No fewer than 4,541 Nigerian girls within the age bracket of 18 years to 30 years, were lured into Lebanon in 2019 alone by recruiting agents from Nigeria who gave them false impression of getting them “decent jobs” but ostensibly used them for sexual slavery. A competent source at the Nigerian Embassy in Lebanon confided in our correspondent that aside the rescue last week in Lebanon of a 23-year-old teacher, Omolola Ajayi and Gloria Bright (on Wednesday), no fewer than 1,000 Nigerian girls so far have been rescued by the Federal Government through the efforts of the embassy’s officials. Another highly dependable source reliably told this newspaper that the Federal Government had concluded plans through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and its antikidnapping agency, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), among others to clamp down on the recruiting agencies as a way of ending the perennial problem. “The only way to finally end this human trafficking is to arrest and prosecute agents who recruit these girls from Nigeria and bring them to Lebanon and other Arab countries. “The agents capitalise on the naivety and desperation of these girls to travel out of the country, only to sell them into slavery or use them as slaves,” the source who craved anonymity said.
The source added: “The ill-treatment of Nigerian workers was the first serious problem faced by our Mission between 2000 and 2001 during which I forced the Lebanese Government to find solutions to the problem otherwise I threatened that many Lebanese would be deported from Nigeria. “Between January and December 2019 alone, about 4,541 Nigerian housemaids were brought to Lebanon. The Embassy has been able to trace only 1,000 of them. They are scattered in different parts of Lebanon.
“Most of them have been cut off from the outside world and could not reach anybody they can relate with. Some of their employers make sure they cannot communicate with their people by ensuring they don’t have access to telephone. In some cases, their passports are confiscated the moment they get the so-called employment. “The Mission is trying its best but our operations are being hampered by lack of funds. Nigeria should look into the record and adopt the agreement we signed with Lebanese authorities in 2001.
“Funds should be provided to our Missions under consular vote as Nigerians are now becoming endangered citizens, I am making discreet contact to get the list of those wicked agents who turn Nigerians into slaves so that our security agents could go after them.
“The cases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are more serious and dangerous where some Nigerian housemaids have died and some have become mentally challenged because of trauma and torture they underwent in the hands of their employers before they were rescued. “Urgent actions should be taken to save our nationals. We will follow up appropriately similar cases until Nigerian children are safe human from trafficking and slavery.”
to the rescue Similarly, it was learnt that the Federal Government, in a bid to arrest the recruiting agencies involved in the dastardly act, moved in swiftly with the arrest last week of three suspects in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, by personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Spokesman for the Kwara State Governor, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, in a statement, named the three suspects as Wasit Muhammad (Lebanese); one Olatunji Sanus a lawyer; and one Tunde.
How victims are lured
Sex trafficking, according to Wikipedia, is composed of two aspects: sexual slavery and human trafficking. The two represent the supply and demand side of the sex trafficking industry, respectively. This exploitation is based on the interaction between a trafficker selling a victim (the individual being trafficked and sexually exploited) to customers to perform sexual services. These sex trafficking crimes are defined by three steps: acquisition, movement, and exploitation. The various types of sex trafficking are child sex tourism (CST), domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) or commercial sexual exploitation of children, and prostitution. According to a United Nations report from 2012, there are 2.4 million people throughout the world who are victims of human trafficking at any given moment. In this annual US$32 billion industry, 80 per cent of victims are being exploited as sexual slaves. For the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are 20.9 million people subjected to forced labour, and 22 per cent (4.5 million) are victims of forced sexual exploitation. However, due to the covertness of the sex trafficking industry, obtaining accurate, reliable statistics proves difficult for researchers. Most victims find themselves in coercive or abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous. Locations where this practice occurs span the globe and reflect an intricate web between nations, making it very difficult to construct viable solutions to this human rights problem.
Saturday Telegraph’s investigations, however, revealed that Ajayi and Bright became unfortunate after been trafficked “as sex slaves and house help” respectively. On her part, Ajayi, an Osun State indigene, recalled her plight in Yoruba language, that her boss had made life miserable since she arrived in the country. She explained that a family friend linked her up with an agent who took her to Lebanon with a promise to get her a teaching job. Instead of being offered a teaching job, Ajayi said her passport was confiscated while her employers allegedly attempted to rape her. Prior to this, Ajayi, a single mother had, in a viral video which circulated on social media last week, claimed she was sold into slavery after believing that she was going there to teach English language, only to discover that she was deceived. She said: “My name is Omolola Ajayi. I am from Osun State. My mother’s name is Felicia Ajayi; my father is Kehinde Ajayi. I am 23 years old and a single mother. I am currently in Lebanon while my parents live in Offa Garage (Ilorin, Kwara State). It was a family friend who introduced me to the white man that brought me to Lebanon.
“My plan was to be teaching pupils English Language in Lebanon. On getting here, the person that brought me seized my passport. I was wondering what happened. I later knew I had been sold off to slavery,” Ajayi recalled, sobbing intermittently. She stated: “If I am sick, they won’t take me to hospital. They will only give me drugs. Half of the people whom we came here together have died. I am appealing to Femilick Life Support to come to my aid. I don’t want to die here. I need help to return home. “The person I live with wants to rape me but I have been resisting him. He collected my phone and said he would not give me the phone until I accept to have sex with him. It is when he sleeps or goes out that I manage to pick the phone where he keeps it.”
Nigerians in Diaspora Commission’s intervention…
In the aftermath, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) intervened, leading to her (Ajayi’s) rescue and eventual handover to the Nigerian Ambassador in Beirut. The NIDCOM spokesman, Abdul-Rahman Balogun, in a WhatsApp message confirmed this rescue effort alongside the senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial District, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe. Balogun said: “Update on the trafficked Nigerian girl to Lebanon. She is now happily in the hands of the Nigerian ambassador in Beirut. She will be home soon.”
On his part, Oloriegbe said in his Twitter handle, that Ajayi had been successfully rescued from her captors and is now with the Nigerian Consulate in Lebanon, adding that she would be reunited with her family in the North. But contrary to the agreement to be engaged to teach English language, on arrival, she was turned to a house help and also not paid.
“The experience wasn’t a nice one in Lebanon; they take advantage of some ladies. I just want to thank God for bringing me back home safely “I left October 25, 2019, to work and I was told that I’ll teach English to the children there, but when I got there, I was asked to work as a housemaid.” Meanwhile, a representative of the travel agency who perfected her trip to Lebanon, Adetunji Sanusi, debunked Ms. Bright’s claims and explained that she had prior knowledge of the job. “When she got to Lebanon, we kept in touch with her, she was in communication with us, the agency and that she was happy that everything is going fine and the family she was working for are fine. “I was shocked to hear her say that she was asked to go over there to teach and in Lebanon, their lingua franca is French and Arabic, so I wouldn’t know why we would recruit her for the purpose of teaching.”
Unlike Ajayi’s predicament, Bright was rescued from Lebanon where she was allegedly working as a house help. The mother of two, who left the shores of Nigeria in October 2019 through a travel agency, had signed up a two-year work agreement in Lebanon. But contrary to the agreement to be engaged to teach English language, on arrival, she was turned to a house help and also not paid.