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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Nigeria’s Irregular Migration: How Families, Friends, ‘Kill’ Nigerian Women, Youths (2)

Family members, friends and intimate partners are involved in the initial stage of human trafficking for a third of adult trafficking cases and around two-third of child trafficking cases says the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – a United Nations migration agency. Nigerian investigative journalist TOBORE OVUORIE, motivated by years of research into irregular migration such as trafficking of women, children and youths in her country; Nigeria, as well as the initial loss of a friend and subsequently many others, decides to dig deeper in the multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise often involving family members or close associates of affected persons. Traveling around Nigeria, in this three-part series, she documents rape experiences, beatings, bruises, abductions, embassy officials, police and other security agencies’ aiding and abetting the criminal enterprise, murder and deaths.

Here are her findings in the second part of this series.


They were three boys and a girl on their way from Nigeria to Libya to earn mega bucks. The girl was Isioma Peters. Before Isioma went to Libya, she was working as a secretary in Agbor, Delta state. One day, her uncle’s wife approached her, offering an all-expenses paid trip out of Nigeria and connected Isioma to her niece who in turn introduced the 20-year-old to a young man – a supposed informal travel agent in Agbor.

Isioma, an indigene of Agbor, lived with a friend though her parents were in the same town- Agbor – with her. She did not complete her secondary school education, neither did she acquire a vocational skill. The first time Isioma met the informal travel agent, it was at his home, and she went with her mother.

She confided in the agent that she has no education nor vocational skill but he assured her of still making it big in Libya despite the shortcomings. When she returned home, her boss warned her not to go to Libya. Isioma already blocked her ears with 18 inches nails. Her spirit was already in Libya. Her mother and other family members warned her, as well.

Their words fell on rocky ground.
Resolute, Isioma left for her grandfather’s house, packed some of her belongings that were there and began her journey out of Nigeria on February 5th, 2016. The agent encouraged her never to entertain fear because there are many other persons like her on the journey. And, when she gets to Libya, she will definitely get a mouth-watering paying job.

He then gave her N3,000. Money to bribe Nigeria Police Officers she would encounter on the journey. Then, put her in a vehicle. Isioma never paid a dime for transportation. All she knew was Libya was her final destination but didn’t know who was responsible for her transportation fare, how much more how and why.

Miss. Isioma Peters, birthed a baby unaided in ISIS prison after being sold into sex slavery by her uncle’s wife in February 2016, at the age of 20. Tobore Ovuorie.

Fast forward. 

The journey from Agbor was smooth until when they approached Kano state. The vehicle they were in broke down. Then, they were apprehended by some police officers. When interrogated, Isioma said she was going to Libya and one of the police officers advised her against it.

“You are in Nigeria, you have free movement, you are enjoying; look at the big phone you are carrying,” she went down memory lane, sitting opposite me at about 8pm on the second Saturday in April, 2020. The Police officers threatened to arrest the four youngsters. Then, gave them only an option: payment of bribes.

One of the young men took to his heels. He was never found.
“I called the boy (the agent) to tell him we are about to be arrested. He said if I have money, I should give to them (the police officers),” she narrated.

Isioma had a total of N21,000 on her. N18,000 of her own and N3,000 the agent gave to her, from this, she gave the police officers a bribe of N2,500.

At Kano, an Alhaji came to get them across the border. At the point of crossing the border, she phoned her mother that it would be the last time she would be reachable on phone until she gets to Libya because she is about to cross to the other side. Isioma’s mom assured her that nothing will happen to her.

Motorcycles are used in crossing the border and it is one of the riskiest phases of the trip because Police officers apprehend people whose riders are not fast and smart. The rider who took Isioma across the border rode the way armed robbers do in action movies.

Global Reality.

Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad.

It has been estimated that every second of the day, an average of eight women, girls and often young boys, are trapped by international criminal networks where the sole aim is to sexually exploit them, traffic them and enslave them. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that nearly a million people are trafficked every year for purposes of sexual exploitation, although 98 percent are women and girls. Notwithstanding that huge sums of money are made, the victims rarely receive any of this, making human trafficking a modern form of slavery. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in her 2016 Global Report On Trafficking In Persons says globally, more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected between 2012 and 2014. Forty-two percent of detected victims between 2012 and 2014 were trafficked domestically, while 21,251 total victims were detected.

The UNODC reports 69 countries reported to have detected 21,251 victims from Sub-Saharan Africa between 2012 and 2014. Nigeria had 1030 detected trafficking victims. Of these, 322 were adults (61 males, 261 females) and 708 were children (458 boys, 250 girls). The UNODC also indicates while traffickers are overwhelmingly males, women comprise a relatively large share of convicted offenders, compared to most other crimes. This share, according to the UN organization, is even higher among traffickers convicted in the victims’ home country. Court cases and other qualitative data indicate that women are often used to recruit other women. It disclosed trafficking in persons recorded 400 offenses in 2012, 407 in 2013, 603 in 2014 and 334 in 2015. However, in 2012, it disclosed 185 males and 147 females suspects and arrests were made.

Reality Unveiled. 

By the time she got to Agadez, Isioma had less than N5,000 left on her. She had spent over N16,000 paying bribes to Police officers and thugs. She could not buy food for herself. She starved and waited for crumbs from group meals people shared for a week at the camp she lived in Agadez before the journey continued.
“We thought that Agadez to Libya is not that far. None of us in the vehicle had ever been to Libya. But people (in the vehicle) were saying ‘Libya is not far from here’,” she went down memory lane.

They drove through vast land filled with sand, whirling dust and animals.
In-depth findings reveal that drivers on that route do park the Hilux trucks and everyone spreads their blankets on the ground in the desert to sleep in the cold at night. Isioma’s driver did the same, while she made friends with other young ladies the first night they slept in the desert.

Isioma arrived in Libya 13th February 2016. They stopped at Ghetto – a transit and arrival point in Libya – and the man in charge of them on the trip, forced many of the young ladies to sell sex for money. Isioma escaped this phase.
In the morning, one of Isioma’s new friends was stripped naked, and thoroughly beaten by a man she had sex with all through the night. She was never given a dime by the man.
That morning, the man – in charge of them on the trip – told them various persons will come check them out, pay and take whosoever is bought away.

“I said that is buying and selling; they want to sell us to another person. He said we should not talk, that we should keep quiet,” she recollected how she challenged being sold. She never knew she had been repeatedly sold right from Nigeria.

Helpless, and with no option, she kept quiet and observed how each girl was sold. Then, a Ghanaian man arrived, took a closer look at Isioma and her friend, Maureen, paid for them, and they were taken away.

“The man (who sold them) said that when we get to the man’s house, the man (the buyer) will tell us how much we are going to pay him for all the expenses incurred from Nigeria to Libya,” she recollected. This includes the transportation fare.

They were first taken to Jufra, where Isioma learned through a Nigerian woman from her hometown, that war would commence in two week’s time where she was being taken to: Sirit.

Police officers kept turning them back from continuing the trip to Sirit. For reasons best known to Isioma’s buyer, he wriggled their way through to the forbidden zone. Announcements via every means of communications that every human, particularly Libyans, should vacate Sirit due to the forthcoming war, fell on the rocky ground of their master’s ears and heart.

Isioma, Maureen and their master got to the about-to-be-war-torn Sirit, February 25th, 2016. It turned out that his wife was a Nigerian. She told the two girls that they are to pay her $400. Confused and naive, the girls requested for the value in naira.

“She said no, that when we are paying her, she would be telling us the balance that is remaining. And besides, we are going to do prostitution,” Isioma told me that night.

Isioma was shocked. She had never lived a wild life. She kicked against being a sex slave but was warned that she had no choice but to do it.  If not, she should get in touch with her family and friends to send the $400 bondage fee. The woman yet refused to state how much that would be in naira. Isioma threw in the towel.She frowned and was unfriendly towards customers and they in turn complained to her madam.

Sexual exploitation overwhelmingly involves women and children, and it is a problem of worldwide proportions which obviously robs them of their basic human rights, including their right to freedom, their dignity, their right to live where they choose and the right to control their own bodies.

Mr. Moses Ologwu, a Lagos-based legal practitioner describes human trafficking as a menace to the society. He says it is a disease which has to be nipped at the bud because young persons are being taken out of the country for money and they become damaged. “People take advantage of them sexually and at the end of the day, they become a recluse to the society. It is a disease which every society have to fight.”

Mr. Moses Ologwu, Lagos-based legal practitioner. Tobore Ovuorie.

Many of the pimps and traffickers often inject their sex slaves to prevent pregnancies. But Isioma’s madam could not be bothered. No sooner had she resumed as a sex slave, Isioma got pregnant, while abortions are forbidden in Libya. But the madam tried to flush out the pregnancy in a crude manner: a mixture of lime, methylated spirit and other substances. Even Maureen too was pregnant, but from Nigeria and she never knew until she was in Libya.

Isioma was given a cup full of the mixture to drink one early morning. Immediately she drank it, her stomach started to react. After she was given another cup to drink, she started vomiting, then lost consciousness.

“The woman started shouting that I must pay her even if I die. And, she wouldn’t allow me leave until I pay her,” Isioma had this: can-you-believe-it? expression written all over her.

The madam’s brother who lives with them scolded his sister over her inhuman utterances. Isioma was hearing them argue but from afar in her unconscious state. And, she was seeing dead people and did not know where she was anymore. Then, very big trouble clothed in black ugly robes turned up at their apartment. ISIS.

Isioma and Maureen never knew their madam was a wanted person in Libya, and ISIS had been monitoring the house they all lived in.

While the madam and her brother were exchanging words and having a heated argument over Isioma’s condition, ISIS in a commando style as performed in action movies, smashed the door and windows of the house they were in. The building was already surrounded. No escape routes. The ISIS fighter picked the madam, her two kids, brother, husband, Maureen and even Isioma who was unconscious. She gradually started gaining consciousness in ISIS’ detention camp. The ISIS fighters wanted to take her to the hospital for medical attention.

Isioma had changed her name to Hawau immediately she arrived in Libya. She learned how to pray in Islam. Her madam notwithstanding the inhuman treatments meted on the girls told them to tell the ISIS fighters that they are faithful Muslims and should showcase this by praying the Islamic way as evidence to ISIS, that on account of that she, the girls and her household would be released. Isioma agreed.

I was almost asking her what manner of mumu are you? How can you agree to that Kain yeye thing? Then, I remembered trafficked and abused persons often come down with Stockholm’s syndrome. According to mental health experts, Stockholm syndrome is a condition in which trafficking victims develop psychological bonds with their pimps or traffickers while serving them as slaves.

Trafficked persons, experts say, sometimes attempt to appease their pimps or traffickers in order to secure their safety. Through this strategy, they feel they might be better off working with their traffickers or captors. Hence, see their abusers as being their benefactors.
The ISIS fighters started interrogating each captive.

They promised taking Isioma to the hospital but she should tell them what was wrong. She told them she was alright that she was in deep sleep when she was captured because she hadn’t had breakfast when she took a powerful blood tablet that morning.
The ISIS fighter interrogating her did not believe her because her mouth oozed of methylated spirit. He was about to take her to the hospital and Isioma became afraid that the truth would be uncovered. Having adopted the Libyan way of living, she knew they hated lies and discovering she lied to them could cost her life, so, she told them exactly what transpired before the arrival of the rebel fighters at the house.

Isioma as at this time still had not had a meal except the undiluted, very thick coffee without sugar and milk her madam had forced her to drink while starving her; hoping it would force the foetus out of her womb. The fighters then gave her food before taking them to a makeshift court for prosecution. Isioma again, lied to them that she was in Libya as a house help, not sex worker, to save her madam. And, war broke out. ISIS versus the United States Army.

The ISIS fighters kept moving them around as each place they were taken to were bombed by the US soldiers. And, the meal of a huge mountain of human bodies got into death’s mouth.

About 10 to 15 persons shared a bottle water. But a majority of the ISIS captives were not lucky to have drops to grease their tongues nor throats. Bearing pains that had no name, the captives sort of lasted a little longer in very dark underground tunnels with no ray of light. They could only tell the time from the call-to-prayer made very early in the morning. It seeped through a tiny hole in a little space that seemed like a bathroom underground.

Bitter cries and gnashing of teeth by the captives were witnesses to the dark commitment of the tunnels. Isioma already over three months pregnant, never had antenatal care. She prayed for a miracle.

Imprisoned by ISIS for no fewer than seven months, she finally gave birth to a boy all by herself in the tunnel. The birth date of the child remains unknown as the pitch-dark space paused time and she had a more important issue to worry about. Food. There was no food to eat. Her breasts were hungry too, so did no justice to the little lad. Yet, mother and son stayed loyal to each other.

A major rule in the tunnel was: mothers must never allow their babies to cry because missiles from the American soldiers were activated by even breeze, how much more cries of babies. Isioma’s baby was super cooperative. Quite hungry, he reserved his strength and gathered more from sleep.

Fed up, one day, Isioma told Maureen she would escape from the underground prison to seek help from the American soldiers. Maureen dissuaded her, saying it would be attempting to commit suicide because ISIS fighters kill people who try escaping from their conclave. Isioma wouldn’t listen to anything different. She preferred to die by American bullets than perish in the ISIS side of the war.

“My family members were thinking I was enjoying in Libya not knowing I was in serious trouble,” she could not hide the pains in her eyes, as I sat and listened .

Maureen was afraid of leaving the ISIS prison though she had no responsibility like Isioma. Her baby died a month to her birthing the child because she had come down with typhoid fever while there was no food or medication for her to take. Luckily, nothing happened to her after birthing the dead child.

The day they tried to escape from the prison to seek help from the American soldiers, a sniper shot Maureen in her leg. But she survived it.
The unbreakable bond formed by Isioma and Maureen was almost torn to shreds. Fed up with Maureen’s fear and trying to talk her out of escaping from the prison, she reminded her friend that they never knew themselves when they each left Nigeria; they only met on the journey to Libya. She was ready to leave without Maureen.

Isioma and her baby took the lead while Maureen held onto her cloth. Others in the prison stared at the two girls with: these-foolish-girls-wanna-commit-suicide expression written all over them.

“I told them, you people you can die, but as for me, I don’t want to die; my time have not come,” she retorted.

Immediately they got out of the tunnel, they saw the armour tank of the US soldiers. The soldiers called out to the girls. They immediately headed in the direction of the soldiers but were requested to take off the long outer garments they were wearing.

Isioma initially refused and was almost shot because women wearing Islamic outer garments were used to carry and detonate bombs by ISIS.
After confirmation that the duo had no bomb strapped to their bodies, the Americans put them in a car and drove them to a safe house where they were fed and had a bath for the first time. They hadn’t had a bath for about four months. Then, were moved to Misrata.

At Misrata, after due diligence to ensure the girls were actually victims of trafficking and not perpetrators of the war, the United Nations (UN) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) came for them. They were taken to a safe and comfortable house in Tripoli where they were thoroughly pampered with gifts and care. Isioma’s baby’s transformation was quite fast. He gained weight rapidly and his skin changed for the better due to being well fed and cared for by the UN and IOM.

Two global agencies wanted to move the ladies to either Canada or the US but they rejected the offer. They wanted to return to Nigeria due to fear of the unknown; having experienced grievous inhuman treatments in Libya, which was their first-time outside Nigeria.
Isioma decided to return to Nigeria because she wanted to see her family members again.

Denials and depression. 

“If you travel and you do not bring money, the way your family like you before, they will not like you that way. Before I left Nigeria, I used to support my family. When I returned, the first thing my mother said was ‘you did not bring money, it is only baby you brought from Libya,” Isioma’s voice rose by some decibels. She was and is still deeply pained.

Her mother on more than three occasions returned the baby to Isioma when she took him to her to assist in caring for him so she could go job hunting in order to earn a living to care for the child and her family.
Her family members abandoned her. Even her brothers she lavished on while she was working before leaving Nigeria. Only a friend came through for her.

Due to poor and insufficient care, Isioma’s baby died suddenly at the general hospital, Agbor, Delta state, after being ill for four days. The little lad was nine months old when he bade the world goodbye. She still bears the pains with unwavering grace and strength.


Other human trafficking survivors lament rejection, stigmatization  y family members, society.

The United Nation Trafficking in Persons Protocol, Article 9 section 1 states: Parties shall establish comprehensive policies, programs and other measures: (a) To prevent and combat trafficking in persons; and (b) to protect victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, from re-victimization. Though policies have been put in place in Nigeria, trafficking survivors and victims are not only being re-victimized, but shamed, rejected and stigmatized.

Over 8000 Nigerians trapped in Libya have voluntarily returned to the country since April 10th, 2017, through the European Union/IOM and Federal Government airlifting assistance and partnerships. Since their return, the EU/IOM and NAPTIP have begun reintegrating the returnees into the society through vocational skill acquisition programmes. This, migration experts say, in addition to psychotherapy which NAPTIP for instance provides, will help the trafficking survivors have means of livelihood, and pick the pieces of their lives.

However, survivors who returned to the country in 2017 from Libya whom I spoke with, say all is not well. Resident in six states; namely: Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Lagos, Edo and Ondo states respectively, the 26 trafficked men and women say they are ‘back to square one’: experiencing terrible economic hardship.

This time, worse than that which made them embark on the risky journey by road to Libya. That is not all. Their pains are garnished with family members, friends and the society treating them with much disdain. Many of their friends now avoid them. All the 26 returnees whom I spoke with, say they are having a very difficult time reintegrating into the society. Some have fled their homes to destinations not known by their family members.

“I got tired of being treated like excreta by my mother and brothers. When I returned to Nigeria, I was told my father slumped and never recovered when he heard Asma boys have captured me in Libya. My family are angry that I returned to Nigeria instead of crossing to Italy. They say I am worthless. Who goes abroad and returns empty handed? My mother and brothers say only useless girls like me do such to their family” Progress (surname deliberately withheld) narrated in vernacular.

Armed with only her Senior Secondary School Examination certificate, she has been hunting for a job since her return to Nigeria to no avail. Her mother wants her to embark on another journey; to Spain or Holland.

“She always tells me graduates, even people with Masters degree and PhD are having difficulty getting jobs. Is it me with incomplete SSCE result that would get a job in this Nigeria? I am tired of being told I am worthless. I am sick of being compared with my age mates who are going to Italy and sending money home. So, I ran away from Benin to Ogun state. My family members don’t know where I am. I want peace.

I want to start all over again. I want to forget everything that happened to me in Libya. But how can I when my family and everyone else call me terrible names and treat me like trash?” Progress narrated amidst sobs while being comforted by the friend she now lives with.
The 25 other returnees I interviewed shared same horrendous stories of woes, rejection and being shamed by their families, friends and communities.

“My mother said until I produce the dollars I was given in Libya; I must not come close to her door”. Grace, now 25, an indigene and resident of Ondo state told me. She is still in shock though it’s been four years since her arriving Nigeria from Libya. Her mother doesn’t believe anyone can live ‘abroad’ for two years and return to Nigeria without foreign currencies- dollars. Grace was trafficked January 2015 by her mother’s friend who had assured her of free university education in Sweden only to take her to Libya to become a sex slave. She was rescued and returned to Nigeria by the IOM April 10th, 2017.

“I have sent many people to beg my mum. Maami ki n se eran riro o (My mother is not a pushover). She said I must either produce all the dollars or I stay away from her. At least, I have a very good OND (Ordinary National Diploma) certificate. I can’t afford the school fees of a regular university, so, I will attend National Open University (NOUN) so I can work and go to school.”

Grace who learned tailoring alongside while studying for her OND at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, now sews from the house of her former school mate whom she squats with at the moment in Lagos state. She left Ondo state so she could start life afresh.

When she arrived Nigeria four years ago, the IOM gave her some money. She used it to buy a sewing machine and external whipping machine. “These (the two machines) are my means of survival right now. I am saving most of my earnings to buy at least four more sewing machines and one internal whipping machine,” she told me smiling, seated behind her sewing machine. She had been working on customers’ clothes since 6.30am that day but stopped work by 10am when the interview for this story began.

“I need money to pay my bills, so I can’t be a full-time student in a regular university” Grace’s oval face decorated with bright beautiful eyes was alive with smiles as she shared her dreams with me.

Notwithstanding all the progress made since her return to Nigeria April 2017, her mother and family still treat her like an outcast.
Another returnee in Benin, Edo state, Larry, said his father had driven him out of the family house since his return from Libya, calling him ‘a failure and never-do-well.’ Thirty-year-old Larry said he paid N70,000 to a certain middleman, who assisted him to get to Libya, only to be sold as a slave there.

“Even as a slave in Libya, I was better off than a free-born in Nigeria. We agreed to be rescued on the assurances given us that we would be rehabilitated in Nigeria, only for them to bring us here, feed us for a few weeks and throw us into the streets,’ Larry lamented.
He said, while out in the cold, some vagrants had tried to lure him into armed robbery, but that, guided by his Christian background, he shunned the temptation.
Larry noted that a year after their return, most of the Libyan returnees in Edo state had become worse by lack of job and social rejection.

“Some people’s character worse than being Libya returnee.”

Mrs. Temitope Igbodipe, Chief Executive Officer and Creative Lead, Cream Stitches-a Bespoke fashion firm in Lagos, says Libyan returnees are not only humans but are even better than many persons who have never been trafficked. Mrs. Igbodipe who teaches trafficked survivors fashion designing for free, told me there is no saint anywhere as some persons’ character are worse than having being a sex slave.

“I might see someone or someone might ask me out seeing me looking holy and churchy, or I could be a Muslim covering my face, my hand and everything to the ground and I might be two-faced. You can’t really tell my actual attitude. I might be even worse than the person who went to Libya and returned. The person went under circumstances for crying loud. It wasn’t by choice actually, so there is no saint anywhere.

Mrs. Temitope Igbodipe, Chief Executive Officer and Creative Lead, Cream Stitches, Lagos state. Tobore Ovuorie.

“Some people’s character is worse than prostitution. Anybody that gets married will also copulate, so the number of times actually doesn’t count. If you have done something bad and you repent, you can have a good life. Nothing stops us from having a good life. As a religious person, what if God says this person is your husband or wife, and because that person has certain background, will you now deny your destiny?”

Asked if she would support her daughter or son to marry a sex trafficking survivor, she said: “Definitely. So far studying the person afterwards and I am satisfied with what I see, definitely. There is no saint anywhere, so I will say definitely.”

Blame the government, says Cacol.

Rationalising the plight of the returnees, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) has slammed the Federal Government for not providing a conducive environment for the development of youths in the country, generally.

The group blamed the government for the harsh economic situation in the country, which it said caused the tragedy, adding that the government, at both federal and state levels, must tackle the rising rate of unemployment in the country to curb the menace of human trafficking.

CACOL Director, Comrade Debo Adeniran said, “The problems of illegal migration and trafficking are an accumulated issue. We have a high population of children and youths in this country and we are not planning for their future. Workplaces are winding up and no new jobs are springing up.

“This is why people want to leave and look for the proverbial ‘greener pastures’.”

Street of Europe not paved with gold.

Mr. Arinze Orakwue, Director, Public Enlightenment, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP), advises Nigerians that migration is their right, however, the streets of Europe are not paved with gold. “When an offer is too good to be true, it certainly is not true”, he cautions.

“When an offer answers all questions, please run. Look before you leap. The amount of money it will cost you, your time, health hazard, if not your life, had better be invested here.”
The only jobs available to any illegal migrant, according to him, is insertion into prostitution, or the 4D jobs. These jobs are Dirty, Dangerous, Difficult and Demeaning.

He says upon return to the country, a trafficking survivor is a mixed bag of frustration arising from collapse of dreams; unrealized aspiration to migrate and settle in Europe where the streets are supposedly paved with gold; stigma from family who consider her a failure, guilt and shame from the experience which tend towards depression, pain and bitterness of betrayal if it was the madam that reported her to the authorities.

According to him, the close shave with death and traumatic experience of the journey leaves a ghastly experience that needs time to process and get a closure on it. All these means and requires she does not engage in needless celebration that will lead to hurt and more pain.

Mr. Arinze Orakwue, Director, Public Enlightenment, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP).

“They don’t share their stories because it is too painful to disclose. They seek a closure instantly from the trauma. They just want to move on with their lives, minding their business and not tell tales that will bring back memories flooding into them. Remember that these girls were also subjected to oath of secrecy, which they swore at the shrine where they dropped their finger nails, pubic hair, piece of their clothing and a sample of their blood menstrual pad. All these are the means to exert control over the girls.”

Mr. Ologwu advise that we have to revert to core family values because parents pass certain values on to their children such as being patient. And, when such value is deficient, people give in to traffickers due to the endemic poverty in Nigeria. He says the government has to wake up to its responsibilities because everyone wants to leave Nigeria due to the poverty in the country in order to earn foreign currencies for their families.

“Some parents agree for their children to be trafficked because they are poor and the government is not living up to its responsibilities.”

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He pointed out that many persons are living on less than a dollar – N400 – per day. If there is poverty, there must be trafficking. So, for it to be eradicated, poverty must be stopped in the country. This can be achieved through the government creating avenues for people to work and earn a living, stop every means by which money is stolen from the coffers of government.

Mr. Ologwu questioned the utilization of various monies such as the returned Abacha Loot, tax payments, amongst others, being generated internally and externally by Nigeria. “You will discover that people have stolen those loots, that is why there is poverty in the land.
“If you want to stop human trafficking, stop corruption, let poverty be eliminated and people will find work to do in Nigeria. They will not go to Libya for sex in  exchange for money.

Favour Eringa, an undergraduate student of the University of Lagos says trafficking is the abuse of children and in Lagos state, many persons go to the villages to get children with promises of caring for them and their education, but on arriving Lagos, they start abusing the kids.

“They don’t eventually take the child to school, keep the child at home and treat him/her like a maid or slave in the house.”

She advises that families should take care of their children by themselves and not give their kids out to anyone. “Don’t entrust your child to anybody to take care of them for you. Have family planning, and give birth to the number of kids that you can take care of.”

Obiano Mesoma, a student, describes human trafficking as a very big vice which only persons without conscience engage in. “I don’t think anyone should have a conscience in involving in such dangerous act.”
She thinks being trafficked affects survivors of trafficking psychologically and emotionally, even after being rescued. “I think there would still be a trauma that is left behind for them.”

Mental Health Problems.

Indeed, medical experts such as Dr. Bolanle Ola, Consultant Psychiatrist and Head of Psychiatry, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, says human trafficking survivors could develop trauma-related mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Bolanle Ola, Consultant Psychiatrist and Head of Psychiatry Unit, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, (LASUTH).

According to him, some of the returnees could have been vulnerable to developing mental illness before embarking on the dangerous journey, while others may not have had any history of mental health problems. He however noted there is a strong indication of mental illness for both groups when exposed to very hazard situations such as what obtains in Libya.

Trafficking: Unhappy Endings. 

Isioma’s madam, her two kids, and her husband were roasted in a fire outbreak in ISIS prison.
Isioma now lives with her friend in Lagos state. She left Agbor so she could have a fresh start. But she still struggles with being able to earn a living and move on. Though she loves her family, Isioma now knows and tells the difference between being gold and gold-plated.
Notwithstanding being deserted by friends and family and living in pain and shame, she says “If I have the opportunity to leave Nigeria, even if it is Canada or USA, I don’t want to go.” Her reason? Because of a cultural belief where she comes from in Agbor. It is believed that if a first journey embarked on heads south, such a person should not make a second attempt.
She doesn’t want to leave Nigeria anymore even if sponsored by credible organizations such as the UN and IOM.

Watch the full video reel on How Families, Friends, ‘Kill’ Nigerian Women, Youths (2)

This report was supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (DFAIT) through the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) under the empowering young people in Africa through media and communication project.

By: Tobore Ovuorie.

The writer is a 2021 DW Freedom of Speech award Laureate. Netflix Olotôrè movies was an adaptation of her undercover investigation into Nigeria’s multi million dollars sex trafficking business.







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