Foreign Prostitution Made In Nigeria

by SOC Okenwa

I was navigating the BBC website (where I normally visit every morning for some continental news and analysis) last week when I stumbled on a news item that caught my instant attention. The interesting news-story was captioned: “Thousands of Nigerian women ‘found in Mali slave camps'”. As I read through I was appalled as the shameful news was capable of damaging further the image of Nigeria already dented by drug trafficking, internet scam and political mischief and kleptocracy. I was just wondering how much more battering could an unfortunate nation take from her citizens.

According to the report in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) website Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) officials had visited Mali late last month to investigate “horrendous reports” from victims, aid workers and clergy in the West African country with Bamako as Capital city. The officials reported that they were hundreds of brothels, each housing up to 200 girls run by Nigerian ‘madams’ who force the ‘kidnapped’ girls to work against their will and take the earnings. In Nigeria making money has no rules of engagement as everything is thrown into the scramble for Naira, Pound Sterling, Euro and Dollars; no scrupples, no shame, no limits, everything is fair and acceptable including murder, looting of the treasury, voodooism etc.

Mr Simon Egede, the Executive Secretary of NAPTIP, told a news conference in Abuja that: “We are talking of thousands and thousands of girls; we are talking of certainly between 20,000 and about 40,000”. He narrated how the unfortunate ‘Eves’ from ‘Naija’ were “held in bondage for the purposes of forced sexual exploitation and servitude or slavery-like practices, the madams control their freedom of movement, where they work, when they work and what they receive”.

Mr Egede declared that the sex-slavery trade is mostly centred around the capital Bamako and other inner cities the most notorious brothels are to be found in the mining towns of Kayes and Mopti where the sex workers live in “near slavery condition”. According to the NAPTIP boss many of the brothels there also had abortion clinics where foetuses were removed by traditional healers for use in rituals! Mr Egede went on to say that many of the girls were lured out with the promise of securing good-paying jobs in Europe, given fake travel documents and made to swear an oath of allegiance that they would not tell anyone about their adventure or where they were headed!

But on arrival in Mali they were told without any viable alternative that they would have to work as prostitutes to be able to pay off their comprehensive debts. Prostitution is somewhat legal in Mali but when minors are involved it becomes a crime. NAPTIP equally announced that it had discovered two major human trafficking routes often used by the immoral traffickers to transport the women from Nigeria through Benin Republic, Niger and Burkina Faso to Mali. Mr Egede concluded by saying that his agency was working with the police in Mali to return the girls to Nigeria safely, shut down the trade and indeed prosecute the traffickers. Goodluck to him and his agency.

The ugly story of foreign prostitution made in Nigeria is one that evokes empathy, one that bears all the marks of discernible shame for a confused nation that has long neglected its youths and abused the future generation that remains its greatest force.

The awful truth is that the Edo and Delta axis in Nigeria in particular has become notorious for foreign prostitution, with thousands of women and girls leaving every year to make money as sex workers. An organised ring of older women are operating as traffickers tricking younger women into leaving the country for a ‘better life’ opportunities abroad. But in the end the promises are not always kept as the girls go through harrowing experiences in the hands of the over-bearing madams. Some unlucky ones among them were made to be deported as soon as they finished toiling sexually night and day to pay off their ‘debts’ with the air of ‘freedom’ blowing their way.

The story was once told of how the sex-slave merchants used the city of Abidjan as their trans-shipment point and link with some European cities especially Italia where majority are still concentrated. During the peak of the human smuggling business in late 90’s and early this decade many girls especially from the former notorious ‘Bendel’ states of Edo and Delta were successfully shipped overseas in an elaborate sex-for-money ‘revolution’. Today some of the ladies and girls have become rich from the foreign prostitution venture; they own houses and big cars in Benin City, Warri, Asaba and other cities. Who says sex does not pay? But some had died in the process of making it in an HIV/AIDS era. Different strokes for different folks you might say.

Now as security has been tightened up in and around the city of Abidjan (after many raids by detectives) they have shifted base to Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso doing the sex ‘import and export’ more discreetly and more carefully. The business is still thriving but not as before where every week fresh girls were brought in almost ‘in chains’ having compromised their spiritual and physical well-being.

When Abidjan was in vogue as a lucrative transit point a pathetic tale was told about how the desperate human traffickers used the night glamour and splendour of Plateau, the heart of the city of Abidjan, to hoodwink and deceive young naive girls into believing that they had reached their destination in Europe! Many were dumped and abandoned in the middle of nowhere in the centre of Plateau at the wee hours of the night as they gazed astonishingly at the amazing breath-taking sky-scrappers that compete for space! Mercifully the Nigerian Embassy is located in Plateau just opposite the FHB Stadium. So they were usually directed there by good samaritans who understood little English in a French-speaking country.

In terms of infrastructural grandeur and splendour Abidjan ranks among the greatest cities in Africa with the likes of Johannesbourg in South Africa, Nairobi in Kenya, Abuja in Nigeria and Tunis in Tunisia. A modern sprawling city in all
ramifications Abidjan is home to more than five million inhabitants comprising almost every nationality in Africa and elsewhere. The late former Ivorian President, Felix Houphouet-Boigny did his patriotic best to develop the city by fixing it even beyond his time. He was a great leader who saw tomorrow and embraced it without any complex! Though accused of running a civilian dictatorship, a one-party state that brooked no opposition until the present President Laurent Gbagbo challenged the status quo Boigny is still reverred today for his giant strides.

Ivory Coast is the United States of America in Africa where foreigners dominate every field of endeavour except local politics. The foreign population is put at well over 30 percent living side-by-side in harmony with the indigenes in a blessed land of cocoa and coffee where hedonism and good life overtake any other economic or social worries. Ivorians are generally a free people, happy to enjoy life even in the midst of poverty. They love democracy and its concomitant freedom.

Now back to the foreign prostitution made in Nigeria. Do we wholly blame the ladies, the whores for their predicament? I think otherwise; while some were answering the call of freedom from poverty others are just being exploited for economic reasons. In a land of abundance as ours where poverty has elected home the dehumanizing monster has the capacity of unleashing certain desperation in any one. But beyond that greed and sheer wickedness play certain role: when an old lady who herself was a tired and retired ‘ashawo’ discovered that she no longer ‘fits’ in, that is, her age is no longer an advantage, coupled with her fading beauty, she settles for much younger girls who are in higher demand. She soon joins a syndicate that specialises in ‘supplying’ this human cargo f

rom Nigeria and making good money just being ‘madam’, an old-school in the field with connections and money to sponsor.

These old ladies are heartless; they can go to the extent of doing anything to keep their ‘human wares’ and prevent them from either bolting away or being corrupted by others. After all it is often said that to be a prostitute the first principle is to ‘kill’ shame! If you choose to be one then get ready to fight naked on the streets, drink alcohol, smoke weeds or cigarettes, ‘fuck’ a truck pusher, be strong and courageous enough to be able to ward off occultic attacks and be prepared to visit the marabout regularly for ‘love materials’ that will enhance your fortunes!

The way out of this notorious tangle between sex and crime is for the governments in various tiers to initiate programmes and policies that will empower the youths in general. With poverty roaming the streets unchecked foreign prostitution made in Nigeria can never be nipped in the bud. Besides there is need for moral re-awakening of Nigerians; when a father or mother supports this despicable way of making easy money (with grave consequencies) it leaves much to be imagined.

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