The United Nations says Nigeria is failing to tackle its human trafficking problem.
The UN criticism came after a human rights mission looked at efforts to stamp out the organised trade in people.
About 18,000 Nigerians arrived in Italy via the Mediterranean Sea from north Africa in 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The latest IOM figures even revealed that some 36,000 Nigerians were stuck in Libya or neighbouring Niger in December last year.
“What is being done is not enough,” the world body’s special rapporteur on the subject, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, told reporters at the end of an eight-day visit.
“Some are already recruited by their traffickers in the country of origin, others may start their migration journey voluntarily,” she told a news conference in Abuja.
“Due also to the absence of safe and regular migration channels, the vast majority of them fall prey to traffickers in transit countries, especially in Libya, and (are) subject to all forms of human rights violations including torture, rape, extortion, and exploitation amounting to trafficking, slavery and forced labour.”
Giammarinaro pointed to the disparity between the wealth the country has and the poverty that the people live in as being responsible.
“Nigeria is… Africa’s largest oil producer and ranks sixth in the world, with 2.5 million barrels of oil produced every day.
“Yet… 64 percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line and trafficking in persons continues unabated.
“With the wealth and political leverage it has been generating, the government of Nigeria cannot be seen to leave its people behind.”
A total of 362 traffickers have been convicted and sentenced since 2004 yet the number of victims and complaints received has skyrocketed to 13,186.