Nigeria: Human Trafficking Hub of West Africa
March 3rd, 2022

Author(s): zoomer (existential zoomer#2305)

Editor(s): zerohash (Tet#7609) | Enfin (enfin#5116)

Updated: 3 Mar 2022

Disclaimer: All names mentioned are pseudonyms to protect the interviewee’s identity.

I am a Nigerian writer interested in telling stories of a marginalised and oppressed group of people. I studied electrical engineering at the University of Manitoba but I’ve been writing since I was a child. When my depression in school hit the roof, I came back to my home country Nigeria and settled in Lagos. The city was so vibrant and alive, yet so corrupted and oppressed. It felt right to be writing again and since mainstream media doesn't think too far about the problems of the average citizens, I took it upon myself to share and document their stories. I've carried out several small-scale investigations that I have used to tell their stories from a fictional perspective. When I started to look into human trafficking, I knew it had to be documented so I started my research, I knew it had to be real-life accounts of this experience because it was vile and blatantly inhumane.

Human trafficking in Nigeria

In the criminal market today, human trafficking is one of the most lucrative divisions on the criminal activity scale. Unfortunately, Nigeria is an origin, transit, and destination country - affected by cross-border trafficking that opens a pathway for both local and international trafficking of women and children. With a country that is swamped by an overflow of criminal activities, it is extremely difficult to battle each one simultaneously and overcome these shadow activities. Hence, leaving human trafficking cases uninvestigated and victims uncared for will fuel the infamy of human trafficking and endanger potential victims.

I had an aunt growing up who always chased the finer things in life. She always comes a bit desperate for cash and disappears. When I turned 12 or so, we just never heard from her again. Growing up, it always bothered me that nobody, not even my mother, bothered looking for her. When I was 14, she called one day with an Italian number and just cried on the phone for 5 minutes. I have no idea how my mom knew, but she said that was aunty Mary. It stuck with me because to this day we haven't heard from her.

During the lockdown, I was reminded again about the safety of women after interviewing some sex workers on the streets of Lagos. All these have come together to create the project idea “The Lost Children of Benin,” a three-part docu-series to investigate human trafficking activities in Nigeria. To create awareness and help rehabilitate these victimised women.

Benefits of decentralized crowdfunding

In a country like Nigeria, governed by dictatorship, running this crowdfund on Mirror using blockchain technology is the best thing to happen. Taking advantage of the decentralized source of fundraising has created the perfect alternative to find funding for a project like this - making it impossible for the government to trace donors personally and the funds are usually received tax-free. This is an important perk because of the END SARS protest. The Nigerian government punished donors and establishments that came to the aid of abused protesters by freezing their bank accounts and shutting down organizations that took part in helping victims of the government’s brutality.

For a project this sensitive, having a shield to protect donors is a win for all. Introducing this project in the Web3 space has brought me so much joy. The way it has been spoken about and the people who have reached out have shown genuine concern and invested in the turnout of this project. One would think that decentralization means cutting all ties with the real world and having serious issues like human trafficking in a country like Nigeria would not have been received well but to my surprise, everyone has been as supportive as they can be. Unfortunately, I was unable to shoot a trailer for this documentary to give a visual aid but I did document the story of a woman who was trafficked.

Tales of a trafficked Nigerian woman

This is a short tale of a trafficked Nigerian woman I encountered while investigating the crimes of human trafficking in Nigeria and documenting it for a three part documentary, you can donate to crowdfunding via this link to help fund an extensive documentary on this topic. Apart from funding the documentary, the donations will aid the lives of the victims. We are in partnership with FIZ and MIST Association that have Nigerian women stranded in their care in Europe. We plan to get these women on flights back to Nigeria to reconnect with their families - donations also goes towards helping these women start up small scale businesses, as well as plans to get an education and therapy.

This interview with Oyin is unedited and exactly how she told the story to me. I did so to capture the exact emotion in her words with no bias.

My name is Oyin, I don’t know why I’m telling you that because I don’t know how far I’m going to go with this story or whether it is even a story or why I’m telling it to you. I am originally from Akure. My siblings and I were raised from nothing. My mother sent me to do housegirl work with my aunty in Lagos so she can send me to school as payment. I was 8 years old when I left Akure. I never knew this will be the last time I will ever see my family again. My auntie/madam was nice for the first couple of months before she started telling me to join her to sell beer in her shop. She would buy me short skirts and let the men touch me, I didn’t even have breasts then. The more comfortable they got the more money she was making, she used me as the main attraction for her shop. When I turned 15 she pulled me out of school because I was failing. She informed my mother that I’m not book smart so she will teach me her trade. Now in the beer parlor every day without pay, just getting groped and slapped.

Now a fully developed child, I started noticing all these things that these men were doing, most especially madam's husband. One night he came back very drunk and burst into my room, forced himself on me and I lost my virginity. I told madam about it and she simply ignored everything and this kept going on for months. I had no defense, no support. I was just there taking all the nonsense he was doing. I was so angry and so stupid. I could have run away but I didn't. I stayed there like a fool. Thank god he was impotent so I never got pregnant. If I did I would have killed it.

After my aunt’s business started to fail, one man came one day to tell her about girls that go and work for people in Italy and send money back home. She didn’t tell me the nature of the job, she just asked if I knew how to braid hair and I said I knew how to braid small hair braids. She said I’ll get better on the job and the offer is great and in Italy. I was excited, I only knew my village and a small area in Ikotun. I had no idea that agreeing to this would be the worst decision of my life. I nearly died and the person in front of you now is different from the person I used to be.

Women like Mary and Oyin have to heal, rebuild their lives, and still seek justice by themselves. We need your help and support to tell these stories, rehabilitate these women, help them start anew in such a cruel world.

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