Human traffickers in Nigeria have used these oaths to coerce girls and women into the sex trade in Europe, and in other parts, and used them too to keep those engaged in the trade. Some of the details of the rituals are too repugnant to recount. Among the events that occur at these rituals one finds references to: chickens being killed and the oath-taker compelled to eat its raw heart; cuts being administered to the body of the oath-taker using blades; individuals made lie in coffins; body parts being retained at the shrine; and vile drinks being concocted and the oath-taker compelled to consume them.
Those who take these oaths understand they are taking them for a variety of reasons, including: guaranteeing the repayment of a debt obligation; ensuring the confidentiality of the arrangements with their supposed employer; and acquiring the confidence to go abroad. The human traffickers have their own intentions, some of which are also vested in the belief in Juju rituals. It is reported that traffickers believe these rituals can protect the victim from HIV/AIDS and alleviate any concerns of the victim’s plight being discovered by immigration officials. It is also reported that traffickers believe these rituals enhance qualities that make the sex trafficking of the individual profitable.
What the oath-takers do not understand however, and what will not become apparent in time to come, is the intended purpose of these oaths. The real purpose lies in the trafficker’s intention to use the oath later as a form of leverage over the oath-taker. Having enticed their victims to Europe, or other places, the traffickers offer them only one way of repaying a debt obligation, and that is through working in the sex trade. Whatever reservations the victim may have are quickly brushed aside by the trafficker who can remind them of the fact they have sworn a powerful Juju oath guaranteeing payment.
Being the subject of the Juju ritual is bad enough, sufficient to leave a person traumatised. For many, the aftermath is just as bad. Adhering to the requirements of an oath is a deadly serious matter. Contemplating violating it is intolerable. Those who subscribe to these beliefs understand there are several consequences if the oath is violated. They understand, for example, they might die, or a loved one might die, or the oath-taker might go insane, or suffer calamitous bad luck.
The U.S. Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report 2020 notes on Page 382 how:
Before departure for work abroad, many Nigerian women participate in a
traditional ceremony with a juju priest; some traffickers exploit this
tradition and tell the women they must obey their traffickers or a curse
will harm them, which prevents victims from seeking assistance or
cooperating with law enforcement.
These considerations point to how Juju is used in human trafficking as a form of violence. At the outset, oath-takers are deceived as part of a process designed to ensnare them into a life in the sex trade. The rituals they undergo are barbaric and traumatic. When the true nature of the oath is revealed to them, there is further barbarism and trauma.
I have long known of the role of Juju, a form of African witchcraft, in the trafficking of human beings from Nigeria. I understood too this was no oddity and that one should be wary of Juju’s presence when dealing with suspected victims from West Africa, especially Nigeria. However, I was left reeling by a figure provided by Nigeria’s NAPTIP (National Agency For The Prohibition Of Trafficking In Persons). The agency’s document Nigeria: Country report on human trafficking 2019 discloses how “about 90 per cent of [the Nigerian] girls that are (sic) been trafficked to Europe are taken to shrines” where they undergo a Juju ritual.