The ways humans are exploited differ significantly. Those involved in trafficking started with sex within escort services and soon moved to labour trading of farmworkers. Today, they have gradually but steadily roamed to human organs harvesting, which now appears to be more lucrative. In this report JULIANA FRANCIS reveals that traffickers usually target vulnerable populations but said there are particular circumstances such as homelessness they try to exploit for profit.
When 30-year-old old Abosede, a mother of two was told that she would be travelling to a country called Oman to work, and that her monthly salary would be N60, 000, she was excited.
She thought mother luck was finally smiling on her and her family. Although, she did not know where Oman is located, all she needed to know, she said, was that it is an overseas country; a nation one goes to on international flight.
Abosede bubbled with enthusiasm and made plans on what she would do with the money. She sat down with her husband for days, discussing and making plans. While she made plans, the Good Samaritan, who literarily wanted to
turn her life to that of Cinderella, put finishing plans to the travel arrangements and documents. But eight months after Abosede left the Nigerian soil to Oman, her songs of excitement, turned to despair.
She sent desperate messages, calling for her family in Nigeria to come and save her. She had been trafficked into a world of slavery. Before help came, Abosede went mentally deranged. Though, she is back in Nigeria against all odds, she was not the same lively, bubbling woman before she left the country.
She has become a shadow of herself. These days, she appears to be in a world of her own, staring into space and apparently battling monsters that only she could see. Her condition plunged her family into mournful mood. They all wished Abosede would return to her normal self.
Attempts by our correspondent to get close to Abosede were rebuffed by her family who guarded her. Her sister, Bunmi, said: “I went through thick and thin because of my sister’s issue.
It wasn’t easy for my family and I, until my sister finally returned, looking almost lifeless and derailed. I don’t mean to be rude to anyone, but if there’s any other step you could take to help the situation of other women, or do the story without my sister’s involvement, please do.
I even called my mother on this issue, but my sister is still psychologically depressed. She’s being carried from one church to another. My mother is reacting violently about this. I think, maybe, my sister needs time to overcome her depression.”
The heart-breaking story of Abosede’s journey to Oman started in May 2016. She left her home at Mowe, Ogun State, and embarked on the journey to the unknown. It turned out to be a house help job. Less than eight months after, she was desperate to return to Nigeria.
She complained of being overworked, fatigued and later developed mental illness. She was introduced to the Oman job by one Taofik, a travel agent working for one Alhaja Ayoola. She allegedly sent Abosede to Oman after it was agreed that the victim would remit her first six months salaries to her.
Bunmi said: “Before Abosede left, she was told that when she got there, she would only assist a house help working for a family and she would be paid N60, 000 per month. She was also told that she would wash clothes with a washing machine.
“She was made to sign a document that she would pay her first six months salaries to Alhaja. However, she told us that when she got there, she discovered that she was the only maid in the family. She was made to work for about 20 hours per day. She washed clothes manually, did ironing and was forced to convert to Islam. She said her mistress woke her up every day at 4am to go to mosque and consequently, she developed high blood pressure.”
The family would later receive information that Abosede had developed mental problem. An Oman company that specialised in recruiting Nigerian house helps gave a video recording to the family to back up the claim.
The unknown caller insisted that the family should send money for her flight ticket. This made Bunmi and other members of the family to run from pillar to post, trying to raise N186, 000, which they sent to another of Alhaja’s agent, called Niyi.
Niyi later claimed to have sent the money to the Oman firm, and they promised to put Abosede on a plane. The company collected the money, but failed to act, according to the agreed terms. The caller said that Abosede had become too violent to board a plane. After much ado and prayers, she finally returned home, but Bunmi refused to disclose how she returned or who brought her back to Nigeria.
Asked how Abosede got to the country that has known Embassy anywhere in Nigeria, Bunmi said: “These traffickers have agents here in Nigeria. Part of the agents’ work is to get passports and visas for the victims.”
However, Saturday Telegraph investigation has revealed that Abosede’s case is pending at the Lagos office of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person (NAPTIP).
The agency’s operatives are said to be investigating the case. But, the fact that Abosede is suffering from psychiatric challenges makes it difficult to get relevant information out of her. Her situation also makes it difficult to effect any arrest, let alone charge anyone to court over her being trafficked to Oman.
While NAPTIP agents are battling to track down those behind Abosede’s journey to Oman, other unsettling nightmares emerged from the same country. This time, the story is about three Nigerian women, who were tricked and trafficked to Oman, just like Abosede.
The women, however, desperate to return to Nigeria, made three audios, which they uploaded on the internet, hoping it will reach the Nigerian authority, leading to action plan. The lead speaker sounded distressed and desperate. The audio is a sort of Save Our Soul (SOS). The women, all residing in Oman, described their lives there as hellish.
The speaker in the first audio said: “Nigerian girls are suffering in Oman. They are using us like slaves. In Oman, we wake and start work at 4:30 am. We usually end our work around 12 am. If we refused to work, they beat us up, and then lock us up in jail. A lot of Nigerian girls have lost their lives here. Some have run mad, while others have become useless. Please help us.”
According to their pathetic stories, they were tricked and trafficked into slavery by some travelling agents. The audios, already in circulation in the US and Nigeria, got Nigerians seething, with many demanding to know what the government was doing to rescue such trafficked women. The victims disclosed that their Oman bosses were mean to Nigerian women and often subject them to inhuman and degrading treatments.
The women, desperate to escape their dismal conditions, voice recorded their plight in Oman and uploaded the audios on the internet. There is fear, indignation and resignation in their voices. Speaking like someone in hiding, the first speaker said: “Our agents are too merciless. They gave our Oman bosses orders to beat us without mercy if we refuse to work.
Some girls had been beaten until they couldn’t see properly. These agents told us that we were going to Oman to work and we agreed, but we least expected this kind of work.
“My agent told me I was going to work. It was not until my visa came out that I realised it was Oman. I was told that there would be resting days for us. Since I have been working here, I have never had a day off. The hardship is too much.”
The first speaker did not give her name, but the second introduced herself as Ajoke. According to Ajoke, “the agents that bought us here, shall never progress in life. They and their families will suffer for all they did to us. They knew what is going on in Oman before sending us here. Ours could only be described as a case of ‘one chance.’”
Ajoke begged everyone that listened to her voice to ensure it gets to the Nigerian government. She said that the sort of jobs Nigerian women were forced to do in Oman have rendered many of them barren. She also disclosed that many of them were skilled workers in Nigeria, but were deceived by traffickers that approached them in sheep clothing. She divulged that it was when she and other girls got to Oman they were told that the agents had sold them to Oman men.
She added: “The Oman men said they have paid for our lives; we can’t speak. Please, everyone, stop coming to Oman. Let’s leave Oman. This country is not good.”
The speaker in the third audio, blamed travel agents for Nigerian women ordeals in Oman, stressing that the travel agents were part of the trafficking syndicates. She said: “There are a lot of fake agents in Nigeria; they create job opportunities in Arab countries.
If you have a sister or a cousin travelling to Middle East to work, advise them not to go. Our government must put a stop to human trafficking.