Nigerian authorities are investigating a suspected case of human trafficking involving children. Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA that Nigeria has taken a tough stance in the fight against human trafficking.

Nearly all 62 young people now in the custody of the Nigeria's anti-trafficking agency are said to be from neighboring Benin or Togo. The agency's spokesman Arinze Oraukwe says a regional approach has become imperative in the fight against what is considered a lucrative trade involving children.

"These countries need to set up similar structures and similar instruments of law like Nigeria has done, so that these cross-border movements are not allowed, so long as victims are being taken out of the shores for illegal movements, like trafficking in persons," said Oraukwe.

The Nigerian police intercepted a truck in the country's south carrying the potential child laborers to Cameroon and Gabon. The children included a three-year-old girl. Oraukwe says some suspects have been arrested and would soon be prosecuted.

"We have secured 12 convictions; we have not lost any case since this thing started," said Oraukwe. "We cannot let this matter go down like that, especially when it is not just Nigeria. What my boss is doing is to try to reach out to those countries that have their citizens here, to take custody of their citizens while we prosecute the traffickers."

Child trafficking is punishable by a maximum 10-year jail term in Nigeria.

West African girls are often trafficked into sexual exploitation, with others placed in domestic servitude, drug trafficking, and labor exploitation.

Human trafficking is a major problem in West Africa where most impoverished families are often glad to give their children away for a token.

The United Nations estimates the number of people trafficked each year range from between 600,000 to four million.