This is how it all began. I joined an agency that recruits househelp for foreigners: Indians, White people, and all types of people who are not Nigerians. Even though the agency also services some Nigerian homes, they are mostly focused on foreigners. To apply for the agency is N50,000 which will then be deducted from your salary the first few months they allocate you to a household. They take N10,000k per month from your salary until it is fully paid.
I had done househelp work for some Nigerians but there was always trouble. It’s either they won’t pay you, they won’t feed you, or they will accuse you of doing things you never did. So I should try foreigners?
The family I was sent to lives in an estate on Victoria Island. They are Indians and they have two small children; a boy and a girl that I take out for walks in the evenings.
Everything was going fine for the first few weeks. I loved the children. The madam was good to me.
Though their English was not too good, so many times I communicated in pidgin and they tried to understand me because even though I do not speak English well.
I was given a room close to the kitchen but the room had no window…I think maybe it was meant as a store. Anyway, because it had no window, I always left the door slightly open for air. And many times when I am changing, the husband would just be passing by and looking in. So there is no privacy.
The money was good
I didn’t mind. I was going to be earning N40,000 per month. Though the agency will take N10,000 for the next few months as their agency fee. As far as I was concerned, it was a good deal. The last place I worked, I earned N20,000 monthly and I worked from Sunday to Sunday. With this one, the Indian one, I was given one day off, any day I chose or agreed with my bosses. So it worked well for me…at first.
Then the husband began to come into my room at night. I was afraid and didn’t even know what to do, scream or shout. I just told him if his wife finds out, I would be sent away. He would ask to see my breasts, he would ask me to pull up my skirts…you know all those things.
And you know, in my mind, telling him about his wife was just to tell him off. I had just got the job and hadn’t even done one full month. I was owing the agency and so I couldn’t afford to be sent away. It meant I would not get paid for the month. My siblings are depending on me. My father in the village is depending on me. So I just had to be sensible.
The husband would leave and tell me, he would find a way to come back.
One day, he went to work as usual; the wife too, she taught at one of their schools. So when the house was empty, I tidied up. They always locked their room, what I did was go shopping for the wife. She gives me a list and the cost is attached and I must bring back a receipt.
The work wasn’t even much
That one isn’t work, now.
I only tidied the children’s room and one other room. But when they return, I am allowed to go to their room to clean it up. The door would be open while I cleaned the room…you understand?
I was still tidying up one day when the husband came back to the house. At first, I was shocked because, he had never come home like that before except after he closes from work. He told me that he had found a way to come home to me without his wife knowing.
I begged him that I wasn’t really in the mood. Do you know I told him that I was afraid people would report to his wife? I didn’t know what else to do. He just pulled me and we went to his children’s room and he had sex with me.
This type of thing has happened to me before. The boss will want to sleep with me. And no matter how I beg or cry…they would threaten to fire me…I need the money.
In my mind, I hoped this would be the last time but it wasn’t. It wasn’t.
It went on and you know, as I said, the salary was good and he began to give me some gifts. He would buy me Ankara…not the expensive ones, o. One time, he changed my phone for me, he sometimes gave me money…N2k, N3k…small, small money that made a difference to me.
He began to come to my bed
Ok, he didn’t come home every day but maybe in a week, he came like twice or three times.
Then one day, his wife said to me, “If you are getting pregnant you are not going to work with me.”
I said, “Madam, what did you say?”
She repeated herself.
I was surprised because I didn’t know what she meant. Did she know her husband was coming home? What was she saying?
She then said, “Look here, I know what is happening, if you are getting pregnant, you cannot work or live with me in this house. Do we understand each other?”
Even though at that time, when her husband came for sex, he always used a condom. There were days he didn’t, maybe he forgot…but me, I know how to take care of myself…so there was never going to be any pregnancy.
I didn’t know madam knew about her husband and me. She became aggressive. I wasn’t surprised when she gave me more work to do. Over and over again, like scrub the floor and windows and bathrooms, every single day whereas before, she said I should scrub only weekends because they were never mostly home. She made me hand wash her children’s clothes, even though they had a washing machine…you know, she just became wicked. That was when I realised someone must have told her husband was coming home to meet me. She never fully confronted me with this, though.
My madam was good to me…at first
You know we live among other Indians and I am friendly with some of their maids or nanny as they called them. My madam was good to me, better than the other madams to their house-helps but her husband would not leave me alone! So when she became nasty…I didn’t blame her like that. I just didn’t know what to do.
I know I begged the husband to at least respect his wife whom I knew may not even be asleep. She would know he was with me on those nights he came to my room. But some men don’t think when their thing is standing up.
On some days, I have heard both of them arguing in their language and I didn’t need to be told why they were quarreling.
There was a time I called my agency to tell them that I think I might be sacked at my place of work because the husband had been pressuring me for sex. I didn’t tell them that we had both been engaged in sex for months. I just called, in case they said, “Why didn’t you tell us since?” I didn’t know I could have reported to them. It was a friend who advised me to.
If I could get reassigned…
The friend also said in case I might need a new assignment…just in case.
I know you will say, you were enjoying the sex, that is why you didn’t report it sooner. I swear, I didn’t know what to do. It was much later when I confided in one of the nannies who worked with another boss in my estate. She told me that this type of thing was common.
At first, I just accepted it as my fate. The money was good. Nigerians will never pay you N40,00k, never! So I am not the only one going through this?
But, really, everything would have been okay if the husband had left me alone. That didn’t happen.
My friend also advised me not to go and report to the agency. She said that if I reported that my boss was pressuring me for sex as the reason I wanted to leave, they would not pity me and give me another job. She said they would blame me for the husband wanting to have sex. Maybe I had been enticing him.
How could I have done that?
How can I, see me, ugly, with no money entice a man who has two cars and a driver?
But that is exactly what is happening here.
You still have to understand that I would rather not be having sex with this man. I always pleaded with him not to but if I got fired from there, how would I feed myself and my two siblings that I am supporting?
You see, it is easy to blame me but I did it with no choice.
I can’t go and report to the agency, I just can’t.
They would just fire me. So I will remain here until something happens.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)