She came along with a few others who were recently rescued from Libya thanks to the FG and a few NGO collaborations. Outwardly, she bore no scars, no marks to easily tell of the pain, trauma and anguish she has been through.
She seemed about twenty one or twenty two years old, attractive, full figured and with a look of innocence. Her looks belied a shocking truth, she had had sex with over 100men against her will over the past six months.
Linda’s story seemed unbelievable. According to her, “I was in SS2 going to SS3 and already my parents couldn’t even guarantee I would finish school because they told me they couldn’t afford the WAEC and NECO fees I was required to pay. They didn’t even need to tell me that they couldn’t pay. We are a family of six children, I am the first born, the first daughter. I see my parents struggling every day to put food on the place. Forget Table because there was no space for a table in our one room apartment in Ughellli.
My father is a taxi driver and my mother sells fried plantain by the roadside, you can imagine how difficult it gets to feed me and my siblings.”
She paused to help us allow us this bit of info before continuing: ‘Anyway, I approached one aunty who lives in our area, she was always well dressed, always looking good, and she sometimes gave me clothes that she didnt wear anymore. I told her I needed help getting money to pay for waec and neco.
She asked me, “are you ready to work?”
I said, ‘yes, aunty, I am.’ I am not a lazy person, I am ready to work.
‘She then told me not to worry, that she would introduce me to someone who will help me make money, so that I can even use some of it to take care of my family.
So I told my second, that is another friend of mine who is also like me, her parents couldòt even take care of her, no food, no nothing for her many times.
That’s the beginning of my journey.
I and my second, we were introduced to a man, his name was Charles. I don’t know whether that is his real name, but he told us he could help us get to Italy, where we will work as house helps and earn money, we said, ‘ok, we are ready.’
But first, I said, we don’t have a passport and we don’t have money to get passports, but they told me not to worry, that they will get everything we need for us and the total of the money we will return to them is N1.3million each!’
“Where did you hope to get N1.3million?” someone asked her
“We will work for it,” was her simple reply and she continued with her story, ‘Ok, my friend and I agreed that we will do everything they say, they called us one night to come and swear an oath. We were naked and they shaved our hair from under, I mean our pubic hair, they said we should never tell anyone or we will die, that we should swear we will pay them all these money when we begin to work when we get abroad.”
‘So we had no choice but to agree and say, since it is work, we will work and pay them back. After all, I can see some of the houses that the other girls who have gone abroad are building for their parents. I can see the big, big cars some girls are sending to their parents from abroad, so me too, I wanted to build a mansion for my father.”
“Then one day, Charles called me, to say we should meet him at the garage; that’s how we left home. We just took a few clothes, you know and pants because he told us not to carry load.
From there we were in a big truck, and we travelled for a long time with many other people. It was later one of the people we were travelling with said we were in Kano.
I said, Kano? Ok, maybe we will go abroad through Kano airport. But that was not what happened. From there, we were kept in a big ware house and the following evening, we were loaded into another pickup van we were just going, going, going for long. Before I knew it, I was told we were in Agadez
I said, what is Agadez?
I swear, the journey in the desert is another thing. I was tired; there was no food, no water, nothing for us for days. In short, many people we were travelling with, they died in the desert and the heartless driver of the truck driving us, he didn’t stop. There was one woman, who’s daughter, maybe the girl is about 7 years or so, the girl fainted and fell. Do you know the man didn’t stop? The woman kept shouting, stop, stop, my daughter, all of us joined to call the driver’s attention to stop, but he didn’t.
As for me, I was too tired, so that even when we got to the place we were to work, in Libya, I was too tired to work. They didn’t even pity us that were just coming they asked us to start work immediately.
‘What work were you doing? Another person asked…as if we all didn’t know.
‘Something like ashewo work,’ came the reply. ‘Sometimes we do more than 30 men in a day and the men just do us whatever they like. You can’t say no because you are already a slave, they have sold you to a madame who will collect the money you owe.”
‘That’s when I now saw that this is the ‘abroad’, so this is the ‘work’…upon all, no food, no water, nothing but work…someone will just die here and nobody at home will know.”
We sat shocked as she told her tale and we knew she would need our help to recover from it all.
Pity isn’t what these returnees need, they need urgent help, rehabilitation and counselling.