An 18-year-old Nigerian woman said that the woman who trafficked her two years ago enticed her to leave Nigeria with promises to learn to be a hairdresser. Another young woman, from Edo State, described her own experience of being told she was going to deal with fashion materials:
“She said I was going to sell clothes in a boutique in Liberia, but took me [to Côte d’Ivoire] and every night I have to do this…. Just a thousand [CFA francs, equivalent of $2] each man. I have been here for two years. I don’t like it. I want to leave.”
A copy of the harsh experiences captured in the August 2010 Human Rights Watch report which USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine (Houston) has notes that dozens of very young Nigerian women (some 15 years and younger) had been trafficked into the dirty and dangerous commercialization of their bodies. One of the girls said: Nigerian women and girls in central Côte d’Ivoire said that they receive 1,000 CFA francs ($2) per act, or 5,000 CFA francs ($10) for the night. “You have to work so hard,” Ruth said. “In one night, you have to have sex with 15… men. You work until the sun comes up and you cannot even open your eyes. Some of the girls are small….”
The victims-participants said that Nigerian women recruited and transported them overland through Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. The majority of victims told both Human Rights Watch and the Nigerian embassy that they came from Delta and Edo States of Nigeria.
The HRW report focuses mainly on Nigerian women and girls engaged in and being forced into prostitution in the French-speaking, neighboring west African country of Ivory Coast.
Another 27-year-old Nigerian woman trafficked for prostitution in central Côte d’Ivoire, said:
“I came here six years ago with five other girls from Delta State. The woman who brought us told me that she sold wrappers [fabric used as a skirt] in Côte d’Ivoire. I thought it was a good opportunity for me to learn a business, so I left Nigeria and went with her. The second day after we arrived, she handed us each a condom and I thought, What is this? She said, ‘This is what you are going to do.’ What could I do? I had nobody backing me … so I did it.”
The report points out that within days of arrival in Côte d’Ivoire, the traffickers demanded that the women and girls engage in prostitution to pay off an exorbitant “debt” of generally 1.5 to 2 million CFA francs (worth only US$3,000 to $4,000); despite the fact that the far end cost of overland transportation to Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is only roughly 100,000 CFA ($200).
Such abuse and manipulation amounts to debt bondage, a practice similar to slavery under the 1956 United Nations Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery. Nigeria’s government has been involved in the fight against these crimes and the HRW report expects more from Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and the west African countries group ECOWAS.
It is important to note that the traffickers, always, promised the women and girls better and luxurious living, away from their environments and families. “These women and girls were sold dreams of migrating to better their lives, but then found themselves in a personal hell”, adds Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher for HRW.
USAfricaonline.com Opinion Survey on Africans and Sex Trafficking
Some Africans and Nigerians who spoke to USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine Founder & Publisher Chido Nwangwu say that even where they have some sympathy for the victims, many of the affected are subjects of their own greed. Others cite economic hardships as the key, practical problem. Excerpts:
Judith Lahai, a Sierra Leonian-born public health executive and a contributing editor of USAfrica since 1996 who has been on several social services work in Africa told USAfricaonline.com that “African leaders are not putting in much effort at all on this issue. It’s not only about Nigeria, the countries like mine which recently survived wars suffer the same problem.”
Pastor Christy Ogbeide, a social worker at El-Shaddai Ministries International and Hope Kicthen who has done missionary work in Edo State and other parts of Nigeria told USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine “the sex trafficking is a sin against humanity. At the long run, it brings a lot of emotional problems and diseases and death.”
Dr. Pauline Igwe, a healthcare executive and specialist in higher education administration based in Houston told USAfrica and CLASSmagazine that “the problem is economic hardship and how bad things are in Nigeria. If people are earning money inside Nigeria, they will find no reason to go outside. Even graduates who finished school do not have any jobs, hence people grab any proposals to make money outside.”
Miss Olufunke Adesoji, an Atlanta-based social worker told USAfrica “I disagree with the reason of economic hardship. Many of them know the dangers of what they are getting into. It’s unfortunate but they should know better.”
Ahmed Abubakar, a youth leader in Abuja, says “the governments across west Africa meet over their immediate interests here in Abuja all the time and have not considered this trafficking an urgent because it does not affect them directly. It is against my religion to turn anyone into a sex slave or anything like that. I condemn it. President Jonathan and his colleagues should act fast.”
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