‘They threatened to kill us if we did not sleep with men

Published On: January 15, 2012, 10:59 pm (8 years ago)
Author: Kimberlybrown
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters, has stepped up the fight against child trafficking by rescuing and empowering some victims

Their parents’ or guardians’ poverty is the only leverage their exploiters need. With that, the unscrupulous merchants are able to convince these vulnerable members of the society that good life will be theirs if they release their children or wards for good jobs in the cities here in Nigeria or abroad.

The awful truth, however, is that young ones released to the recruiters are always forced into all sorts of demeaning schedules, including street hawking, domestic help, and, as horrendous as it is, prostitution.

One of the victims of such recruitment is Gloria, 19, who said her mother’s friend promised her a restaurant job in Lagos, where she would earn N10,000 per month, excluding feeding.

She said nobody in her village had any idea that the woman was a prostitute in one of the hotels in Lagos.

She said, “When I got to Lagos, I noticed that the woman did not take me to her house. Both of us went straight to the Cash Hotel in Ikeja.

“When I asked her about the restaurant job she promised me, she retorted that I could make thrice the money she promised me in a month. After a week of stay in the hotel, she threatened to ‘deal’ with me if I did not get any customer.

“I slept with men day and night, to the point that I lost count of customers I slept with in a day. However, I always insisted on men using condoms before they could have sex with me.”

Another victim, Ekaette, 15, said she was tricked by her aunty into life of prostitution in a Lagos hotel. She, too, was promised the job of shop attendant in a big convenience store, where she would retire to in the evening after attending school during the day.

Ekaette said, “I did not know I was going to Lagos to be sleeping with men. My mother did not know the business Aunty Eno was doing in Lagos, so I was given freely to her.

“When we arrived in Lagos, we went to a hotel at Agege. All my attempts to resist sleeping with men did not work, as the woman threatened to kill me if I did not sleep with men. Thank God for the prompt intervention by NAPTIP; who knew whether I would have been dead by now?”

The story of 17-year-old Chioma is a bit different, albeit as pathetic. Having become pregnant as a teenager, a friend of hers, one Chidi Ebere, told her at an Umuahia hospital that her (Ebere’s) brother’s wife had a welfare home where Chioma could have her baby without much trouble. She was told that the home would take care of her and her baby.

The story took a different turn when she reached Okigwe town where she discovered that the woman not only uses her victims for unpaid hard labour, she also sells children born in the so-called welfare home.

“I met other girls who asked whether the person who brought me to the place told me what they were doing there. I answered no. The girls told me that before I could eat, I would have to crack one bucket of palm kernel, though I was heavily pregnant then.

“I was also told that immediately an inmate had a baby, the nurses would take the baby from the mother, wrap it in a black polythene bag and take it to one Emmanuella in another section of the home, who would bath and take care of the baby.”

According to Chioma, the newborns suffer cruel treatment, just as do their hapless mothers. “Emmanuella would stuff cotton wool in the mouth of any crying baby, so that visitors and neighbours would not get to know what was happening there,” she said.

Another rescued victim, Abasiofon, said her problems started following her mother’s death, as she had to contend with a cruel step-mother.

In her own case, Abasiofon knew a bit of better life, as she was a student in a private secondary school. Indeed, she was in SS II when her step-mother allegedly prevailed on her father to discontinue paying her school fees. She lamented that her father capitulated and she was subsequently sent out of the school.

She then followed one of her friends to Lagos, where her father’s friends who knew her sent her back to Uyo. It was in Uyo that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters, rescued her from life in the streets.

All the rescued victims are not females; some of them are boys who are within the age range of the girls. In the case of the males, they were not taken to hotels for prostitution, but were forced into child labour. Some were recruited into hawking all types of things, including packaged water, ice creams, soap, confectionery and other items of low value.

Their rights to education, self-assertiveness and even self-worth were subjugated to the menial activities they were confined to do.

Wisdom Charles, now 15, was hardly weaned from the Bosom  before he was forced to work as a domestic slave in Lagos at age five. Needless to say, he was not given the opportunity to acquire even basic education, as he would be made to do heavy domestic work like washing dishes and piles of clothes in the morning, after which he attended to various unending errands. In the evening, his captors made him hawk sachet water in the traffic. He did that for 10 agonising years.

“I was not allowed to go to school. My madam treated me as if I was not a person. I saw myself as being unfortunate and could not imagine that one day, I would be set free. Thank God, I have learnt photography under the supervision of NAPTIP.

“I will be serious with my work. My future depends on it; I will not let NAPTIP down or the British High Commission. I thank God,” he enthused.

Though the rescuing organisations may not restore the wasted years of these young Nigerians, the victims of human trafficking — aptly tagged ‘survivors’ — can now heave a sigh of relief as the British High Commission, together with NAPTIP, have come to their rescue.

The rehabilitating bodies however have a Herculean task, as they soon discovered that while their ordeal lasted, these young ones had assumed bad character, assimilated wrong values and had even been made to believe that the society didn’t really care.

It is in the spirit of putting an end to the scourge that the two organisations empowered 15 survivors, who came from different states in the Niger Delta and South-Eastern region of the country. Each of them was equipped with different trade equipment, which include sewing machines, hair driers, clippers, refrigerators, deep freezers, photography equipment, and aluminium cutting equipment. Each of them also received N20,000.

The two-day workshop in Uyo had eight survivors from Uyo centre, which comprises Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River and Rivers states; and seven from Enugu centre, which comprises Anambra, Enugu and Imo states. The workshop was designed to train the survivors on basic skills in book-keeping, business management, marketing strategies, and customer relations.

Before now, the rescuers had trained the survivors in various trades like tailoring, catering, photography, aluminium profiling and hairdressing in the respective centres for four months to one year.

The programme, tagged, ‘Business Skill Training and Empowerment of Victims of Human Trafficking,’ was organised by NAPTIP in collaboration with the British High Commission.

The Executive Director of NAPTIP, Mrs. Beatrice Jedy-Agba, represented by Zonal Head, South-South office, Uyo, Mr. Peter Essien, said the beneficiaries were expected to start generating income for their sustenance, using the knowledge they had acquired and the trade equipment they had been given.

She said, “The overall goal is to enable them to resist the temptation to be re-trafficked.”

Jedy-Agba stated that the agency would continue to monitor trainees until they had stabilised in the society and gravitated from helpless dependants to partners in the fight to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking and be able to mentor other victims in future.

“Today, we are also consolidating our relationship with the civil society organisations because the beneficiaries of this programme will be referred to accredited NGOs under our integrated referral programme for further assistance and monitoring.

“The integrated referral programme under the supervision of the agency will ensure that the beneficiaries make a success of their training and empowerment by becoming economically self-sufficient and independent to resist the lure of traffickers.Via punch..

Posted: (8 years ago) on 15-01-2012 10:59 PM | Upcoming
There is a special corner of hell waiting for these traffickers, and those who purchase children.  I hope it comes to them 10-fold before they pass out of the world.
Posted: (8 years ago) on 15-01-2012 11:11 PM | Upcoming
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Poverty is the cause of this rubbish. I pray for this country

Posted: (8 years ago) on 16-01-2012 12:24 AM | Gistmaniac
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