The Sex Trafficking Trail From Nigeria to Europe

“There were five of them,” she recalls of one occasion. “They were brutal, they beat me up, they brought out a knife and tried to stab me.”

Instead, they pushed her out of the two-story window for not submitting.

Often times, there were more men — 10, 15, 20 per call.

“They might even kill you if you try to defend yourself,” she says. “That’s the reason why it is very horrible. And in that process most Nigerian girls lose their life, because not every girl can withstand the pressure of 10 men.”

Sandra, not her real name, is one of tens of thousands of Nigerian women who have been trafficked into Europe for sexual exploitation. And many of those women come from a single city.

For decades, Benin City, the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria, has been tied to trafficking to Europe. Here, a potent mix of poverty and spiritualism drives thousands of young women to make the dangerous journey.

Along its often unpaved, mud-ridden streets there are houses with wide gates and high walls. These belong to the families with a relation who has “made it,” says Roland Nwoha, a local NGO worker who has devoted his career to stopping the trade. “Almost every family has a contact in Europe.”

Organizations like Nwoha’s help educate people about the risks. But he says these few stories of success continue to be a powerful motivator in a city where so many live in desperate conditions.

“There were five of them,” she recalls of one occasion. “They were brutal, they beat me up, they brought out a knife and tried to stab me.”

Instead, they pushed her out of the two-story window for not submitting.

Often times, there were more men — 10, 15, 20 per call.

“They might even kill you if you try to defend yourself,” she says. “That’s the reason why it is very horrible. And in that process most Nigerian girls lose their life, because not every girl can withstand the pressure of 10 men.”

Sandra, not her real name, is one of tens of thousands of Nigerian women who have been trafficked into Europe for sexual exploitation. And many of those women come from a single city.

For decades, Benin City, the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria, has been tied to trafficking to Europe. Here, a potent mix of poverty and spiritualism drives thousands of young women to make the dangerous journey.

Along its often unpaved, mud-ridden streets there are houses with wide gates and high walls. These belong to the families with a relation who has “made it,” says Roland Nwoha, a local NGO worker who has devoted his career to stopping the trade. “Almost every family has a contact in Europe.”

Organizations like Nwoha’s help educate people about the risks. But he says these few stories of success continue to be a powerful motivator in a city where so many live in desperate conditions.

And in Benin City, the push to leave comes from every direction.

Trapped by fear

Sandra says she was convinced to go by a man she met at church, who said he was an assistant pastor.

She says he told her he had a vision from God that she traveled overseas, that his sister in Russia could get a job in a hair salon. For added insurance, the man had given the items she left behind to a traditional priest.

“We always have had this belief that your future lies in the hand of God,” says Nwoha. “Religious leaders, both the traditional and the Christian, are capitalizing on this.”

Like so many, Sandra feared the juju — traditional witchcraft — as much as she trusted her friend.

Her trafficker took much more than just her passport. “My pants, my bra, the hair from my head, the armpit and my private parts,” she says.

The items were for a juju oath, so powerful, a local priest said, that no one dares break it.

For Sandra, it bound her to her home thousands of miles away in Benin City, and the assistant pastor that convinced her to go.

“I saw it with my own eyes. It’s like a danger to weak girls, especially when it has to do with sensitive parts of your body.”

She believed that her passage to Europe would cost her no more than $2,000. She ended up owing her trafficker $45,000.

The average debt for girls trafficked from Nigeria is around $25,000, but it can be as much as $60,000. None of them have any idea that they will owe these extortionate amounts. The debt, and the fear of juju, keeps them trapped.

Sea of misery

Sandra’s journey took her through Lagos and then an onward flight to Europe.

But increasingly the trafficking trade is flowing through the lawlessness of Libya and across the Mediterranean where, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), over the past three years there has been a 600 percent rise in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving into Italy by sea.

The IOM estimates 80 percent are from Nigeria. The majority are from Benin City.

“When the Europeans started their search and rescue operations, many people in Benin said, ‘the road has opened, once you get on the boats you will be rescued,” says Nwoha.

But just last month, the bodies of 26 Nigerian women were recovered from the Mediterranean in a single day, bringing this year’s total number of migrant deaths in that sea to at least 3,000.

Often, the journey ends in tragedy. More often, the tragedy happens in Libya.

Ede’s story

Physically, 28-year-old Ede is finally free, but the pain of what she endured is still raw.

“He used to hurt me, apart from work,” she says of the man who purchased her. She was sold into sexual slavery in Libya as she tried to make her way to Europe.

“That is how they do there,” says Ede, “When you finish paying your money [to your captor], if you are staying with a wicked somebody, they will sell you to another people so you start all over again.”

She was freed after a police raid and eventually deported to Nigeria.

Now, back in Benin City, she sits next to 18-year-old Jennifer, who is too traumatized to talk. They are recent rescues, kept in a safe house run by the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

“Especially they hate us, we Nigerians … they don’t even want to hear anything concerning Nigerians,” Ede remembers. “They treated us like a slave, as if we are nothing. So we went through a lot there.”

Outside, the house is a non-descript, high walled compound, just like the others in the neighborhood.

Inside, the young women sit in a dark living room, where the hum of an overhead fan, and the Nigerian soap opera on TV are the few comforts in this temporary home as they wait for their cases to be investigated and to be reunited with their families.

Reducing demand

But few cases end up in court. Fewer still end in convictions.

According the US State Department’s latest Trafficking In Persons report, last year NAPTIP reported 654 investigations, with 23 convictions for trafficking offenses.

“We’re prosecuting the small fries in Nigeria,” says Julie Okah-Donli, director general of NAPTIP. “Absolutely the number one problem is the inability of destination countries to clamp down on their own criminal networks.

“We’ve looked at the root causes in Nigeria without addressing the root causes in the destination countries,” she says. “What is being done to reduce the demand for this crime?”

Sandra’s case is one of the rare prosecutions. Her trafficker was arrested, as was his sister, who was Sandra’s “madam” in Russia, pimping her out to clients. They are both awaiting trial.

“When I was in Russia I said to myself, if I get back to Nigeria alive I will expose her,” says Sandra. “She is not going to go unpunished. The wicked don’t have any place here, they have to face the law.”

Her former church admits her trafficker was a member of the congregation but denies that he was an assistant pastor.

The betrayal that stretched across two continents is now even closer to Sandra.

“Even my own father he said I am not his daughter,” she says.

The trafficking is not Nigeria’s problem to solve alone, says Okah-Donli, but it is Nigeria’s tragedy.

“It’s our young boys and girls who are trafficked. Many are not making it back alive and the ones that do are battered and bruised.”  Source: Pocket News

 

 

53 Comments

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    • We’ve tired of hearing this let the price be as it’s before mana, Dangote a little bit of kindness make a world a better better place, so Don Allah karagama ‘yan Nigeria kayanka asamu sauqin rayuwa not that till end of the year we need your subsidy throughout the year Thanks.

    • it’s absud , even the short life we are living on earth we can’t live in harmony?
      I don’t think that there is anything which can force someone to sell his fellow just like selling a goat to a butcher.
      and yet we die unsatisfied!! it’s so so sorrowful.
      otherwise am in uganda (east africa )& i wonder really.

      • Slavery still exists, our house helps who go unpaid for ages as they take care of our large homes, our brethren who we send off to Dubai for petty jobs, others who willingly go to be enslaved due to joblessness, its conspicuous. As long as we believe the solutions to our problems are out there, there’s no stopping slave trade

        • Desperation is a disease. How on earth will a person without education and hand work will travel out of the country,and hoping to get a better job out there? Pls let our girls wake up from their slumber and do something meaningful in Nigeria.

  2. But why African’s even our own ar selling and trading us as if we ar products why can’t we stand together and stop this nonsense coz l feel as if we aren’t human

    • They do not care. They do not have hearts or feelings. All they want is to get rich and once you taste the dollar life, it never stops. It’s easy money, no one has to work for it except the ‘slave’ they sold. To them, it’s all business and nothing personal

    • The Islam are the anchors of slavery till tomorrow, watch “The State”. Just keep quite and try posting solution, instead of religious segregation, becos both barbarians, Christian, and Muslims are culprits, victims, too. Don’t b narrow minded. Do u ask ur self wat this Islamic soldiers do to their captors.

  3. They are too wicked
    The almighty will reward them according to their doings

    The women/ladies should also neglect being traffic
    They should say no to traffic

  4. We Nigerians must say no to trafficking, that is all…we are doing exactly what our leaders want,instead of trafficking we should look for a way and creat a better Nigeria for our self.

  5. Because it had became their fundamental plan for success gaining Africans we have nothing that can change them unless they meet the danger’s of it.

  6. Letting the so called Westerners intervene into every African issue has brought we Africans these sufferings.Take a look at Libya they will ever regret the day they supported NATO to topple Col Muammar Gaddafi’s gov’t not knowing it was the beginning of tragedies

  7. Human slavery is historic vice of collosal dimension that worked against humanity in previous numerous centuries. Let us we Africans vcondemn it in all fronts regardless of whatever cause and reasons

  8. So sad, we all need to align with the government to make Nigeria better for the generations to benefit. This suffering is excruciating. May God help us.

  9. Let’s mot just get emotional,bei ng afrcan Does not mean being good. Its thé conditions in thé african Led countries driving our children into tbis kind of date.

  10. Very unfortunate events. Why pay so much for slavery or your Death? Do you know you can actually earn 7percent of your investment weekly in this country by signing up with us without referring anyone. You don’t need to travel to anywhere before you make it. contact us on 07039353345 and we will show you how with as little as $250 dollars you earn guaranteed 7percent weekly profits on investment. No referrals.

  11. I looked at the chat in that post,it increased seriously in the year 2015. It shows the high rate of hardship on Nigerians, and insensitivity of our leaders. I believe home is still better,please we the youth of Nigeria should try and uphold integrity and hardworking, don’t die now, you are great people. A living dog is better than a dead lion. God bless Nigeria.

    • Exactly most of the girls needs to learn how to be mindful not to fall into anyone’s trap,that’s the only way to fight sex trafficking.

  12. African should ,love their country Europe is not ure home stop ..u west countries women and men to abandon your country

  13. Over 600 investigations and only 23 convictions tell me that even the govt is not ready to stop the menance. Most atimes the girls are being sent by their family members including their parents, so how do you easily stop such a norm? It has becomes a norm most families in that area have one or two abroad that brings in income for them. At times the parents even warn them no matter the difficulties they should not dare come back. So stop this may need reorientation to attack the root cause as govt intervention alone cannot stop it when there is insider consume.

  14. Bonsoir je me nomme Soumaïla Dramé étudiant malien à la faculté des sciences et techniques,j’aimerai avoir une bourse d’étude au auprès de votre université.

  15. This should now serve as a lesson to others cause it is as a result of greed and laziness that lead to this. What a wicked world. May God help us.

    • It’s not a matter of praying my friend, but a matter of decision,of acte, of reaction. Remember that only a good action could stop a bad one. Thanks

  16. i only blame the government of nigeria,,,how comes they always release their people to depart in another country to become slavery? you people should watch out or else stll suffering. may God remember you as we in kenya

  17. It’s a true evidence that the base of slavery is the wickedness of Africans themselves. We should stop saying that white people were responsible of slavery in Africa. Because it’s absolutely false.The real guilties of slavery are Africans. We sell our families, our children,our sisters both black of skin. It’s pitiful. African people particularly Nigerians have to change their minds. I also believe that important personalities are in that affairs, reason why the government is so quiet. It was the same thing in Ghana but now, thanks to many NGO’s it’s over. Thanks

  18. Dangote that promise to rescue us from cement trauma end up enslaving us: a bag for as high as #3000 in rainy period what will happen during the dry season; what a heartless way to make money… So SAD.

  19. Pls am referring to this Muslim guy that is saying nonsense. Don’t cause religious crisis here but say something reasonable and stop all terrorist mentality

  20. The problem is our presidents failing to honour citizens of Africa.
    2.The high costs of living also is a great reason for human trafficking.But for those who wish to move abroad please follow legal ways and process everything yourself

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