Every time I heard about human trafficking, I never thought I would be involved. I never thought I would be one of the people anyone will point to as being a part of the trade. But here I am, a Libya returnee. Abi isn’t that what you journalists say we are?
First of all, I am a graduate of economics from one of our state universities. When I say state, you know we pay plenty of money in state universities, so that also tells you I am not completely disadvantaged. But after NYSC five years ago, my sister, there was no job anywhere, no single interview, no part-time sef. It was one rejection after another, one long queue of 5000 candidates for a two people vacancy or 70 thousand candidates for a three-man vacancy. I got tired. I got fed up with handouts. I tried hair dressing, I mean, I learned to weave and fix hair, I learned a bit of dressmaking, too but my dear, I didn’t make much of it, I even wanted to teach, the schools didn’t want economic teachers and where I could get a job in government schools, the long process- come today, come tomorrow- for more than nine months and the bureaucracy just drove me away. More so, you always have some men who want to sleep with you before they even help you for anything.
So, I was a ready candidate for any talk of travelling abroad, even if the abroad is Ghana next door. I was ready.
When this guy, one of the guys I met the days of coming and going from office to office at Alausa, looking for connection for job. He told me about Libya, he said I could get to Spain from Libya. He said if I didn’t mind, I could start as a maid, then I could from there work my way up.
I agreed because being a maid in Spain is not the same as being a maid in Nigeria, abi? I could earn money and send home to my people here.
I agreed, o.
He then introduced me to another guy, this guy, Charles said he is an agent, he said he would collect his percentage when I start working because he will be the one to get me passport, travel documents and all that. I said OK, but I was also to raise some money for some other logistics.
I told my family about it, my aunty and her husband, and they said, it was better for me because they didn’t like the way I was always sleeping in the house. So they helped me raise about N300k, which I promised to refund once I settled in Spain. In my mind, I just thought, give or take, it will take me say six months to one year to get them the money back. And they are good people, this aunty and uncle of mine. They tried for me.
OK, o. So I contacted Charles, I gave him a part of the money and kept the rest because somehow, I felt that I should also have some money on me.
The journey to Libya almost took my life. From Kano to Agadez. I almost died in the desert. I saw things that scared the hell out of me, I thought I was losing my mind. Hummn. I saw evil in the desert. Human remains, people who didn’t make it to Libya, who died on the way.
Maybe I should just have died there because I thought the desert was hell.
But hell was Libya my sister, hell was Libya!
Not knowing that Charles was recruiting me for prostitution, I got to Libya and immediately I set foot down from the lorry that conveyed us through the desert, even before I was able to gather myself together to say, thank God I made it here as first part of my journey, I was taken to one house and told to remove my clothes.
One Libyan woman, she told me and the other girls that came that we are her property and that we must do as we are told or we die!
I was thirsty. I was tired. I was not even standing well and this woman is already telling us to dress like ashy? My own has ended today!
We wanted food, something to drink, rest from the journey. Then she said, ok, rest for today. She gave us small rice and water and one room for all of us, seven of us that first day.
Some of the old girls quickly told us to obey, that these people will actually kill us if we don’t obey, so the following day we began work. Work was sex with men.
See me, me that was avoiding sleeping with men for work in Nigeria, now I will sleep with them as work in Libya. Why didn’t I agree to do it in Nigeria and have a job and not have to consider coming to Libya, why?
That’s how we started o.
That’s how I began to have sex with men every day for survival. My sister, it was brutal! All my here…down here, torn to pieces by these animals, no treatment, no saying give her time to heal…and they want you in all sort of difficult positions. Can you imagine? Sometimes 20, sometimes 25 men, every day. I became like raw meat. The worst part is all the money went to madam, we did not see shinshin.
At one time I was begging for death. Because how would I survive this for long? So I just tuned off. One of the girls gave me some ointment to lubricate, make it easier for me because, I was just bleeding everyday and madam did not care.
After that, I removed my mind from the men, I just spread, they will do, they will piss on you, pull your hair, slap you, beat you, manhandle your breasts or put finger for inside and do many things. Those people are beasts! They treated us like we are not human beings as if we are animals who feel no pain, who don’t get wounded or something.
Who will you complain to? Madam? You are joking!
I did this for close to two years and all I wanted to do was return home. Some of the girls there didn’t want to come back. They still have dreams of sending money home to their parents, they still think that they will find a way to go to Spain or Italy. They say life in Libya or anywhere sef is better than life in Nigeria.
Then the day came, someone came to our place, saying some Nigerian government people were asking who wants to go back to Nigeria? I just jumped, I ran, I ran after the boy who came with that information.
Where? Where is the place? Where are the Nigerian people? I want to go home!
I am finally home!
-Compiled by Peju Akande
-Based on a true story. However, names of characters and places have been changed to protect their privacy.