#minorsextrafficking | Poor economy fueling exodus of Nigerians | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

By Emma Emeozor, Adanna Nnamani, Abuja, and Sunday Ani

“It has been a difficult time, the life I get…when I traveled down to Libya, I got to know that this world is not the way it seems. People were being raped, killed, a lot that I cannot tell. I’m happy because I’m back in my country.”

Those were the words of Yetunde Abraham, who was tricked by a close relative with promises of getting her a juicy job in Germany. She spoke during this year’s World Day Against Human Trafficking in Abuja.

Abraham’s public narration of her agonizing experience ought to be a clear warning to Nigerians not to be swayed by the sugar-coated tongues of human traffickers, who offer to get them fabulous jobs in Europe and America.

However, despite the enormous risks involved in the search for greener pastures abroad, the number of Nigerians willing to ‘gamble’ has remained alarmingly high. A recent report by the World Bank claimed that about 50 per cent of Nigerians, especially the youth, would be willing to leave the country for a better life, an increase of nearly 20 per cent since 2014.

Nigerians willing to leave the country are in two categories: Those who are travelling with legitimate credentials after being offered employment either by a foreign government or a foreign firm. Medical practitioners, computer experts, engineers and other professionals are in this category.

In the second category are those who are inspired by the adage: ‘Never say die until you die.’ This category includes professionally qualified Nigerians who do not have contacts abroad but, feeling frustrated, are willing to leave the country, and those who lack the required professional qualification for employment but strongly believe that, upon arriving in the country of their destination, they will overcome the problem of unemployment.

This group constitutes the real victims of human traffickers. The recent flight of hundreds of Nigerian doctors to Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom highlights the poor state of the country’s economy. It particularly underlines how unemployment has resulted in massive brain drain even at a time when the country requires the services of qualified artisans and other professionals to fix the economy.

The doctors’ ‘hegira’ took place after the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom offered them employment, respectively. And the doctors have blamed Nigerian government policies and poor conditions of service for their flight.

Interestingly, as Nigerians flee the country in droves, those (Nigerians) who have travelled abroad to study are not willing to return, saying they have no hope of getting jobs.

The plight of a Nigerian student, Modupe Osunkoya, further highlights the precarious situation Nigeria is enmeshed in. After more than 200 unsuccessful job applications on LinkedIn alone, Osunkoya knew time was running out for her to extend her stay in Belgium. With three months left on her student visa, she either had to get a job or leave the country. But there was another option – enrolling for her third post-graduate degree since leaving Nigeria in 2017, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The 28-year-old said: “I never saw myself doing a PhD but, if I go home now, there is no job waiting for me.” Left with no choice, Osunkoya, last year, “enrolled for a doctorate degree in Estonia, which is running concurrently with her second master’s degree in Belgium.

She reportedly settled for Estonia after receiving no job or PhD offers in Belgium. “The studies are (a) means to an end, and if God says the end is a permanent residency, why not?” she said.

Osunkoya’s PhD in Future Cities at the Tallinn University of Technology is a paid position. At the end of the four-year research, she can apply for permanent residency. At press time, she was planning to relocate to the eastern European country for the course, which, like those in Belgium, is taught in English.

Osunkoya is not alone. Another Nigerian student in Belgium, Bonuola, also told the BBC that: “People complete a master’s degree, go back to do some advanced diploma below their academic level, then some cheap certificate, all in a bid to remain legal in the system.”

Still, another Nigerian student, Ifeoma, said: “I am an African studying African Studies in Belgium and it makes me mad,” adding “I am not taking it seriously, just killing time (while I) decide on what to do.” She is now doing her second master’s degree since arriving in the country in 2019.

Today, as the fortunes of the economy dip further, hospitals have become the destination of Nigerians seeking to travel abroad to escape the prevailing harsh environment. They patronize doctors who are willing to issue them medical fitness certificate(s), being a compulsory requirement for the issuance of visa by American and European embassies and high commissions.

For this desperate group of Nigerians, the cost of obtaining favourable medical reports does not matter. Their concern is how prepared they are in the event the opportunity to leave the country even at the shortest notice comes. And for the doctors who are issuing the reports, it is brisk business that fetches them extra income to augment their meager salary.

It is an irony of fate that Nigerians who choose to remain in the country are groaning as the country’s economic indicators remain bleak. The cost of living continues to soar at a geometrical rate, which has buoyed the business of human trafficking.

Ebuaka, a travel agent, lamented the country’s gloomy economy, saying the tourism sector’s fortunes were dwindling fast due to cash crunch. According to him, Nigerians who hitherto embarked on tourism can no longer afford it.

He might be right. According to Statista.com, there is a gradual decline in the number of Nigerians going on sight-seeing abroad. For example, it put the figure of visitors from Nigeria to the United States in 2018 at 187,051. In 2019, it reduced to 150,108 and in 2020 it fell to 24,595. However, it should be mentioned that COVID-19 restrictions worldwide may have resulted in the drastic reduction in 2020 and not entirely because of economic factors. Ironically, the BBC quoted experts as saying Nigeria could be losing more than N576 billion ($1.2 billion) yearly to medical tourism.

The World Bank’s disturbing report came on the heels of the U.S. State Department 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report on Nigeria. Though Nigeria was upgraded from Tier 1 to Tier 2, the report said, “The government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”

This is even as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says Nigeria is a major source, transit and destination country in Africa for human trafficking. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) is not oblivious of this remark coming from the world body.

Director-general of NAPTIP, Senator Basher Garba Mohammed, has pledged to reverse the trend. Addressing the media on the activities lined up for the 2021 World Day Against Human Trafficking, he pledged to “improve synergy and collaboration with stakeholders and partners” in order to completely make Nigeria a trafficking-free nation. This is even as he scored the agency high in its operations.

The agency’s legal and prosecution director, Mr. Hassan Tahir, who represented him at the event disclosed that “over 550 traffickers have been jailed” and “over 17,000 victims have been rescued and a good number of them trained and empowered.”

But has the agency the capacity to make Nigeria a trafficking-free nation and how long will this war last? Undoubtedly, the recent arrest of high-profile traffickers was a morale booster to the agency.

Kano-based Nurudeen Sani was a high-profile trans-border trafficker who took his victims out through the Libyan route to Europe. He was arrested by operatives of NAPTIP, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Department of State Services (DSS) and 13 Libya-bound victims, two boys and 11 girls, were rescued.

Barely two weeks after the arrest of Sani, the police arrested Ejiofor Izuchukwu and Nzube Okafor for allegedly attempting to traffic 10 girls to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The girls were rescued in Benin Republic where they were lodged at NIS Hotel, near Scoa Gbeto, Cotonou.

In December 2020, a 35 years old human trafficking kingpin, Comfort Innocent, was arrested in the Owode Egba division of Ogun State for abducting Blessing Aduratola, 15, and Hasisat Fasasi, 16. She took the girls to Kaduna from where they were to be transported to Libya for onward transfer to Italy, where her husband was based.

The husband and wife have been in the business for a long time. Also, the police rescued 22 Akwa Ibom females between the ages of 14 and 30 were rescued from Kolap Hotel in Ogun State; 19 victims rescued recently in Kano were in transit from Ondo, Ekiti, Delta, Anambra, Edo, Osun, Kogi, Akwa Ibom, Kwara, Ogun and Lagos states enroute to Rivers, Oyo, Osun, Delta and Ogun States then to Euroupe via Libya, according to the NAPTIP boss.

Expectedly, Muhammed has been talking tough since he assumed office. Recently, he warned that “no matter where the traffickers go to deceive and recruit victims, they will always meet us at the exit point. Their field days in the illicit business of human trafficking and child labour are over. We are determine to run them out of business and even send them to jail unless they desist from their nefarious activities and find other legitimate venture to engage in.”

However, the determination of  Muhammed to improve on the performance of his predecessors would be dictated by the extent prevailing parameters, particularly the national economy and the level of infrastructural development, are addressed by the authorities.

A concise analysis of the nation’s socio-economic environment would reveal that the fight against the despicable act human trafficking as well as the discouragement of those leaving the country legitimately will remain a tortuous one for a long time to come, except the authorities fast-track development processes and provide sustainable jobs for the populace.

Associate professor of clinical psychology and acting head of the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Lagos State University, Ojo, Dr. Temitayo Deborah Olufemi Adewuyi, aptly put the situation in perspective when she said: “People are tired; they cannot get employment. This is why the perpetrators sell the idea of travelling abroad to people, assuring them that they will get jobs abroad. The problem has to do with the situation at home, which makes repatriated victims have the urge to return abroad. Government has no plan for them.”

Mixed reactions trail NAPTIP’s performance

DG of NAPTIP, Muhammed, recently said the agency “has increased its presence and spread to over 12 states and still counting.” He also disclosed that “over 550 traffickers have been jailed, with many cases at various prosecution stages in courts across the country” and “over 17, 00 victims have been rescued and a good number of them trained and empowered.” He was highlighting the achievements of the agency.

In this report, Nigerians appraise the agency:

Uche Eke, social affairs commentator: NAPTIP still has a long way to go in realising its aims and objectives. The agency has not completely lived up to its mandate in tackling the human trafficking scourge in my estimation. First of all, the agency’s past CEOs complained of paucity of funds. The human trafficking ring is global and NAPTIP officials must have sufficient funds to pay informants.

Again, without a well-oiled intelligence gathering strategy, arresting human traffickers will be a hard task because the syndicate often has huge funds to compromise the security architecture of the country. Another challenge limiting the achievements of NAPTIP is poor collaboration with other security agencies. In the USA for instance, there is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that conducts domestic and international investigations of human trafficking.  It works very closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

DHS and ICE share intelligence and conduct raids, awareness campaigns and other anti-trafficking activities together. This inter-agency collaboration is largely missing in Nigeria or at least not cohesive enough. It is also part of the challenges in the ongoing terror war. The agencies are working in silos instead of collaborating.

So, NAPTIP needs to be better funded, more staff recruited and more training conducted for the workers to understand the latest technologies needed to discharge their duties effectively.

There is also the need to have NAPTIP officers to be at strategic land, air and sea border posts across the country to profile travelers. With the aforementioned issues addressed, it would make the agency more proactive in busting trafficking syndicates instead of becoming a missing person’s search organ.”

Salihu Garko, civil servant: NAPTIP needs to take a cue from the NDLEA and step up its game so that Nigeria can feel its impacts and achievements in the fight against human trafficking. The staff of the agency should be trained in Psychological Trauma Healing to enable them care for victims efficiently.

How many times have we heard of that organization in public space? Publicity on their activities and operations is lacking. Whether overtly or covertly, they need to step up action so that Nigerians can see, hear and feel their impact just like what NDLEA is doing.

“Finally, I recommend Psych Trauma Healing training program for officers and staff of the organization to meet up with new and emerging trend in the fight against trafficking” Salihu said.

Chima Obidimma, businessman: NAPTIP is not doing enough in preventing the menace. Its actions are primarily damage control which happens mostly after a particular incidence or case had gone viral online. Yes NAPTIP is not doing enough to curb human trafficking and I think it is because those at the helm of affairs are not taking the citizens seriously. Sometimes, complains are tendered but they won’t take action until someone probably shares it on the internet and it goes viral. They will now start there damage control system of working.

In addition, the Nigeria consulates are supposed to pay attentions to their citizens whenever complaints are made because they are the eyes of the nation outside the country. I think they really need to pay attentions to our citizens and try to investigate were the problems and loop holes are so as to achieve the desired results.  We can only achieve this if we have the right people running the affairs of the agency and the consulates and those involved in such crimes are prosecuted.

Ms Joyce Daniels, public speaker and author: NAPTIP is doing enough in the fight against human trafficking and in the discharge of its other duties. I don’t know too much about NAPTIP but I do know that they are doing a good job of reporting its activities in the media. A lot of agencies don’t paint their own pictures, they don’t tell their own stories in the media. NAPTIP comes up quite often. You are always hearing that some people have been repatriated or picked up or they have been rescued or something. So, I think that they are doing a good job.

David Folaranmi, anti-drug abuse activist: I think NAPTIP is not doing enough. I think it is not exercising the kind of influence it is supposed to have. I know there are functional laws and rules guiding the affairs of other countries unlike Nigeria, but I think the way we have portrayed ourselves as a people and a government is greatly affecting our ability to demand what is rightfully ours, particularly in the area of human trafficking.

Before we will be able to correct this anomaly, we need to fix Nigeria to a point where we don’t see going to others as a form of seeking better life. The governments of those countries are doing something right.  When this is done we will have few people who will be involved in trafficking and the rate of crime will reduce both at home and abroad when Nigerians travel.

Secondly, Most times persons who are trafficked are usually brainwashed that the life abroad is easy with no plan as to how to thrive. Sadly, they end up doing absurd things to survive. When the greater number of the citizens can thrive in Nigeria, trafficking will be greatly reduced.

Thirdly, when the world sees that we value and respect ourselves, they will respect us and not treat us like trash. An American cannot be trafficked and then the government will take it with levity! No! Even the country where they are trafficked will not be at rest because it is an American that was trafficked! Their government will make demands and not lobby!

Finally, NAPTIP needs to be demanding from the Nigerian government. Trust worthy person who will not be swayed should be appointed as director-general of the agency.

Amanda Greg, Abuja-based businesswoman: NAPTIP is a child of necessity that the government seems not willing to take care of, despite the huge task on its hands. NAPTIP needs more female investigators who will easily infiltrate the trafficking gangs.

The victims of kidnapping are mostly women. NAPTIP does not have sufficient investigators to address this horror. Even where the staff wants to work, where are the tools, good salary, logistics and others? NAPTIP needs more funding. You can’t blame them for not doing enough. What do they have?

Ordeal of trafficking victims

In this report, victims of trafficking who were repatriated narrate their experience while in ‘captivity.’          

Marvin: Unlike so many others who were deceived to believe that they were travelling to Europe, Marvin, a native of Agbor in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, was told from the outset that he was going to Libya to work and make money. He spent two years in Libya, one of which was spent inside prison. He got his freedom when the opportunity to return home was offered by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

On his desert experience, He said: “I experienced a lot of ugly things in the desert. I never expected the journey to be that dangerous. I expected that we were going to use a bus but we were put in a Toyota Hilux van. The Hilux van that was supposed to take about 10 persons was loaded with more than 25 persons.

It took us two days from Nigeria to Agadez in Niger. We rested for two days in Agadez. It took us another four days to get to Libya from Agadez because we didn’t have any obstacles on the way. For those that experienced one problem or the other on the way, they could spend months in the desert.”

How did he find himself in prison? He said: “After some months in Libya, I wanted to cross over to Europe, but in the process we were arrested on the Mediterranean Sea by the Libyan police. We had already travelled for almost three hours before we were intercepted and arrested. That was how I found myself in prison.”

He also recounted his experience in prison, saying, “Life in prison was terrible. We were caged; we didn’t go out. They didn’t open the place except when somebody died. They would open it and evacuate the dead body and close it again. It was like hell. They hardly gave us food. We ate once a day and that was just macaroni. Even when we were sick, there was no medical provision for us; they didn’t care, and that is why many people die in prison over there.

“Today, I am happy that I am back. I thought that all hope was lost but today I am here, hopeful to forge ahead. I thank the IOM for the opportunity.”

Popoola Adesewa: 27-year-old Popoola Adesewa from Abeokuta, Ogun State, said one of her friends sold the idea of travelling to Italy to her. She grabbed the offer with joy, unaware that ‘Italy’ would eventually turn out to be Libya. She said she spent six agonising years in Libya.

“He didn’t tell me we were going to Libya; he told me about Italy. He told me it would be easier to secure a good job there and I believed him. I followed him but when we got to Agadez, the story changed. We had to work there before we got to our destination. I also had to work in Duruku. Although he told me we would travel through the desert, he never told me that the desert was like hell,” she said.

She almost shed tears when asked to narrate her desert experience. With misty eyes and a faint tone, she muttered: “I can’t describe it. I don’t want to remember it because it was horrible. The things they forced me to do in Agadez and Dururku are what I can’t share here. I just thank God that I survived and came back alive.”

But when pressed to at least share one or two of such ugly experiences, she opened up, saying, “When we got to Libya, the story changed. The man sold me to another woman, who took me over as her personal property. She told me that she was the one that paid my money to Libya from Nigeria and that I had to work for her. I worked for 10 months and two weeks prostituting but she still didn’t want to let me go.

She told me that she wanted to use the money I had realised for her to bring another girl for me from Nigeria. In other words, she wanted to introduce me to their human trafficking ring but I told her I was not interested and that she should set me free but she refused. I said to her: “You used me to do ‘runs’ and you still want me to use another person’s daughter?” When I told her that I couldn’t do it, we disagreed and fought. Police burst into her house the day we fought and arrested me, her husband, and two other girls, while she escaped. I spent five days in prison before I was released. When I went back to her house, she insisted that I would have to pay for the expenses she incurred to secure my release from the police. I went back to her house after I was released from the police custody because I was still a ‘Jedit,’ that is a newcomer, who hardly knew her ways. I knew she didn’t pay any money to the police but I was helpless. So, I had to work for her again to offset the money she claimed she paid to secure my release from the police. This time, she insisted that I would double the money. The police clearly told us that we were free to go and that there was no ‘Banamish,’ meaning that no money was collected from us, but when we came back, the woman insisted that she paid for our release. So, I continued working for her for another four months before I told her that enough was enough. She even beat me when I said I was not working for her again.”

When she left her slave master, there was nothing she could do rather than continue in the same line of business she had been introduced to. So, she started prostituting to survive but lamented that at the end of the day, she came back to Nigeria with no dime. “I left her and started working on my own. But, to save money in Libya is not easy. And even when you manage to save money, some people that you trust to help you send the money across to Nigeria will cease your money and tell you that they are your ‘Buga,’ and there is nothing you can do about it. I came back to Nigeria empty-handed. In summary, my experience in Libya was terrible and I wouldn’t want to go back for any reason,” she submitted.

Deola Debora: Ogun State-born Deola Debora narrated how she was deceived through her grandma that she was being taken to the United States of America to further her studies, but ended up in Libya. “We never knew that the woman was a trafficker. She promised my grandma that she was taking me to the US to continue with my education and the old woman was so excited that her granddaughter would be going to America. Then I was 21. We took off from Mile 12, Lagos, and before I knew what was happening, I found myself in Niger and in the desert,” she said.

She also did not want to talk about her desert experiences. “My experience in the desert was terrible. I saw so many things that I don’t want to remember again,” she stated.

In Libya, she was lucky as she was not forced into sex slavery. “When we got to Libya, he told me that I would have to pay 600 Dinar to cover what he spent to bring me to Libya from Nigeria. The following day, I started working as an ‘Arabo,’ that is a housemaid. I saw a lot of things that I can’t say. In fact, they treated us as slaves. Even when you were sick, nobody cared,” she said.

She expressed happiness for coming back alive. She said: “I am happy that I came back alive. As it is, the only thing that can make me travel to America now is if I have my air ticket in my hand and not anybody promising to take me there again. I have seen hell and I don’t want to repeat my mistakes.”

Williams Angel Nwakama: Williams Angel Nwakama from Rivers State spent 19 years in Libya. He came back to Nigeria on November 23, 2017. He said he left Nigeria for Libya toward the end of 1998 because his father was maltreating him. “Things were rough then in Nigeria and most people were living due to the military rule. I went through the desert. No trafficker was involved in my case; it was a personal decision. I left because my father was not treating me well. He was abusing me and out of frustration and anger, I left home when I could not bear it anymore,” he said.

In Libya, he said he engaged in menial works at building construction sites, just like many other Nigerians at the time. He revealed that most Nigerians in Libya at that time were also involved in drugs and human trafficking. “Those of them who had no human feeling were into human trafficking because that was the easiest way to make money then. I was too young to even engage in that kind of business. I was just 17 years old then,” he added.

He was later involved in drugs and that landed him in prison where he served for six years before he was released. “I served six years at Matiba Prison in Tripoli. I was eventually set free and compensated because they found out that I was not really into drugs, but the people I lived with. All of us were arrested and imprisoned after our house was raided,” he stated.

After he was released, he was not deported and he did not want to come back to Nigeria. So, he continued until 2011 when a crisis broke out between Ghaddafi’s men and western-sponsored forces. He said they wanted him to fight on the side of Ghaddafi, but he declined the offer. “Then in Libya, they see Nigerian young men and ladies as soldiers because of the military government in Nigeria. But, in actual sense, the attitude of Nigerians then in Libya was just like those of military personnel. Nigerians are courageous and fearless. They believe that Nigerians are the only people that do not have fear in them; they can even go to the land of the dead and still survive. That was the impression they had about Nigerians then. I don’t know where they got the impression from, but that was why they wanted to force me into fighting for Ghaddafi,” he informed.

However, when it was clear that he didn’t want to fight, they wanted him dead, not minding his close relationship with top military brass in Libya. “I made friends among their top military men – generals and colonels, among others. I speak Arabic, French and Italian fluently. I was very popular from Benghazi, Tripoli to Misrata because I speak their language. Most of them had farms and I was always going from one farm to the other, spending time with them. I gave them ideas, like how to break away from the thought that Africans have no homes. That time, they believed that there was no single car in Nigeria, so I tried to change their impression. They were so much in the dark that they didn’t know about the outside world, because Ghaddafi caged them. I gave them knowledge of how to travel to Europe and many of them travelled outside, sending their children to Europe and America to study. At that time, my means of survival was just relating with these top military men and providing these ideas to them, while they sustained me by providing my needs.

“So, when the war started, it was easy for these top army officers to grab me but I refused their offer to fight. They arrested me at Bograine and confined me to an underground prison. They took me back to Tripoli. We were about 56 but 53 of us refused to fight and they tortured us. Even the people who were my friends in the army took part in torturing me. Throughout the crisis, I was being moved from prison to prison. Sometimes, I would escape but they would later recapture me and put me back into the prison,” he narrated.

But, when he found out that his life was on the line, he convinced them that he had medical knowledge and that he could take care of the injured instead of fighting, and they accepted. “That job equally made me more popular. I even took care of their pregnant women. Sometimes, I would disguise as a woman to be able to penetrate war-torn areas to be able to get drugs for the wounded. Even when the war was moving to Benghazi; where France dropped the bomb that killed most of the Ghaddafi’s soldiers, I was there,” he said.

He was so popular that he eventually became the chairman of all the Nigerian communities in Libya. “I became the overall chairman of the Nigerian community there. The Arewa, Ohaneze and Oduduwa groups were all under my chairmanship. I helped to release a lot of Nigerians that were in prison. I used my connection to save a lot of Nigerians and Africans. I became so popular that there was no drug case or any kind of case at all that they would not call on me. Some were innocent and some were actually guilty of the crime they were alleged to have committed but I was there for them,” he stated.

With 19 productive years wasted in Libya and now back to square one in Nigeria, Williams said his mission was to write a book to expose what exactly happened to Nigerians in Libya. “I will do that because that was my promise to Nigerians that died in Libya. I am planning to visit families that believe that their sons are still out there, but they don’t know that they have died a long time ago. Some families go to different churches with pictures of their children praying for their safe return but they don’t know that those children had died a long time ago. I saw a lot and I want to help families locate their dead ones in Libya. There are a lot of uncovered graves – mass graves of Nigerians in Libya that I know. I know the places, the areas and even the people that killed them. I know a lot.

“I want the world community to know the truth about the killings in Libya. The dead bodies are not about the people trying to cross the Mediterranean. The people that die in Libyan territory are much more than those who die in the sea. Libyans are just killing Nigerians for no reason. If there is any reason, I will tell you but in this case, there is absolutely no reason; they keep killing Nigerians in their hundreds. They kill people anyhow. I know one Ghanaian called John, who worked for a Libyan, but was not paid. And just because he went to the man’s house to ask for his money, he was hacked to death with an axe. What about the incident that happened shortly before we came back? A Delta man was shot dead by an Arab who said he was making a noise. Just like that and the man was dead. This one happened in my presence; I saw him shoot the Delta guy. There are many instances like that.

“My book will expose many evils so that the world will know the truth. The Italian and European government would have to share in the blame. My mission now is to reveal to the world the truth about what actually happened. IOM does not know what happened; it only came to rescue us.”

On what happens in the desert, he said: “We need a lot of work to stop what is happening in the desert. If the European Union and IOM can support me, it will stop. Many of our brothers came down to Nigeria to organise large numbers of people, and deceive them that they were taking them to Europe. They have made so much money doing this dirty business and they would bring them to the desert and sell them off. They will promise them mouth watering jobs.

“The one that shocked me mostly was the case of a young girl from Ekiti State, who was about 16 years old. As a virgin, she was put in a house at Agadez to be deflowered by the highest bidder. They started with $300 and ended in $5000. So, the person that brought the girl collected $5000 and allowed old men to deflower the little girl, who kept shouting as she was being penetrated.”

Naomi Lawrence: For 30-year-old Naomi Lawrence from Igbokoda in Eit-Osa Local Government Area of Ondo State, her worry is the fact that some of the notorious human traffickers were seated among other returnees at the reintegration seminar. “Right now, I feel okay; I feel alright but something is bugging my mind. There are some human traffickers who are here with us in this training. I don’t understand that. What are they here for?” she queried.

She spent a year and 10 months in Libya. She said her days in Libya were good because the family she worked for was good.

She revealed that the traffickers and those who trade on human beings are Nigerians and not Libyans. She lamented that Nigerian girls, mostly from Benin-City and Abeokuta do all sorts of things, ranging from stealing to prostitution in Libya. “If you go there and say you are a virgin, they will tell you not to worry. They will ask you if you will not give birth and when you say you will give birth, they will then assure you that the baby, which will pass through your virgina is much bigger than penis. They also steal. Nigerians steal cars from Libya and bring them down to Nigeria and that is why the Libyans hate Nigerians so much. In Libya, you will not find ladies from other African countries; all the girls are Nigerians. Libyans were even asking us why we betray ourselves and turn around to accuse them of maltreating us,” she stated.

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Her only regret is that she lost her mother and her 11-year-old son, while she was away in Libya. “I was into fashion designing and I had a shop in Surulere. I was also into catering and bead making. My friend convinced me that there was an opportunity for a fashion designer in Dubai. I was just carried away. My major regret is that I lost my 11-year old son and my mum. I thank IOM for this opportunity because it would have been more terrible without this assistance,” she submitted.

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