One wonders how this day , the 25th of March every year is being celebrated worldwide.

As far as my Knowledge can carry me, I have not witnessed any of the celebration or remembrance at least in Africa and Nigeria in Particular even though Africa was mostly hit by Slave trade !!

Over two hundred years ago, millions of our ancestors  were slaves. What does it means to be a slave?

Today , we can imagine it. If we have a goat, we know we can kill it, or sell it., or give it away as a gift. No one will question our right to do so, because the goat is our personal property, and the goat cannot complain.

That was what happened to human beings like ourselves –men, women, boys and girls. They could be beaten, sold or even killed if they make their masters angry. A slave is the property of his master.

Today, all is over. Slavery is against  the law and anyone who tries to buy or sell a human being  is punished when caught.

When the Europeans came to Africa  they did not  invent slavery.  It already existed. Even in Ancient Egypt-one of the oldest countries in the world, gangs of slaves were used  for building big houses and monuments.

In Africa, people fought wars and those who won the war often captured those who lost  and took them as slaves. Often these prisoners of war became domestic slaves , that is ,they were used to  help in the house or the farms of their owners. They ran errands , cleaned the compound or helped  to dig the land.

Sometimes , slaves were badly treated. Many slaves owners flogged them without mercy and some cut parts of their bodies as a punishment. However, other slaves owners were kind to their slaves and treated them as members of their own family. Women slaves, especially the beautiful ones were sometimes married to their owners and were well treated. S0ometimes, a slave could save up enough money to buy his freedom.

The Genesis of Slave Trade

As mentioned  above, the slaves were bought and sold in Nigeria before the Europeans came .People from one place used to capture  those from another and sold  them as slaves. However, as at that time it was not a big business. Many people were not involved .It was when strangers came to Nigeria looking for slaves to take away with them , that the trade grew  into a very big and lucrative trade.

Recall that the first people who came to West Africa to buy slaves were the Arabs from North Africa. They came across the desert. Subsequently, the Europeans came with the same vision. When the Europeans began buying  slaves , the trade grew because they needed many thousands of slaves. They needed only a few for Europe, but many for America.

At that time , America had only recently been discovered by Europeans and there were shortage of people there. Workers were needed for the big farms and plantations where sugar, tobacco and cotton were grown.

Without the slaves, the plantations could not go on well. Most of the slaves captured in West Africa were across the Atlantic Ocean  to America to  work on the plantations. Today, there are still millions of  negroes in America. They are no longer slaves , but their grandparents and great grandparents.

How The Slaves Were Caught

It was not the Europeans who wanted the slaves that caught them by themselves but they left the Africans to look for them and catch them. The Europeans just bought them  from the Africans.

Whenever there was a war between two tribes, the people who were not killed were taken as slaves. Similarly, when a man owed some money he could not pay back,    he was sometimes  taken as slaves. Sometimes a man who committed  a crime in a village , such as stealing or murder, was sold as a slave.

Slave Markets

There were some slave markets. After some slaves have been captured, they were sold  in markets  near the coast. In Lagos and Badagry, for example , there were very big slave markets. The local chiefs became very rich because they could force the European traders to pay taxes as the traders had to pay special  taxes  for permission to  trade in the markets. Sometimes they had to pay a tax on every slave they bought.

The chiefs themselves were often slave traders and they made a rule that the Europeans could not buy slaves  from anyone else until those of the chiefs were all sold.

How Did Europeans Pay For Slaves?

The Europeans did not pay for the slaves with money. They brought goods in their ships which the traders  wanted in exchange for iron bars, cloth, gunpowder, gin ,umbrella and cowry shells. To make sure that the Europeans bought healthy slaves, they brought their medical doctors to examine them to be fit  before they were bought.

Slaves Journey To America

After buying the slaves from the African merchants in the villages, they had to walk with them to the coast.  That was  often a very hard journey. The slaves  had to carry heavy loads  for their masters who often traded  in other goods  apart from slaves.


Slaves being beaten by Masters

The slaves were tied together. Often the right leg  of one was tied to the left leg of another , so that it became difficult  for them to walk. At times, slaves were fastened together  by a strong rope round their necks. At night ,  they were also tied. Most of the slaves  had to match in a row  from morning till evening without food  or water, and they were beaten  if they did not walk fast enough.  This notwithstanding, some of the slave masters  treated their slaves  well and gave them enough to eat and drink.

How They Differentiated The Slave Bought

Once a slave is bought by the Europeans on the coast, they were often marked  with a burn  on their skins, to  prevent them from getting  mixed up  with the slaves  of other  owners. Then ,they were packed  tightly  into the waiting ships.

In those old days, the voyage to America  took several weeks. It was a horrible voyage. The slaves were packed so tightly that they could hardly move. There was very little fresh food or water. Many were reported dead on the way and their bodies were thrown overboard.  It is possible that one quarter of all slaves captured from Africa died  in the ships before they reached their destination in America.

Abolition of Slave Trade And Humane Efforts of   Wilberforce

For anything to have a beginning, there must be an end. How did slave trade come to an end?

One of the outstanding men responsible  for end of slave trade was William Wilberforce. This Englishman  knew it was wrong  for people  to buy and sell human beings. So,  he spent  his lifetime fighting  against slavery.

Wilberforce was  only nine years old  when his father died , and was looked after by his uncle. He went to school and then to Cambridge University . When his uncle died , he left William a lot of fortune.  This meant that he had  no problems about money and could spend  his whole life fighting against slavery.

He became interested to becoming a Parliamentarian  , and so began to learn how to make public speeches .  One subject  he was reputed often mentioning in his speeches was slavery. Many people agreed with him  and when he was 21 years he was elected to become a member of Parliament.

Wilberforce became friends with William Pitt, who later became Prime Minister of England and who helped Wilberforce  in his struggle.

Wilberforce was not alone in condemning slavery. Many people, especially religious people, agreed with him, not only in England  but in other countries as well. Yet, it was not an easy fight. Some powerful people in England ,who were also members  of parliament themselves slave-traders and made a lot of money from the barbaric trade. So naturally,  they fought against  Wilberforce’s  good intention.

The Death Knell To Slavery

Wilberforce friends  formed a committee to fight slave trade . For many years they were into giving speeches against slavery and slave trade. They asked the Parliament  to pass laws  against slavery and failed for several years.

At last, in the year 1805 , they had some  good news. The British  government  ordered that when British people founded any  new colonies in Africa, they should not start the slave trade there.

Two years later,  in 1807, Wilberforce and his friends  won their great landmark victory . He made a very moving speech in Parliament , and a law was passed which forbade all British people from  buying or selling slaves.

Kudos must be given to Wilberforce for his efforts. He was not content with mere words but backed it up with consistent  actions. He gave his all , to save the inhuman punishment against his fellow human beings.

Subsequently, other countries passed laws  against slave trade  and its inhuman practices. And as it should be expected , traders tried to break the law and continue buying and selling slaves  but the British warships were made to patrol  the African  coasts to search all ships sailing. If they had no slaves on board ,they  were allowed to pass but if slaves were found on board  any ship , were seized and slaves therein set free.

It is germane to mention here that what William Wilberforce did to see to the end of slavery all over the world should not be forgotten in a hurry, hence the International Day of Remembrance  of Victims of slavery  and Transatlantic Slave Trade.  But surprisingly, people still deal in’ second slavery’ business illegally sending people overseas and other neighbouring countries  to do menial jobs and prostitution in exchange for money.

Doing this illegal human trafficking business is ignoring Wilberforce efforts in this direction despite the law prohibiting human trafficking and slavery in Nigeria!!

Children being trafficked outside the shores

In Nigeria, the National Agency for prohibition of Trafficking in Persons(NAPTIP) was created on 14th July 2023 by the Trafficking  in Persons (Prohibition ) Enforcement and Administration Act 2003.

Giant Efforts have been made to arrest the scourge of human trafficking in Nigeria by NAPTIP  and all we could wish them is more power to their elbows. Engaging in Child trafficking is synonymous with slave trade of the old days.  As the world celebrated this year remembrance  of victims of slavery and Transatlantic Slave trade , we should all reflect back on the efforts put in by William Wilberforce and like minds to stop the ugly effects on slave trading and the erosion  of human dignity in the illegal business.

No reparation has  been paid to Africans on the past slave trading activities; it will be better not to continue with the indirect business of engaging in  human trafficking to other countries in collaboration with foreign exploiters.  Historians in Nigeria should also use the March 25th day to give lectures and organize symposia to sensitize people against the illegal and inhuman trade.


By-Tunde Idowu


The Interviews Nigeria

By TheInterviewsNigeria

Publisher/Editor -in Chief with more than a decade of working in the media production industry, Our preoccupation is Development News and rooting for innovation locally and internationally. We are British trained Business English PRO. We edit manuscripts for book publication, translation(English/Yoruba/French). We cross your 't's' and dot your 'i's. We are also into speech draftsmanship and photography; Business reports, and proposals, with minimal cost. Meeting the deadline is our watchword. We would cover your Social /Public events with precision. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Call-08144956897, 08057355037 E-mail-,

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