The instigations for the two young women’s journey are familiar: To seek greener pastures and start a new life in the Western world, from Europe to America.
19-year-old Lamidi Basirat from Oyo, was promised a hairdressing career in the US, while Yusuf Hafsat Omobolanle, aged 32 and a trained nurse based in Lagos, was assured of a lucrative nursing job also in the US. More after the cut…
But both women, like others they met over there, were only being lured into prostitution in Libya. Despite the stringent laws against human trafficking in the country, and the fight against this racket by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the illegitimate business still flourishes in different cities and hinterlands, with a huge syndicate of human traffickers specialised in luring young girls from indigent homes with the promise of greener pastures which eventually turns out a prostitution ring.
That was the fate of Basirat and Omobolanle until the NGO, Alliance for Rights Defender came to their rescue. Recounting her experience, one of the victims, Basirat revealed that her ordeal started when one of her father’s former tenants in Oyo, Amokeyemi, promised to help her travel to the United States of America.
“I had not finished secondary school when I travelled to Libya last year December. I was just in SS2. It was Amokeyemi, one of our former tenants, that told me that Madam Ebunoluwa lives abroad and would assist me to travel to America, and my parents agreed. After that, they collected N520,000 from my parents which they said was for the procurement of my travelling documents. They told me that I would be a hairdresser. “Amokeyemi and I thereafter travelled from Oyo down to Lagos. And both of us went to the National Theatre in Lagos to meet Madam Ebunoluwa, who was also simply addressed as Alhaja, and her parents: Alhaji Muritala and Alhaja Latifat, his wife. “Initially, they said I would board a flight to America, but when the journey actually started, I found out that it was through land that I would be travelling. We took a night bus to Kano, from there boarded another vehicle to Agadex, in Niger Republic. “On our way, I met other girls. We sat at the back of a Hilux jeep. We were given garri, groundnut, five litres of water and sugar. There were about 25 of us inside the jeep, and there were over 30 jeeps conveying people to Libya. “Madam Ebunoluwa gave us blankets, head warmers, socks and hand gloves. We met security officials of Niger, who beat us up, collected our valuables and money and raped some of us too, while using their phones to take pictures of our nakedness. According to them, the reason they beat us up was because they knew that most of us were being trafficked to Libya for prostitution. “When eventually we got to Tripoli, in Libya, I met a relative of Madam Ebunoluwa, and I saw over a hundred girls of different ages.” “It was a terrible journey and several people died”
The second victim, Omobolanle, who travelled with Basirat said that “Before I travelled, I already had a child, and was working as an auxiliary nurse in a private hospital. “Three years ago, my sister’s husband who is an Alfa, called me that he had someone, Amokeyemi, who lives in Cairo and who comes to the mosque for prayers; and that Amokeyemi had promised to assist them if they had any sister who was interested in travelling to Cairo, Egypt. My in-law claimed that Amokeyemi was working as a maid and since I was already a nurse, I could also work there. “So, Amokeyemi tried to process my travelling papers for me. Later last year, she ( Amokeyemi) called to say that her job was no more lucrative, that she would be coming down to Nigeria and that she would like to take me to the US instead. So she came to Nigeria and we met. She explained that her uncle, Alhaji Muritala, and his wife live in America and that she wanted to travel there and that if I was interested, she would talk to her uncle for me. “Later, she called me to say that Alhaji would collect N500,000 for travelling documents and processing. I went to my parents and explained to them and they said America had a lot of opportunities for me to continue with my education as well as work. “At about 3pm on the appointed day, Amokeyemi and I went to the National Theatre to see Alhaja Latifat and her husband, Alhaji Muritala. We gave them the money, N500, 000, raised by my family. That was in October and she said that I should get prepared and that in December, I would be travelling. “So on December 15, Amokeyemi called that I should get ready to travel to America. She said I should pay another N500,000 for my apartment. When I told my parents, they almost lost interest, but concluded that as we had started the process, there was nothing we could do but to complete the balance, provided I would be comfortable over there. My father invited her to his office in Owena in Ojota area of Lagos, where they paid her another N500,000. “On that December 18, Amokeyemi called me in the morning to get set to travel, and not take any luggage. My father then gave me another N20,000 as pocket money. “During our second meeting, also at the National Theatre, Alhaji Sanni and his wife offered us food because they were in a hurry after collecting the money. Alhaji assured me that he would give me one of his agent’s contact, Mr. Tijani’s phone numbers, that he would assist us to our destination. “When we got to Kano at about 6pm, I called the number, and Tijani came with a vehicle which we boarded. When I questioned him, he said I should keep quiet, that we were passing via Boko Haram territory in the desert. I pleaded with him to let me get down, that I was no longer interested in continuing with the journey, but he refused. Later I noticed that he was communicating with another driver. “When we got to a point, he stopped and trans-loaded us to another vehicle where we met other travellers before we got to Niger. When we got there, I bought a SIM card to enable me call family members and tell my parents where I was. “We got to Niger at night so we were asked to sleep in a hall with a lot of people lying down on the ground. I fainted twice after receiving beating from soldiers for refusing to sleep with them. “At about 5pm, we continued the journey with another agent carrying us to Agadex, where I met over 500 young girls with about 50 young men. Most of the young men wanted to cross from Libya to Spain and Italy because it is easy for them there. “I was like, was this really a journey to America? It was a terrible journey and several people died as they fell off the jeep because it was a desert terrain. One young girl fell off the vehicle and the sand covered her. I kept praying that God should deliver me. “From Agadex, we travelled to Gatrun, a town in Libya, and met one Baba Mary and Iya Mary who are also agents. They called Alhaji Sanni to tell him that his visitors had arrived. So they put us in a vehicle that would take us to Alhaji’s Sanni’s house in Libya. We got there on December 25, 2015. We got there in the night so we had to stay in a ghetto till dawn and we had to stay awake not to be raped. “From there, we got to Saba, another town in Libya before we were taken to Alhaji Sanni’s house. At Saba, they collected our phones. The strange thing was that the drivers were all Arabs, who instructed us to cover our body as the authorities must not see us. Inside the Space bus, we were not allowed to sit, rather we squatted inside the bus while they used blankets to cover us, and put our luggages on our body to prevent the authorities to know that we were inside the vehicle. “We finally got to the house, a hotel, with the inscription Welcome to New York. The garage was Alhaji Sanni’s house. In front of the house, they have a tailoring shop, a hair dressing and barbing saloon, and a cosmetics shop, which they use as camouflage to wade off suspicion. When we got there, we met Alhaja Latifat’s brother, AZ, who supervised the place. He gave us bathing soap, shampoo and body cream. He asked us to have our bath, and they gave us food. With AZ’s phone, I called Alhaji Sanni and told him where I was. He said that was his house and that that was my final destination. I said no, that was not true. He asked if AZ had not given me my job description, and that if I could not see younger girls working. I told him I didn’t know the job they were doing, that I would wait for him to come, then explain to me. Immediately, I called my father and told him what was happening. “Later, some other girls who saw how uncomfortable I was, came to ask me why I came to Libya. Instead of replying, I asked them why they came. They asked me if I took oath. In shock, I said no. Then they said I was lucky; that they were all under oath. They told me they were taken to one herbalist called Eye in Abeokuta, where their photographs, pubic hair, armpit hair, full names, mothers’ names were all taken. “Finally, they revealed what I was most scared of: They had all been forced into prostitution and Alhaji and Alhaja have four connection houses in Libya! “Because of the authorities in Libya, the girls could not go out. So Niger men would come to the hotel and sleep with them. They have a record book which they use to record their prostitution work. One of them must sleep with about 15 men daily. The men use sex-enhancing drugs before engaging in sex with any of the girls. And each of them would pay ten denai, which is equivalent to N1,000; while the men pay fifty denai for all-night sex, which is N5,000. “The men don’t use condom. The girls also said that Alhaji collects the money each client pays for sleeping with them. I also met a girl named Abigail who works for Alhaji as a nurse; she helps the girls who get pregnant to terminate the pregnancies. “We were only given food once a day; no food in the morning, no food in the afternoon. We ate Banku only at night, which is made like Semovita. “On Saturday, January 9, Alhaji asked me why I was not working, and why I was not allowing Basirat to work, that I was a very pretty lady and that I would make it in this job. “I said that was not our arrangement and that I couldn’t do prostitution. I begged him to help me get another job even if it was housemaid. Alhaji called his herbalist to find out if I would be successful in prostitution. And the herbalist said I would make it. However, when Alhaji realised I was determined to return to Nigeria, he said my family would have to offer him two million naira. I told him yes, that would be done.” Rescue She concluded: “That gave me an opportunity to call my family who contacted Prince Tunji Osokoya, a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, USA. He was the one that informed the Director of Alliance for Rights Defender, the NGO that also contacted the parents of Basirat, informing them of their daughter’s plight, that the America she travelled to had turned out to be Libya and nursing work had become prostitution.” It was gathered that the NGO helped to arrest Madam Ebunoluwa, and her mother, Alhaja Latifat Sanni. Unfortunately, Alhaji Muritala Sanni escaped while daughter and mother were handed over to NATIP operatives for further investigations.