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TNG Investigation: True life stories of how Nigeria makes ‘business boom’ for human traffickers, illegal migrants

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By Olaotan Falade

Editor’s Note: The identities of the victims interviewed by the reporter were professionally protected as requested. However, for the purpose of workflow, the reporter adopted pseudo names where and when necessary.

…Messy details of how Nigerian girls hawk sex in over 360 settlements in Mali

..as Nigeria ranks 32 out of 167 countries with highest number of slaves – 1,360,000

The unquenchable thirst for a better life just anywhere outside the shores of Nigeria has made Nigerians susceptible to all forms of horrible, degradable and better-imagined-than-experienced circumstances. Owing to the prevailing economic and security woes, some Nigerians have had to gladly choose to live in countries with less resources for human capacity development.

Sensing the distrust between the government and the governed, some unsolicited ‘middle-men’ who prey as travel agents are smiling daily to the banks with huge profits made from unsuspecting Nigerians blinded by the Hollywood and Nollywood fantasies of the ‘perfect life’ abroad. This is for the category of Nigerians willing to part away with a significant portion of their hard earned money while also submitting themselves to rigorous visa interview sessions at the embassy of their choice country.

However, some other Nigerians also want the ‘perfect life’ but don’t have the financial capacity to bankroll the process. This set of Nigerians, mostly in their prime, know deep down within them that they lack the prerequisite for a valid visa to their choice country. Yet, out of desperation, they choose to seek perilous alternative sources to circumvent the process and get into their choice countries through the dangerous and irregular migration means.

Although in recent times, some university graduates have joined the droves of irregular migrants, originally the movement was dominated by ignorant, desperate and mostly unskilled young men and women who virtually shut out their sense of reasoning to any treatise against their unlawful movement abroad.

The Illegal migration process

In a bid to explain the intricacies of the illegal migration process, the International Organisation for Migrants (IOM), identified voluntary and involuntary type of migrations. According to IOM, voluntary migration involves a prospective migrant approaching either a smuggler or human trafficker to assist in facilitating the trip. The second part of this migration is engineered by parents who often times, against the wishes of their children, sell off properties, borrow and empty their lives saving to facilitate an irregular transit for their children to countries where they hope they would hit it big.

UBA Wise savers

There is also another means employed by traffickers dealing in human body parts. They lure unsuspecting migrants with juicy offers only for them to be killed and their organs harvested and sold for hundreds of dollars.

According to reports, popular destinations for trafficked Nigerians include the neighboring West African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon and Guinea), European countries (Italy, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom), North Africa (Libya, Algeria and Morocco) and Middle Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia). Recently, South America has also become a point of destination for trafficked persons, particularly Venezuela.

The human traffickers, to ensure loyalty, usually bond the migrant to an oath of secrecy and loyalty using voodoo and also enter a repayment schedule ranging from between €25,000 (equivalent to N10,078,606) – €80,000 (equivalent to N32,251,536) to buy off their freedom.

In most cases, the traffickers on getting to Libya or Mali, sell off the migrant to another syndicate which in turn extracts a new financial repayment commitment subjecting the women to prostitution, rape and all sort of vices.

Corroborating the foregoing, the Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Ms. Julie Okah-Donli in her recent address to the ECOWAS Parliament at its First Ordinary Session in Mali said: “There are more than one million Nigerians residing in Mali. About 20,000 of these Nigerians are girls believed to be victims of trafficking and the number increases by 50 per day.

Many victims are deceived to leave their livelihoods in Nigeria for greener pastures in Mali.

Some of the victims are abducted from Nigeria, including those that arrived in school uniforms.

On arrival at the border town between Burkina Faso and Mali, many of the girls are sold off for CFA 350,000 to 400,000; their new owners then make them pay back about CFA 1.6 million to CFA 2 million with one CFA being 0.6 Naira.”

Human trafficking business in Nigeria

Trafficking in human beings, especially women and girls, is a bizarre age long type of business. Historically it has taken many forms, but in the context of globalization, has acquired shocking new dimensions.

Nigeria has acquired a reputation for being one of the leading African countries in human trafficking with cross-border and internal trafficking. Trafficking of persons is the third largest crime after economic fraud and the drug trade.

It involves the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain and is a $150 billion global industry. Two thirds of this figure ($99 billion) is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while another $51 billion results from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities.

According to data released by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the average woman trafficked for forced sexual servitude/exploitation generates $100,000 in annual profits (anywhere from 100% to 1,000% return on investment). According to the United Nations, the smuggling route from East, North and West Africa to Europe is said to generate $150 million in annual profits ( $35 billion globally).

According to the latest Global Slavery Index (2018) Report, Nigeria ranks 32 out of 167 countries with the highest number of slaves – 1,386,000. According to NAPTIP, the average age of trafficked children in Nigeria, ranked a Tier 2 Watchlist country on the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking In Persons Report (2018), is 15. NAPTIP further contends that 75% of those who are trafficked within Nigeria are trafficked across states, while 23% are trafficked within states. Only 2% of those who are trafficked are trafficked outside the country, according to NAPTIP (2016).

The total number of human trafficking victims outside of Nigeria is largely unknown. However, it is undisputed that principally due to Nigeria’s population, Nigeria is routinely listed as one of the countries with the largest number of trafficking victims overseas (particularly in Europe), with victims identified in over 40 countries in 2017. The recent scourge of illegal migration has highlighted Nigeria’s challenges in this area, with one former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Mr. Martin Uhomoibhi) contending in June 2017 that in 2016 alone, 602,000 Nigerians endeavoured to migrate to Europe via the Sahara Desert. According to Mr. Uhomoibhi, 27,000 of these migrants died en route. Also pretty alarming is his claim that of those who perished on the journey, 68% were Nigerian university graduates. Most estimates, however, place the total number of Nigerians arriving Europe in 2016 at about 40,000 and about 18,000 in 2017 (men, women and children). In 2016, Nigerians accounted for about 21% of the total 181,000 migrants braving the Mediterranean to arrive into Italy. In 2017, that number decreased to 15.5% of total migrants arriving Italy (119,000) in light of the numerous efforts made by Italy and the European Union to stem the flow of migrants from Libya.  In 2018, however, Nigeria continued to feature among the top five countries of origin for irregular migrants illegally entering the European Union.  More specifically, in the Sahel and Lake Chad region, it is the first country of origin of irregular migration towards Europe.

Edo State: Nigeria’s hotbed of human traffickers

Edo State is an internationally recognized sex trafficking hub, with built in infrastructures and networks which support the sale of human bodies. According to IOM, an astounding 94% of all Nigerian women trafficked to Europe for prostitution hail from Edo State, with Italy being the number one destination country.  In fact, a 2003 United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute Report concluded that “virtually every Benin family has one member or the other involved in trafficking either as a victim, sponsor, madam or trafficker.”

The overwhelming majority of trafficking victims and illegal migrants make the treacherous journey from Edo State (particularly Benin) and Delta States to Kano, from where they are smuggled into Niger or Algeria before traversing 500 miles over the Sahara Desert into Libya.  CNN also contends that Edo State is the most trafficked through destination in Africa.  In Libya, migrants are held in detention camps, generally for several weeks to months, before they are placed in unseaworthy dinghies or boats on the Mediterranean Sea. According to the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM), it has registered more than 400,000 total migrants in Libya, estimating that a total of anywhere between 700,000 and 1 million remain in what has become the primary gateway into Europe (91% of migrants attempt the journey into Europe from Libya).  According to IOM, as of July 2018, over 60,000 Nigerians remain trapped in Libya, with 50% of them hailing from Edo State. The souls and bodies of survivors are turned into commodities for financial gain while the survivors themselves are held in debt bondage, severely abused (often gang raped and physically assaulted), starved, tortured or infected with various sexually transmitted diseases before being deported back to Nigeria. Others who are victims of organ trafficking are murdered and never make it back to Nigeria.

There are more readily available statistics on the numbers of women who are trafficked from Nigeria into Europe, particularly into Italy. According to IOM, approximately 11,000 women arrived via the Mediterranean Sea into Italy in 2016, again mostly from Edo. IOM estimates that 80% of these young women arriving from Nigeria – whose numbers have soared from 1,454 in 2014 to 11,009 in 2016 – will likely be forced into prostitution as sex trafficking victims.  (According to Italian authorities, there are between 10,000 to 30,000 Nigerian women working in prostitution on the streets of Italy.)

Worried by the alarming rate at which young girls in his domains are trafficked within and outside the country, Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II in March 2018 placed a curse on human traffickers in the state and urged all traditional rulers in their respective kingdoms to do same. He also called on the Edo State House of Assembly to pass a law outlawing any form of human trafficking and smuggling in the state.

Human trafficking methods/tricks

Speaking on a monitored programme on TV recently, the DG of NAPTIP, Ms. Julie Okah-Donli said the trafficking cartels have upped their game. According to her, the traffickers now use religious tactics to recruit potential victims especially in the rural areas. “There is a very big problem, a new trend where religion has been brought into this, we have people who deceive young girls and boys that they want to send them for a pilgrimage to either Mecca or Jerusalem and when people hear this, they are excited.

Then we have these travel agencies, who go into the rural areas again and bring these young girls and tell them that they are going to get jobs as housemaids in the holy land in Saudi Arabia, and they take them there and the rest is history; most of them are trafficked, we get distressed calls every day from girls being trafficked.”

However, the age long tradition is for a willing migrant to approach either a smuggler to ferry him or her abroad for a fee.

Another method is for the traffickers to persuade, cajole or use fronts in different operating areas to lure desperate youths eager to travel abroad with juicy offers of jobs etc.

Factors responsible for human trafficking/illegal migrations

It is not enough that the society blame people (most especially the youths) for wanting to do almost the impossible to leave Nigeria. The question that many including those in authority have refused to ask and provide valid responses to is why.

During the course of this investigative series, TNG discovered that those willing (and desperate) to migrate (legally and illegally) are not just the jobless, destitutes or never do well in the society as many are made to believe. Quite a surprising number of gainfully employed Nigerians have either abandoned or considering abandoning their jobs for a dream life in Europe or America.

This according to them is the failure of successive governments to make policies that will make Nigeria a better place to live in by her citizens.

Other factors that increase vulnerability to trafficking in Nigeria include extreme poverty (now the world’s poverty capital), corruption, conflict, parental/peer pressure, eroded mindset/values, illiteracy, climate change/resulting migration and western consumerism.

How Malian authorities debase, extort Nigerian girls – NAPTIP DG

The DG of NAPTIP, Ms. Julie Okah-Donli while giving detailed report on the welfare of trafficked Nigerian girls in Mali said the girls were usually abused and extorted. She said efforts to repatriate the girls were usually foiled through the complicity of Malian security forces, coupled with the willingness of many of the girls to return to the ‘sex-for-gold’ trade. She said there were some of the girls who were trafficked to the northern parts of Mali where they not only offered sex but were radicalised.

The NAPTIP boss added that many of the victims who were rescued in 2011 and some other, in 2017, came back to Nigeria; only to return with more girls.

The DG further added that some of the sex slaves were made to sleep with numerous men, without protection, while also being made to pay huge taxes by alleged complicit Malian authorities.

The Malian authorities collect taxes from the victims on a weekly basis and sell condoms and other medications compulsorily to their victims every month.

Malian women are already grumbling that Nigerian girls are taking their men, and there are fears of imminent xenophobic attacks.

Three Nigerian girls were killed between November and December 2018,’’ Okah-Donli said.

She said efforts to stop the trade at the borders had not been encouraged by border security as they had not made efforts to arrest the traffickers in spite of all information given to them.

The border point between Nigeria and Seme-Krake and Burma Fas/Mali are notoriously porous, and despite numerous reports and pictures of traffickers sent to law enforcement agencies at the borders, no arrests or rescues have been made.

The traffic madams are well known to the Nigerian community, but they are afraid to report them because of the complicity of the Malian security agencies in human trafficking, especially the gendarmerie who assist the traffickers to carry out their activities.

Nigerian victims are way-billed from a motor-park in Cotonou, dropped at Sikasso near the border with Burkina Faso, from where they are picked by Malian gendarmerie for delivery to their madams,” she said.

Okah-Donli noted further that the Nigerian sex slaves lived in about 300 settlements in Malian bushes, with each settlement holding 100 to 150 girls.

The girls, aged between 16 and over 30, hang around bars and night clubs to display for their clients who take them into their huts made of polythene, Okah-Donli said.

True life story of survival victims

I was lured with mouth watering offers in South Africa; ended up as sex slave in Mali’

Adekemi like any other Nigerian child had beautiful dreams of rising to the top of her career. She hoped her parents would give her the needed financial support to actualize her dreams but that soon became a mirage as she would later find out. At just 20, she had developed a thick skin to weathering the storms of life. While ‘hustling’ her way to success, she met someone willing to ‘help’. Her time had come, she reckoned when she ‘found the clue’. A mouth-watering job awaiting her in South Africa where she would literally dig gold. The jinx had been broken.

Her mother too also fell for the ploy through scintillating pictures of likely places her beloved daughter was going to work in the rainbow country.

Imagine! Soon her beloved daughter would be repatriating money home in dollars.

And another scenario, her younger sibling would sooner join her in South Africa to multiply the haul.

But first things first – the usual preparation rituals, sourcing money for passport ticket, feeding allowance.

And all this meant the poor family going to borrow and selling their properties to make up. Anyhow, all this was good as nothing in view of the finest expectations to come from the foreign land job.

But too soon all the dreams died. Firstly instead of a luxurious flight to South Africa, it turned a tortuous three-day road journey to land in Mali, a neighboring West African country and immediately into sex slavery.

In this no holds bared interview with TNG, Adekemi explained in details her travails as a trafficked victim in neighboring Mali.

When we got to Mali, we were handed condoms as work tools on our very first day at work: a beer parlour with several cubicle-like rooms,” says the victim who named one Mustapha as the man who sold her as a sex slave in Mali.

The suspect, Mustapha is said to be well known in the business of luring girls underage girls from Nigeria into prostitution in other countries in West Africa.

In a phone conversation, the terrified victim, who preferred to speak in Yoruba, her native language, and Pidgin English, revealed all the awful details of how she and many young girls were deceived, taken away from Nigeria, and sold as sex slaves far away in Mali.

In a phone conversation, the terrified victim, who preferred to speak in Yoruba, her native language, and Pidgin English, revealed all the awful details of how she and many young girls were deceived, taken away from Nigeria, and sold as sex slaves far away in Mali.

Journey to the Job

It seemed like an answered prayer whenever the victims meet Mustapha who talks them into believing they would effortlessly build castles by travelling out of Nigeria to South Africa to take up high paying jobs either as salesgirl, hotel attendants or female footballers.

Mustapha’s deals are always appearing so sweet that his victims feel it wouldn’t cost them a dime to embark on this life-changing journey to the ‘high-paying’ jobs abroad.

“It was around February 2016, my family couldn’t make ends meet and I was seriously looking for a job.

“My mom and dad are divorced and we the children have been struggling to cope with the meagre proceeds mum gets from selling fruits.” She said, narrating her ordeal.

“So a friend of mine, Samuel, in Ado-Ekiti where I lived at the time, told me there is a guy looking for a female worker.

I later learnt that the person was looking for more than one person (three girls, I was told).

“I collected the employer’s number from Samuel and later called him [Mustapha]. He told us that some of us would work as salesgirls in a big supermarket in South Africa, while he assured others they would secure a football club where they could build a football career.

“Mustapha met my mum and assured her of all the good plans he had for us. After showing my mother several pictures of big supermarkets in South Africa where we would be taking up the jobs, he was able to convince her and she agreed with the travel plans.

We soon set out for the journey. But shortly, things started to go awry. Plans began to change. On getting to Lagos, we were all shocked when we realised that we would be traveling by road and not by flight as earlier promised.

They conveyed us in a 14-seater bus. The journey lasted three days after which we arrived in Mali.”

The victim said they survived the journey by buying drinks to keep their body and soul. “Some of us developed horrible sicknesses as we lacked access to good food for days, we were just drinking beverages and only had a major stop at Togo.”

The Job

“When we got to Mali, we were shocked when Mustapha started auctioning us to people [mostly ladies], at that point there was no turning back, our phones, identity cards, passports and other documents that we used to cross the borders were all seized,” the victim narrated.

“He sold me to one Madam Prisca for N250,000, who runs a beer parlour, I joined other seven new girls at Madam Prisca’s place and when we asked what our job was about, we did not get clear brief.

To our dismay, Madam Prisca distributed ‘condoms’ to us and told us to go and take our bath saying our job will be to entice men who come to patronise the beer joint and we were told that we will be set free once we can earn them 1.5m CFA [Equivalent of 750, 000 naira] Madam Prisca’s beer parlour was a hell of some sort as described by the victim.

Her shop had several rooms attached to it, where men can select any girl of their choice just to ease themselves of tensions obviously after high consumption of alcohol.

At first, the girls [victims] resented the offer to become sex slaves but later humbled to oblige to the wishes of their lords after receiving severe torture, drug inducement and partaking in several rites conducted by their fetish priests.

“They are very diabolic, they will prepare a charm/potion for us and the moment we ate it we lost our consciousness. About eight of us were sharing a room.

“They scraped our hair, [pubic, underarm included] for their fetish cause. There is a particular priest that helps Prisca slaughter, fowl, which will be prepared with other concoctions and we were all compelled to eat it.”

Recalling one of the very sordid days she learnt how deep the danger she was in, the victim said, “You dare not think about escape or do anything that negates their orders.

There was a day Prisca’s priest claimed he saw a vision about two girls planning to escape – when the girls were singled out by the priest, they were beaten mercilessly, it was close to death.

“Here, death is not strange, there are so many who lost their lives while on this trip, some fell terribly ill and were ignored as bad-buy.

The Escape

After working for over a year with Prisca, the victim said she was able to contribute about 1.1m CFA to her lord but was never at ease with the everyday danger related to the job.

She said she had several quiet prayers begging God for a saving grace but the time never came.

I was saying the same prayer one particular evening and I got the conviction to run away. I took my bible, left all the belongings I had at Prisca’s place and ran endlessly without looking back.

I was scared they could still find me, and the punishment is grave. They have a way of catching those who attempt to escape.

They do this with the help of their policemen, in some instances they lie to the policemen you have stolen their money, say, 2 million CFA and once you are caught there is little you can say to defend yourself because you have no papers or identity.

So when they report you, the policemen will arrest you and you will probably be returned or jailed depending on the process and agreement reached.
So most times, because you don’t have documents, the police will suspect you the more and not them.

She said on escaping Madam Prisca’s place, she had to travel to Cote d’Ivoire, where she is at present hibernating and preparing her journey back to Nigeria.

The story of this young victim is just one of many yet untold. A frustrated Nigerian graduate who made an uncertain trip to Libya some few years back with the hope of traveling through the Mediterranean sea to Europe also shared his experience with TNG:

‘I left Nigeria for Libya after searching endlessly for job for 10 years’

Edward was lucky to have graduated at an early age. At just 22, he had completed his HND programme and was also through with the one year compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). However, while he was lucky with school, he was not so lucky with getting a job. After years of helping his mum sell petty items in her shop in Lagos, Edward decided to join the league of countless Nigerians searching for greener pastures in Europe albeit as an illegal migrant. He shared his story emotionally on phone with TNG from Libya:

I was desperate to move out of Nigeria. Everything seem not to be working for me. I graduated with good grades from a reputable polytechnic over 10 years ago and all I’ve done from then till now is menial jobs. I usually follow my mum to her shop to assist in selling her petty items but for how long am I going to do that? I’ve done everything possible to get a decent job to no avail. Before deciding to embark on this uncertain journey, I lived in a one room apartment in my father’s house. I knew the cost of travelling out of Nigeria to a choice country in either Europe or America is expensive and the chances of even succeeding at it is ultra slim. So I decided to take the Libyan route. The news we heard back home was that once you get to Libya, it will be easier migrating to Europe through the mediterranean sea. I’ve heard and read gory stories of illegal immigrants losing their lives on the mediterranean and I’ve also heard and spoken to those who succeeded at it. Let’s just say I’m optimistic that all will be well. I have to give it a trial to know how it goes. However, three years down the lane, my perspective changed. Though, I’m still keeping hopes high and trying to see if I can raise money to travel legally from Libya. What people go through here to migrate to Europe is best imagined. Only a few of the migrants make it safe to Europe via the mediterranean sea,” he said.

Visit to selected embassies in Nigeria

I also interviewed applicants willing to legally exit Nigeria at the American and South African embassies (Abuja and Lagos) on why they are keen on doing so. Their responses are captured below:

American Embassy

When I visited the American Embassy in Abuja and Consular office in Lagos, the sight was more or less that of refugees desperately seeking a better life outside of their war torn country. One is left to wonder if America and indeed anywhere they so will to migrate to has the capacity to cater for such number of applicants even if their applications were successful.

One of the hopeful applicant who identified himself as Emeka boasted to having a high-paying job in one of the oil companies but can’t risk settling down in Nigeria.

See, I just want to move out of this country. I am gainfully employed and can cater for my needs and that of my loved ones but that is not enough. The country is messed up and hopes of fixing it are not there. Even our president hardly stays in Nigeria. You remember he recently ran away on the disguise of a ‘private visit’ to the United Kingdom. So who am I to keep believing that all will be well when the man elected to fix things does not believe that all will be well? Are you not aware of the increased killings, kidnappings and violence perpetrated in virtually all the nooks and crannies of this country? Unlike before, these daredevil now perpetuate their nefarious activities in broad daylight. No one is safe. Not even the ruling class. For your information, I’m not putting my hope in this America Visa application alone. I’m also applying simultaneously in other embassies. I will flow with any of them that grants my visa. My children will never forgive me if I birth them in this hopeless country,” he said.

Aside from the seemingly young applicants, the older ones (with grey hair and aging looks to show) are also not left out. For some, their entire family deserve a better country to live in. Some heavily pregnant women also want a safer medical haven to deliver their precious babies. On this particular day of visit and as always, the embassy was filled with all sorts of applicants.

From my interrogations with them, it was obvious that the applicants were not willing to let go of their migration ambitions till they succeed at it. Many confessed to applying as much as five to ten times in different embassies. Aside this, I observed that the environment was overcrowded and not so convenient. However, the applicants seemed to care less of the operating environment and condition of the embassies. They wanted one thing – just a successful visa application!

The interview process is rigorous. But you can’t expect less of a sane country that places premium priorities on her citizens. No right thinking country will just open its borders to all manner of people without verifying their sanity and crime records. More so, Nigerians are on the global alert as a result of the fraudulent activities of a few unscrupulous elements. But come to think of it, who will back out of the quest for a greener pasture judging from how soon successful applicants make it once they land in their choice country?. My dear I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t care even if this interview is conducted in the gutters. As long as the country I’m heading to is in good shape, I can endure the temporary suffering at their embassy here in Nigeria. I already told my wife and children before leaving home this morning that we won’t get the visa on a platter of gold. It would be stressful and almost impossible but we won’t give up till we are successful at it,” a man applying with his family told me.

Our health facilities here are both faulty and unreliable. I am a retiree. I served Nigeria with my most productive years and I remember rejecting at various times mouth watering offers to travel abroad because I believe the development of Nigeria is incomplete without my quota. I have done that and my health is now failing me. I thought my country will be there for me as I was there for her but you know how funny things are in this country. Let me spare you the details because the media is awash with that already. My children have given me ultimatum to come meet them or I forget about them. They sometimes laugh at me for believing so much in this country. I think I’m beginning to laugh at myself too for doing that. My wife and I are going to receive the best of medical attention in a place where the value placed on human lives is second to none. I’m done with Nigeria. Thank you,” an hopeful septuagenarian applicant said.  

Visit to VFS Global in Lagos (handlers of South African visa)

What exactly are we doing in this country when our lives are daily threatened by bandits who are now renowned for killing unquestioned? Are you not bothered by the several killings in Kaduna, Plateau Zamfara, Kogi, Taraba and other states? Even the president’s home state, Katsina is not spared.

What has the Nigerian government done about it? Who have so far been arrested? But people are buried in their countries on a daily basis just for being Nigerians? And you want me to be part of those people? That’s over my dead body!”

These were the exact words of Biodun Ademola as I questioned him and several others lined up eagerly on a queue to apply for South African Visa at VFS Global recently in Lagos.

I reminded Biodun that other countries had their security, economic among other challenges – and that South Africa, in particular, was still battling xenophobic attacks especially on Nigerians, he impatiently said:

Yes I’ve heard and read of xenophobic attacks there but that has subsidized seriously now. Come to think of it, is it not even more justified to defend yourselves against strangers taking up your job and other means of livelihood than to lose your life to an animal in your country? A cow for that matter? If I perish in South Africa of xenophobic attacks, it’ll be more honourable than being hacked to death by a fellow Nigerian for being less valuable than a cow,” Biodun said unapologetically.

On the fateful day of visit, the number of applicants for both South Africa and Canada Visas were almost in their thousands. A further enquire from the processing company, VFS Global showed that South Africa receives the highest number of applicants with over 230 applications daily.

VFS Global currently acts as the outsourced partner for the visa applications and processing of South Africa, Canada, Belgium, and fifteen other countries.

Applicants including students, artisans, family, etc. start moving in their numbers to the Lekki office as early as 6am daily. They take numbers in order of arrival and would only be attended to by 8am.

Amazed by the huge numbers of applicants for South Africa visa as against other countries, this reporter further asked a lady who appeared to be rough handled repeatedly by muscular guys queued behind her to jostle for a space ahead as the announcement was made by some security guards that the South African processing centre had received enough application for the day at just 10am! This will means a repetition of the whole process by the following day. The lady was however determined not to give her space for anyone irrespective of the pressure.

Please, I don’t think I can entertain any question now,” She said firmly as I approached her. Feeling determined, I pestered her further, ‘Don’t you think things are not this hard in Nigeria for you to go through this kind of stress just to visit another man’s land as a second class citizen”? I asked knowing well that a thunderous and emotional response will follow.

What do you mean by that? Are you blind to the crazy things happening in this country? I know it’s pretty expensive and difficult to get UK or America Visa that’s why I decided to go for South Africa’s. From my researches, they have quality education and stable academic calendar, good road networks and a stable economy. What else am I looking for? I’ve thought this over and over and my mind is made up. Not even my parents can stop me from getting out of this frustrating place called Nigeria. I’m so done!,” she said sounding irreversible in her decision.

Our score card on curbing human trafficking, illegal migration – NAPTIP, NIS

Nigeria’s major agencies saddled with the responsibilities of checkmating activities of human traffickers and illegal migrants, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) however insist that quality oversight function and collaborations where and when necessary by officials of both agencies and other sister agencies have helped reduced illegal migrations and trafficking in persons.

According to the NAPTIP DG, recent data released by foreign governments showed a drastic reduction in human trafficking activities emanating from Nigeria.

In Italy, the number of Nigerians going into Italy has dropped significantly, so we are told by the authorities. Likewise, Spain, France and so many other countries have dropped, and we believe that people are getting more aware.

Back in the days, they (traffickers) had this oath-swearing ceremony before they shipped the children out of Nigeria. Now they have taken it out to the destination countries where the victims are stuck and cannot run away without a choice.

You cannot sensitise the whole country at once because these criminals go into the rural communities where there is little or no access to the social media,” Okah-Donli said.

As part of effort to curb the menace, she said the NAPTIP team recently met with the Ministry of Justice in Mali.

She said the Malian Justice Ministry called on NAPTIP to come up with an MoU that would provide a proper framework to end the trafficking and repatriate those already trafficked.

The NAPTIP DG hoped that other countries thread same progressive part to significantly reduce the menace.

The NIS on its part said it recently opened a Personnel Training Resource Centre in Abuja and promised replicating same in the 36 states of the federation.

The Comptroller-General of the Service, Mr Muhammad Babandede said that the centre was aimed at registering non-citizens, who were staying in the country for more than 90 days.

It is intended for anybody who is not a citizen of Nigeria, who has entered our territory and stayed for a period exceeding 90 days.”

He said that the effort was also in line with immigration’s regulation which made it mandatory for non-Nigerians to register when they come into the country.

This project will be sustained. The foreigners’ registration will be linked to the Migrant Information and Data Analysis System.

It is a project which has been invested into by many European countries to make immigration safer,” he said.

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