They use cucumber to disvirgin girls aged 12 to 15
By CHIOMA IGBOKWE
TWO Nigerian ladies who were recently rescued from the hands of a suspected human trafficker based in Libya have given gory details of how they were lured and forced into prostitution in the North African country.
The victims, identified as Yusuf Nasfat Omobolanle and Ebunoluwa Lawal were rescued through the intervention of a human rights group, Alliance of Rights Defenders (ARD).
Saturday Sun learnt that the attention of ARD was drawn to activities of the cartel through petitions written by families of some of the missing girls and those who escaped and ran back to Nigeria.
In the petition, the concerned relations alleged that one Alhaji Muritala and his wife, Lateefat (surname withheld) both indigenes of Odeda in Ogun State, had trafficked more than 100 teenagers and young women from Ogun to Libya for prostitution.
Also indicted was Lateefat’s mother, Mrs Ebunoluwa (surname withheld) who was accused of luring the girls with mouth-watering promises of good life abroad on behalf of her daughter and son-in-law.
ARD alerted the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and Mrs Ebunoluwa was arrested while her daughter who was in Nigeria at that time escaped.
At the ARD office where Saturday Sun correspondent spoke to the rescued ladies, Omobolanle, an auxiliary nurse based in Ogun State said that she was assured by a male relative that he would link her up with a travel agency which would ensure that she got a job and later travel to the US.
Determined to change her fortune, Omobolanle jumped at the offer and spent the next one month trying to raise N500,000 which she was told would cover her travel expenses.
“I am an axillary nurse. One of my relatives introduced me to Mrs. Lateefat that she had helped so many people to travel to America. My salary as an auxiliary nurse was not enough to take care of my basic needs, so I was determined to become independent. She assured me that her brother who is an America citizen would assist me to get a job. I was asked to pay N500,000 which would cover my travel expenses and cost of accommodation. I paid the money to Alhaji in the presence of his wife and mother in-law after a meeting we had at the National Theatre, Lagos.
“Few days later, he called to inform me that we would not travel by air again. I had already paid and I knew that I might not get the money back if I requested for a refund. On the agreed day, being December 28, 2015, we boarded a bus from Lagos to Kano. On getting to Kano, more persons joined us and we boarded a truck heading to Niger Republic. The truck was so parked full that some persons fell off and died. Despite our screams, they never bothered to stop and check on those who fell.
“From Niger, they handed us over to some men whom they explained would ensure that we got to our final destination. On getting to Niger, the soldiers who stopped us ordered that all the ladies and girls should come down from the truck. They flogged us and took turns to rape all the women especially those that could not give them money. They only flogged me but did not rape me because I gave them money. I was fasting and praying all through the journey for God to spare our lives.”
As soon as they got to Agadesh in Libya, Alhaji’s wife, Lateefat was already on ground to welcome them. “I guess she travelled by air. She gave us garri, groundnut, five liters of water, powdered milk, milo, a blanket and a jacket after spending 11 days on the road.
About 15 of us were forced to sleep in a standard room. It was when my phone was seized that it dawned on me that we were in trouble.
I started disturbing madam Lateefat to take me to America as agreed while in Nigeria. It was then that she told me that I was to stay in Libya and become a prostitute. I refused and she said that since I am a nurse, I should help her in the clinic to abort pregnancies.
I also refused the offer and Alhaji Sanni asked me to call home and tell my people to raise N3 million to secure my freedom. As soon as I made that call, I told my parents that I was in trouble and I had been forced into prostitution. It was later that I was rescued by a human rights group”, she explained.
Trying to recall most of the horrible experiences, Omobolanle said it is a crime to arrive at that place as a virgin. “To survive, I had no choice but to accept some of their conditions which included sleeping with different men. I was forced to swear an oath of loyalty and our passports which turned out to fake were seized from us. We were made to understand that we came to the country illegally and if we were caught, we would be killed by the Libyan authority. To further scare us, they told us that we were in an Islamic country and the penalty is death by hanging. The younger ones from ages 13 to 15 were disvirgined by Alhaji and his men who were mostly Libyans. They would force cucumber into their vagina and several girls died in the process. The size of the fruit would be so much for them that they would start bleeding, That was how Dorcas and Joy died in my presence. We were made to sleep with men for 10 dina (N1000) for a round of sex, 50 dina for a night stand. I learnt how to survive until January 23, 2016 when the human rights people rescued us”, she added.
The second victim, Ebunoluwa Lawal who is still in Libya told Saturday Sun correspondent on the telephone that several girls who ran away from the brothel are already stranded as they could not raise money to pay for a flight back to Nigeria.
She said “They call me ‘smally’ in Libya. It was Mrs. Lateefat’s sister, one Aunty Bola and one Sir K that took me with several others through the desert to Libya in 2012. I was a fashion designer in Abeokuta before I was lured to travel to Libya. They told me that they were taking me to Spain to continue my handiwork. We were 40 in number. I did not pay them any money for the trip and my parents did not know about the journey. We were kept in a room in Libya and forced into prostitution but I ran away and I have been in hiding. Those men are too aggressive and do not like to use condom. Most of the girls were infected with HIV and died over there. I knew that if I do not run away, I will soon die of excess sex or AIDS. The underage girls were used as animals and so many of them died in the process.
“I went to Nigeria Embassy but they turned me and other girls back. I’m trying to work so I can save money and return to Nigeria but it’s not easy.”
Corroborating their tale, a cleric of the Anglican Church of Christ in Tripoli, Libya, Ayobami Ayorinde said that he had been sending some of the girls home since 2012. “There is a well co-coordinated syndicate who normally take advantage of these vulnerable Nigerians and trafof the girls home since 2012. “There fic them to Libya to work as prostitutes. The much I can do is that most of the girls that ran to my church were protected and helped to return back to Nigeria. I do not have enough money to continue helping so many of them that are stranded in Libya. The Nigerian Embassy in Libya is not helping matters at all. They simply drive them away and those who cannot cope will simply go back and comply with their slave masters. I have helped so many of them to get a job, save money and return home”, the priest said.
Grateful to God for the safe return of some of the girls, President of ARD, Barrister Ojay Akinwale, a lawyer based in Lagos stated that the complaints from the parents of Nasfat and Ebunoluwa prompted them to hire the services of a private investigator who was able to trace some of the girls and rescued them.
“Following his investigation, we found out that the two ladies were taken by road to Libya with fake passports by one Alhaji Muritala and his wife. Most of their victims claim that they parted with N500,000 and more because they were assured that at the end of the day they will make it to America. They were forced to take an oath and forced into prostitution.”
Akinwale expressed sadness over the plight of the girls and other Nigerians trafficked to Libya and other foreign countries. He urged government to take urgent measures to halt the ugly trend.
His words “We are grateful that NAPTIP got involved and promptly swung into action, however, we would beg them to keep us updated with further investigation. These traffickers are smart and are ready to pay anything to buy their freedom and return to the same illicit trade.
“When NAPTIP officials got to Abeokuta to arrest Mrs. Lateefat, they were attacked by the villagers and she escaped with the help of suspected security men. The suspects at large are well known to the Nigerian Ambassador to Libya and can assist NAPTIP to deport them back to Nigeria to face the wrath of the law. “
Recalling his experience in Libya, the private investigator simply identified as Prince Oshokoya said that after so many days of fruitless search, he found the girls in a brothel in an area popularly known as New York.
“The owners of the brothel, Alhaji Muritala and his wife are simply known as Baba Tawa and Mama Tawa in Tripoli. We lured the wife to Nigeria and she was apprehended by the police but one police officer known as Yusuf Bola of Ogun state police command granted her bail after she allegedly gave him N500,000. She promised to settle me but I told her that my mission was to find and return the girls to their parents.
“During my stay in Libya , I observed that more than 100 women were trapped in that brothel working for Alhaji and his wife. The girls live in a tiny room and are fed with oil and bread, once a day. I secretly recorded most of the things I observed and a copy was handed over to NAPTIP.
“I was shocked when I learnt of a special event called ‘baptism of the virgins’ which is done by Alhaji and other Libyan men. It is normally organized anytime they receive fresh girls who are still virgins”.
When contacted over the arrest, the Zonal Commander of NAPTIP in Lagos, Mr. Famakin said he should be given time to find out details of the story as there are over 98 cases being handled by the state command. However, a reliable source at NAPTIP, Lagos office confirmed that Mrs. Ebunoluwa is still in their custody.