Defiant Traffickers Nabbed: Girls Rescued as They Journey to Cotonou

But for the vigilance of immigration officers at the Gbaji border post on the Badagry Expressway to the Seme border in Lagos State, five female teenagers would have unwittingly passed into enslavement. The victims were intercepted in the process of being smuggled out of the country on the night of Monday, June 19, 2018. Their vehicle was stopped for routine checks and questioning when eagle-eyed immigration officers, suspicious of their awkwardness, decided to probe further. The ugly truth came out during profiling.
Their story was pretty straight: Three days earlier, they had been lured from a backwoods community in Ondo State, baited with mouth-watering job offers, plus the glittery attractions of city life. All the five girls, age 15 to 19, had hitherto never travelled out of their community before let alone go as far as Lagos. In Lagos, the teenagers found themselves in a catch-22 whereby retracing their steps back home was impossible and going forward into an uncertain future the only option. Had the scheme worked out, they would have ended in Cotonou, Benin Republic, working as salesgirls in a goodtime motel that provides drinks and sex for the pleasure of men.

By noon on Tuesday, June 20, the major actors in the human smuggling attempt had been nabbed as the scheme that started in Abuja came to a grinding halt at the border control office of the Nigeria Immigration Service office in Seme, the town at the Nigeria– Benin Republic border.

Tricked from home

The girls, three of whom are minors, are all under the age of 19 and are identified only by their surnames. The most outspoken of them, Ojomo, 19, a two-year-old apprentice hairdresser, gave Saturday Sun a comprehensive recount of their odyssey.

“On Thursday, June 14, me and my friends went out and we met a man who said he wanted to introduce us to a woman, later identified as Princess. When we met her, she told us she needed girls that can help as salesgirls in her mother’s hotel. We were at first reluctant, but later agreed to go and see the place first and if okay, we would stay; otherwise, we would return back home.”

They commenced the journey the next day and arrived at 10 pm at Sunshine Hotel, located in Imeke, Aradagun axis of Badagry. “The moment the hotelier set eyes on us, she rejected us,” Ojomo said. “She told Princess, ‘These are not the kind of girls I want. They are too young’.”

According to her, the hotelier, Ijeoma Chinasa Anyanwu, insisted that the girls be returned, but Princess was adamant that if she must take them back, she must be refunded the expenses incurred transporting them down to Lagos. “We did not have money. And she refused to pay for our fare back home,” Ojomo recalled.

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