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Human trafficking: Case of 75 Nigerian girls on their way to prostitution

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As I write this, I have not slept since the past 24 hours. I stayed up all night tracking a case of 75 Nigerian girls as they are trafficked through Libya to Dubai, Spain, Italy and Greece, etc.

I received a message around 10pm last night, just as I was about to settle down for the night. The message came through my Facebook inbox. A man working for our anti-trafficking initiative in Niger had spotted a house in Niger which serves as a temporary shelter for thousands of young Nigerian girls being trafficked to Europe through the desert. This man, whose name I cannot reveal out of concern for his safety, has been tracking this group and making record with names of the middlemen involved and about the girls.

There are two prominent middle men that play critical roles in this particular route. The first is a man who successfully moved 75 Nigerian girls predominantly from Edo State and Delta State. To evade detection, these girls, after being recruited in their states, traveled by buses to Kano. And from Kano, they entered Niger by land. They came in different small groups to evade detection. They will not use flight until they land in Europe through the Mediterranean. But when they get into Niger, they are gathered at a location, a 5-bedroom mud house owned by the second of the middlemen, who is a Nigerian by origin, but a long-term resident of Niger.

These girls stayed in that Niger location for upward of one month. During this one month period, the middleman that brought them from Nigeria will be in contact with various Madams in Dubai, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Russia. These madams will be selecting these girls through their pictures and paying for them.

The prices of these girls go from 1,500 Euro to 10,000 Euro, depending on their specifications, such as age, whether a virgin and other physical attributes. The prices of each girl go up depending also on the point on the route where the Madam purchases her. The Madam that advance money for the girls when they are still in Nigeria pay as low as 1,500 Euro. But this is risky because the girl may not make it even after the Madam has paid for her, and the Madam could lose her money. 

However, when a girl is in Niger, that means she is already outside Nigeria and money has been spent to move her to Niger, the price of the girl goes up to 2,500 Euro. Another key stop is Libya or Morocco. The price of the girl goes up to 3,500 Euro if she is purchased at the Libya or Morocco. If the girl makes it to Europe before she is bought, the price is anywhere between 5,000 Euro to 10,000 Euro.

There is a new approach we detected from this particular case. Among these 75 girls, they were mostly recruited from villages in Edo and Delta State. Only about 5 of them went beyond secondary school, but none completed university. Indeed, many of them did not finish secondary school. It is remarkable that these were not the university graduates or students. 

There is a distinct characteristic of this group of girls. They are of lower class and of village stock. That was why they could comfortably travel by road all the way to Niger and would continue by the risky desert route to Libya or Morocco. They will make it to Europe without ever going to any airport. Also, we noticed that the middlemen encouraged the girls to carry food. So, these girls carried food stuff because they knew they would need to feed themselves for up to a month before entering Europe.

Upon arriving in the mud house in Niger, the middleman that brought them would take a few of the girls for himself to another compound where he stays, though he comes to the mud-house each morning to sell the girls. The owner of the mud holding house would now supervise and control the rest of the girls. These girls stay about 25 in a room. They cook for themselves but they cannot leave the compound. The owner of the mud house act like a prison-warder. The girls are free provided they stay within the walls of the compound. 

The man recruited some 5 to 7 men to help control the girls. For the month the girls would be in this compound, the owner of the house and the guards are free to have sex with these girls as they please and none could say no. But this is really rape. Investigation shows that the men do not use condom when having sex with the girls. We know this because the owner of the mud house disclosed that two of the girls gave births to his children after they entered Europe. So, they arrived in Europe pregnant and the Madams that bought them were demanding for their money back.

These girls arrive Niger with provision to last them about a month and money to pay for rent per day at the mud house, they often run out of provisions and money before they would leave Niger. When that happens, the handlers in Niger will subject them to temporary prostitution in Niger to earn money for their upkeep and to offset their debts to the owner of the mud house.

As the girls are being traded off to various madams in Europe, they are also being shipped further away from Niger to Libya or Morocco. The girls go in batches on Land Rover sports utility vehicles that are overloaded and specially fitted, sometimes carrying up to 30 girls at a time. It is a very risky journey from Niger to Libya or Morocco. If the driver misses his way in the desert, they could be lost for a whole week and the fuel, food and water meant to last for two days would not be enough for them and many girls die of dehydration in such situation. Also, they could be attacked by terrorists and bandits. This mostly results in the girls being kidnapped and raped repeatedly by these gangs until their family members are forced to pay ransom for their release.

When the girls land in Libya or Morocco, they will be in the hands of another set of middlemen, who are to arrange for their shipment to their various madams through the Mediterranean. This journey has ended in disasters and loss of lives in the sea. And this is where the trade becomes complex. While the Madams that paid for a girl while still in Nigeria pay low fee, they run the risk of never getting the girls after the girls had left Nigeria because the girls died on the way or something else happened. 

To avoid that risk, some Madams consider it better to wait until the girl has arrived in Europe before paying for her. But then, the fee goes up to 10,000 Euro. But you will be sure to get the girl. Indeed some Madams who pay for the girls in Nigeria at the rate of 1,500 Euro may make substantial profit by reselling them at 10,000 Euro in Europe. There are such Madams. They don’t keep the girls. They just resell them off upon arrival to those other Madams who work them for prostitution. Some Madams are workers and some are pure traders.

This is just a summary of this nasty trade. But I stayed up last night because my contacts in Niger and I were tracking the movements of the girls. I was directing them what to do and how to respond to situations. It was impossible for us to alert the Nigerien authorities. We could not alert the Nigeria authorities because they have left Nigeria. Indeed, by the time we got wind of this particular shipment of girls, they were already in the no-man’s land of the Sahara Desert. And we had no clear idea what countries they were going to end up in finally. 

Also, there is no government in Libya that could do anything. It is a gang land over there. Our plan is to wait for the first middleman to come back to pick the next group of girls from Nigeria and we shall have the authorities nab him. We are also interesting in knowing the Madams. The good thing is that our network has infiltrated the girls. Some of them agreed to stay in touch with us when they get into Europe. Through them, we hope to identify their Madams.

DPA and all good people must be prepared to rise to fight this menace. My heart bleeds for these poor girls. It is a complex process out there. What drives these girls? Thousands of them are leaving Nigeria each month into this macabre movement that leads to death ultimately. We have to prepare to fight this.

Also, the gang of traffickers and the Madams are deadly. From what we hear and know of them, they are powerful and well-connected and would destroy anything or anybody that threatens them. They have connection to the powers that be. They know how to penetrate the political class and pose in pictures with politicians. They are after all in the business of supplying young girls to old men for sex. With that, they can blackmail politicians and make them do their biddings. We must be careful. This is a serious fight.

Emeka Ugwuonye


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