

Children's rights groups and UN officials have complained that such children are often not paid and have likened the practice to slavery.

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See also:

16 Apr 01 | Africa
West Africa's 'little maids'
06 Aug 99 | Africa
West Africa's child slave trade
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Benin
28 Sep 00 | Africa
The bitter taste of slavery
29 Sep 00 | Africa
Mali's children in slavery
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