After narrowly escaping death in their search for greener pastures abroad, many returnees from Edo State have begun to return to the perilous path. They are blaming their strange decision on failure of the state government to empower them two years after they were exposed to various agricultural trainings. Rather than stay back in the country and continue to suffer, they said, they would prefer dying searching for greener pastures abroad. INNOCENT DURU digs into the development and reports that the unbridled exodus of the returnees, some of who have also turned into traffickers themselves, is fast eroding the impression that the ugly practice is declining in the state.
AFTER a tortuous experience in Russia where she experienced a mysterious affliction that claimed all the savings she had abroad and back home in Nigeria, Florence Abu, a mother and housewife, is bent on going back to the European country to continue ‘selling her body’ in order to meet the needs of her family. During her initial adventure to Russia, the dark-complexioned lady said she was forced into working as a commercial sex worker by her pastor’s sister who paid for her trip.
Even though she didn’t enjoy her involvement in one of the oldest businesses in human history back then, the trade has now become something she is gladly ready to take to stave off the hardship that has become her lot. This time, she said, she will also be working as a trafficker, and brazenly vowed to traffic family members of public officials in Edo State who she said had failed in their promise to empower her. “When I came back from Russia, I met with the state government in the course of my advocacy against human trafficking. The government got interested and decided to call me over.
When I got there, the governor promised that they would integrate me. I have gone for so many trainings, and after each training, they would say they would set me up, but nothing is forthcoming. “Most of my colleagues I came back with have gone back.
They are not willing to stay here. I am the only one that chose to stay back and prove that there is hope in Nigeria, but it is like the government is not encouraging me.
“There is something in me that I want to bring out, but the government is not helping me to do so. If I am just sitting at home and doing nothing, then, what am I waiting for? I am now a mother. Even when I was single, I was crying and complaining. If I do anything drastic, it is the government that is pushing me to do what I don’t want to do.”
The vocal returnee said she would go back to selling her body if she succeeds in going back to Russia. She said: “My husband’s business is not moving well, and that is the reason why things are even very hard for me. I know he will feel bad if he hears that I want to go back and sell my body to survive. But instead of us dying in hunger. I woud it.
“Now, things are getting very hard for me as I cannot pay my rent or take care of my child. I am no longer comfortable with the situation of things. I am going back to where I came from. I am looking for traffickers who will take me along if that is the only way I can survive. If by any means I leave this country, I will become a trafficker myself. Government officials would have to be very prayerful so that I don’t come for their family members.
If I have the opportunity, I will traffic anybody that is related to them. “I have a child, but I have to feed that child. If there is no money for me to take care of that child, how would I be happy? I can’t watch my child die. The best thing for me to do is to fight for myself and fight for my child. I don’t want a situation where tomorrow the child grows up and says, ‘Mummy, you are suffering, I want to go and help you.’ “The child would now be doing what I don’t want all in the name of putting food on my table. I won’t allow it to happen. The best thing for me to do is to make the sacrifice for her. “I am saying all this so that the government can fulfil their promise. I just don’t want to do it without crying out. If nobody supports me, I will move ahead with my life. What I said I want to do, I would do.”
While Florence is contemplating taking to trafficking, a Libya returnee, Tony Jimo, said he was planning to return to the North African country and has already begun trafficking fresh indigenes of the state. He said: “Things are bad here for us. I initially came back in 2011, after which the government trained us in livestock farming but failed to empower us. I had to go back to Libya in 2015 when nothing was forthcoming.
Read also: Deportation saga: Nigeria, Ghana Immigration in reconciliatory talks
“My experience travelling through the dessert the first time was terrible. But when the government was not making good their promises, I had to go back the second time. I took 10 passengers (illegal migrants) along. I collected N150,000 from each of them. “All the money was not mine. It was for settling (bribing) immigration officers in Abuja, Kano and other places. We bought dollars and cefas on the way. What I made on each of them was not more than N5,000.”
Explaining the desperation of many of the indigenes to travel abroad, Jimo said: “Many people are still entering the desert. As I am speaking to you, my younger brother is begging me to traffic him. He was one of the people repatriated recently from Ghana. “If not for the help of IOM, many of us would have died in Libya. But it is better if we had died then than to be experiencing what we are going through now. By now, I would have known if I belong to God or I belong to the devil.
“The safest route to Europe now is Morocco through Algeria. If I have like 10 people now with N200,000 I will go. “Many people on the street are desperate to be trafficked. Let the government and the NGOs show us the returnees that they have empowered and we will show them thousands that have got no attention.
“IOM gave us N42,000 when we came back, before the Edo task force came to take us to Benin. The government should fulfil their promise to the returnees. Let them establish returnees’ farm. ” Another Libya returnee, Vivian Osaigbovo, said she has a debt of N500,000 the mother borrowed to facilitate her failed trip to Libya hanging on her neck. Reliving her ordeal, Vivian said: “I came back from Libya in 2018. I attended the IOM training on how to make hair but there was no empowerment thereafter.
“The training was done for five days. After the training, they asked us to send the cost of what we needed to start what we learnt. We have sent it but we are yet to get any response from them three months after. “I have been calling but their number has not been reachable.
That same number was reachable during the training and when we were processing the invoice we sent to them. Even the money that the government promised to give us is not forthcoming. “I have been hustling since I came back, working as a sales girl from one place to the other. I want the government to help open a shop for me. With that, I will survive. “I don’t want to go back to experience the horrors again if the government comes to my help. But if the government does not answer me, I will go back, not minding the challenges.
I will look for somebody to traffic me, because I have not been able to pay the N100,000 back from the N500,000 my mother helped me to borrow. Three of my colleagues have gone back.” Two other Libya returnees, Theresa Uwaida and Daniels Osaro, also expressed disappointment over the alleged failure of the government to empower them. Like their colleagues, they said they would be taking another shot at going to Libya.
Theresa said she was in Libya and about crossing to Italy when she was captured. She said: “I spent about nine months in detention. I came back in 2015 and the government promised to give us N100 million and 150 acres of land to start poultry business. “When the governor made the pronouncement, we were so excited. But they have been telling us to have hope since then. Na hope we wan chop? I have made attempts to return to Libya but I don’t have the money to do so. “I am a single mother. I don’t have anything to take care of my children.
I had the children before I travelled, and that was why my marriage didn’t work out again. “When they captured us in Libya, they were using us to engage in slave trade. My children couldn’t write the last examination because I had no money to pay their fees. I don’t know what will become of their future.” Miffed by what he described as the state government’s insensitivity to their plight, Osaro said: “What the government did to us since we returned is bad. They promised to integrate us in Agriculture Development Programme (ADP).
We spent three weeks undergoing the training. “After the training, they failed to provide the N100 million they promised. They made us to start a journey they would not help us to complete.” Highlighting the implication of the alleged failure of the government to empower them, Osaro said: “The government is putting more pressure on the security system by their action, because the street is full of people that are idle.
“My colleagues whose parents are well to do have helped them to go back since the government deceived us. I was detained in prison for seven years in Libya because of language barrier.” Pastor’s mother collects pubic hair, pant, others from victim Florence gave a shocking account of how the pastor’s mother collected her pubic hair before she embarked on the distasteful trip abroad. She said: “My pastor’s mother said she would not just allow me to go like that. She took my pant, hair from my head, armpit and private part, and also took my finger nail. The pastor himself was the one that asked me to go ahead and do it, to prove my innocence that I would not run away with the sister’s money. He gave me assurance that it was not going to harm me.
READ ALSO: Horrors of asylum seekers (1)
“When I came back to Nigeria, I reported the matter to NAPTIP, because they were the people that received me when I came back. The pastor initially denied knowing me. In the long run, they accepted but said that was not their intention.” Our horrible experiences abroad The returnee said she was deceived into travelling to Russia in 2013 by her pastor who said the trip was to enable her hone her skills as a hairstylist and singer. On getting to Russia where she put up with the pastor’s sister, Florence was faced with the real reason she was lured abroad. Rather than being enrolled in a hairdressing or a music school, the naïve young lady was told point blank that the purpose of paying her bills to Russia was for her to go into prostitution and pay a whopping $45,000 in return. She said: “My experience in Russia was hell. When I got there, it was not what I was told that I would do that I ended up doing. They said since I was a hairstylist and a chorister, I would go over there to do the same thing.
“When I got there, I had to follow the trend because the lady told me that I had to do it or die. She collected my passport and that was how I started selling my body to pay back a total of $45,000. “After paying the pastor’s sister the money, things became bad for me and I fell seriously ill. I came back after developing a disturbing affliction on my face. It started as rashes and later became something like pimples. From there, it advanced to boils. I took drugs and even went to hospitals but it didn’t work.
“I spent a lot of money, including my savings, treating myself. I had to ask my people to send the money I had sent home to me to treat myself. Instead of dying in a foreign land, I ran to the Nigerian Embassy to complain, and that was how I came back. I thank God that after the intervention of some pastors, my face became okay. ” Although she was keen on making money, Florence said she was always protecting myself when sleeping with men back in Russia, adding: “But most of my friends were not protecting themselves. They were always doing it the fast way so that they could move ahead with their lives. I protected myself so that I would not be regretting tomorrow.
“We were charging per hour when dealing with men, and it is always about 3000 Robo. That is about N15,000 an hour. I always had one, two or more men every day. It is just like the weather which can either be bright or dark.” Recalling his plight trafficking other illegal migrants through the dessert, Jimo, said: “I was seriously dealt with in the dessert by rebels. They wounded me and I am still carrying the wound on my body till date. We fell into wrong connection during the trip. I told the boys I was trafficking to hold extra money aside the N150,000 because we needed to settle rebels. Some of them were not holding extra money.
“The rebels arrested about 50 vehicles and told us that each person must pay $100. They messed up many females and males. “When you fall into the hands of rebels, they will naked everybody. About five people will be raping one girl and you will be hearing the cry. Many of them died in the process and some others contracted diseases. Some of them that came back pregnant was because of what they experienced on the way.” Also recounting her ordeal going to Libya, Vivian said it was her girlfriend who brought her into the arrangement.
“She told me she wanted to travel and asked if I would like to go with her. We passed through hell in the dessert as many people were dying. The vehicle we boarded caught fire inside the dessert and there was no place for us to go. “We spent three weeks inside the dessert before we eventually got another vehicle. We had no water to have our bath. Where would you see water? Some people were drinking their urine when there was no water. When there was no urine to drink again, some survived and others died. “The rebels in the dessert raped my female friends but they didn’t touch me. Life in Libya was terrible. The country is one terrible place that I have seen in my life. “
Human trafficking: PJI urges proper trauma management for returnees
The Pathfinder Justice Initiative (PJI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for proper trauma care for migrant returnees to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to subsequent trafficking.
Evon Benson-Idahosa, the Executive Director, PJI, made the call at a Rehabilitation Workshop for Providers Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking held in Benin on Thursday.
The workshop was organised by PJI and funded by INSighT- Building Capacity to deal with human trafficking and transit routes to Nigeria, Italy and Sweden.
Benson-Idahosa said that a majority of returnee-migrants usually undergo different traumatic situations and needed to be properly rehabilitated before being integrated back into the society. She noted that if the migrant returnees were not properly rehabilitated, they would not be able to put into good use any form of skills acquisition or empowerment received.
“Providers serving survivors should know how to handle traumatised victims because many of them, especially females, have been raped and have gone through horrible experiences during their trafficking journey.
“The providers should know that there are best practices in terms of handling trafficked victims; they need to use a survivor centred approach to prioritise the needs of the victims,” she said.
She called on the government at all levels to partner more with NGOs on providing best traumatic care for returned migrants in the country.
How Nigerian-American police officer burst human trafficking syndicate in US
A retried Nigerian American Police officer, Samuel Balogun narrated how he burst a human trafficking syndicate that specialized in using minors for prostitution.
“My biggest accomplishment was bursting a human trafficking crime,” Balogun said.
Giving details of how he executed the task, the dark skinned retired police officer said: “ There was a guy that was using minors for prostitution on the internet. I have an accent and when I speak people know I am an African. So, I had to go undercover and had to call the guy on the internet. I said ‘ hey! what is going on, I am in town. I am a truck driver and I want some girls.’ I asked how old? He said the younger they are, the more money. I said about 15 to 16 years. He said ok. I asked how many he could bring and he replied two. He said which hotel was I and I gave the name to him. He told me to hang up and he called back the hotel. He subsequently called me and asked if I was there and I said yes. He said he would be there in 20 minutes.
“We were waiting for him to come but he was smart too. He dropped the girls down the street and made them walk to the room. The girls asked how much I was ready to pay and wanted to take off their clothes but I said not yet. In the next room were officers listening to our conversation. When I make a signal, that means it is time for them to come in. but before you make the signal, you have to make sure they have mentioned the price, they have given the reason why they were there, so it doesn’t look like you are entrapping them. When I made the signal, the officers burst in and arrested everybody including me.
Thereafter, Balogun said the police processed the girls and after that, “they said look, you are minors and we know somebody is pushing you to do this. Now we don’t want to arrest you but tell us how to get to the boss. The girls cooperated and made as if they were leaving. When the man pulled up to pick them up, and that was how we arrested him. That stopped a lot of those crimes.”
Balogun said he was in Nigeria to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the disturbing security situation in the country. “ I am trying to bring back my experience as a police officer in the states to Nigeria. When you look at the #endsars period, the performance of the police was something that hurt my feelings. How can we make it better? How can we make the police job something that people will look with respect and want to join?”
He hinted that his security firm is involved in training not only police officers but “ I also train private security companies. I am in touch with a lot of private security companies in Nigeria. There is another concept which Nigeria is embracing right now.
“It is called community policing. In the states it is called neighbourhood policing or community policing. It works in a way that in every street, there would be a police officer that lives in that neighbourhood. You get to know the people and the people know you. In some apartments, they will give you a discount just for the police officer to be there because they know once a police officer is living there, the police car is outside and the crime level will reduce. People are more likely to talk to that officer because they know him. They are more able to tell him’ hey we know who committed that crime.’ For every crime, you need people to tell you what happened. You can have all the gadgets but if people are not talking, you can’t solve the crime.”
He further said: “I am training police officers, security companies and executive protection. What my security company is doing is to free the police officers from attachment to chiefs, politicians and all that. We train civilians to represent those officers so that they can go back to the street and do their normal jobs. We have what we call executive protection/training. We have people that follow the president. We can train you on how to be efficient and sometimes using less force, description tactics.”
Further expatiating on what his security firm does, the soft spoken officer said: “What my company is trying to do is to bring people to the table. We are trying to train companies that there is a better way of security where we can teach you how to defend yourself, how to prepare for any emergency, and how to use less force. I have a guy, a navy seal that worked for the United States of America. You will be amazed about what he can do. He can disarm you in a minute even when you come with AK 47. I am also bringing Hostage Negotiation, people that can talk to you when ransom has to be paid. In the US, we call it Hostage Negotiation. They can talk to these people, and know their psyche. It is a full package. When you come to my firm, you can see the whole spectrum and choose.”
As a vastly travelled person, Blagun said: “I travel a lot and in all the African nations is where you see officers with AK 47. They said it is more intimidating. Criminals use AK 47 in America too but we still don’t carry it. Is that the right weapon for the police officers, I leave that question open. “
On the attitude of the Nigerian authorities his plans, he said: “I have talked to a lot of people in higher positions. In some places I don’t want to mention, I have got good responses. My firm has done some things with certain private firms and the police. I have dealt with some highly placed security firms. So, this is not my first time here. We are looking at having training in Sheraton around July/August this year. It is going to be a big one. I am bringing a retired FBI agent, a navy seal, a retired marine , myself and may be two other officers.
“This is my country, I am proud of it. I am sad sometimes when you look at the security aspect of it. With my experience, I am trying to make it a better place. It has always been my passion to come back home. I am retired and don’t really need to work again. My benefits are okay untill I die. But why die with all this experience when I can pass it to the next person.”
Hundreds of thousands of people leave Britain due to pandemic
Hundreds of thousands of people have left Britain as a fallout of the pandemic on the economy, according to a study released yesterday.
There is an “unprecedented exodus” of workers born outside Britain, researchers at London’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence said.
“It seems that much of the burden of job losses during the pandemic has fallen on non-UK workers and has manifested itself in return migration, rather than unemployment,” said the authors.
The study is based on labour market data.
The trend was particularly notable in London, where one in five residents was born abroad.
The capital’s population has fallen by 700,000, the study said, adding that nationwide, the figure could be more than 1.3 million.
If these numbers are accurate, this is the largest decline in Britain’s population since World War II, according to the study.
No evidence suggests that similar numbers of British people who live abroad are returning to Britain.
However, this could be a temporary trend, the researchers said, noting that workers from abroad might return after the pandemic.
The British economy depends on workers from abroad and it is not only threatened by migration due to the pandemic.
Many industries fear the loss of skilled workers due to Britain’s departure from the European Union and stricter migration laws.
A further trend in 2021 is also causing concern, described as a “baby bust” by consultancy PwC, which said many couples were postponing having children due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
This could lead to the lowest birth rate since 1900, PwC said in early January.
Human trafficking: PJI urges proper trauma management for returnees
How Nigerian-American police officer burst human trafficking syndicate in US
Hundreds of thousands of people leave Britain due to pandemic
News11 months ago
Again, Nigeria denies deportation of nationals from Germany
Opinions1 year ago
International Migrants Day – Opinion Editorial
News1 year ago
International Migrants Day: JIFORM pushes for review of policy to benefit all
Investigation12 months ago
UNCOVERED: How NGOs, not FG facilitated release of ladies held captive in Lebanon
News12 months ago
Climate refugees can’t be returned home, says landmark UN human rights ruling
News6 months ago
Lead review of anti-human trafficking strategies in Nigeria- JIFORM tells NAPTIP
Investigation1 year ago
‘No Olvidado’: These Americans find and bury missing migrants
News8 months ago
30 migrants killed in Libya