Queen (surname withheld) is a young girl from Edo State who left Nigeria in 2011 in search of greener pasture abroad. In this exclusive interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, she gave a vivid account of how she embarked on the journey that almost sent her to an untimely death, yet coming back to Nigeria without anything to show for all her troubles. She said she is a happy girl now with total freedom in her fatherland. Excerpts…
How did it all start for?
I had a girlfriend that was in the same class with me when we were preparing for our senior secondary school exams. She was always talking about travelling abroad after finishing our exams. So, on a particular day she called me and asked if I was interested in travelling abroad, I did not waste time to say yes.
Then we had not even started our examinations; she told me that she has a sister that will do everything for us without paying money. She said that her sister had perfected plans to take her abroad the moment we finished our exams. We became closer than before, because I had always wanted a better life for myself and my husband to be. So now that I had a golden opportunity I quickly jumped at it without minding the consequences. We did not even wait to finish our examinations before my girlfriend fixed the day for us to leave Benin. But I must confess to you that it was difficult for me at first, because I did not know how to break the news to my parents who wanted me to have a good education. Before then I was also learning a trade after school hours. On that day my mother wanted me to go to work since I was not going to school.
I played tricks on my mother telling her that I had some issues to settle with my Oga, but before then I had already put my things in a place, waiting for my friend to arrive so that we could embark on the journey. Luckily when my mother left the house, my friend and I took our things and travelled to Warri to meet the lady. On getting to Warri, we met a lady whose business name is Joy. While in Warri the woman told me a lot of things and I was convinced I was in safe hands. I stayed in Warri for one month and was very worried because this was not what I expected.
When did the actual journey commence?
After some time, Joy handed me over to another woman, who was also a Benin person. That was when we started the journey to Kano. From Kano we entered the dreaded desert by road. Along the line I became ill, no food, no water, nothing was going well. When we got to a point, I almost gave up the ghost; people were drinking their urine and I did not want to drink urine.
At some place, we saw pond and the woman said I should drink and I drank the water using my hands. Later the woman said that the water I just drank was dead man’s water. There was nothing I could do because that was the only way I could gain some strength to continue the journey. When we got to a border boundary the woman sold me to a man in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
The wife of this man was a Benin woman. This was the beginning of my slavery. In Abidjan, I was kept in an underground place. There I met so many girls. It was hellish, an experience never to be forgetting so easily. For one year plus, I lived in an underground room in Abidjan without seeing outside for one day. When I almost died they brought a doctor to check me; the doctor in the process started to like me and asked me if I wanted to be free and I answered yes.
The doctor later bought a phone for me, and told me to hide it so that the people would not know that he gave me a phone. But when they discovered that the doctor was having interest in me, they changed him and brought another doctor. But I must say that God was always with me.
The former doctor had already told the new one about me, so when the new one came he started to treat me well too. There was a day the madam came and fought me inside the underground; it was really a free-for-all. With the anger in me I broke her head with a bottle. Two weeks later, the new doctor arranged for my escape.
Some days after the ugly incident, I followed the new doctor to Dubai. When we got to Dubai, I thought that my freedom had come, but I never knew that it was another round of slavery for me. There, the doctor sold me to an evil Arab man who had no regards for human life. The man kept me in another underground building in an interior village.
You don’t even know whether people existed in that place. The man only came to see me when he wanted sex. It was a very bitter experience for me. I endured a lot of terrible things; he beat me with rods, sticks and anything that he could lay his hand on if I dared say no to his request for sex.
Finally you were able to free yourself from the Arab man, how did that happen?
To regain my freedom from the evil Arab man, he asked me to put holes in my ears so that I could be going out to avoid people hunting me. I accepted to do that. I pretended to love him, told him all kinds of sweet things so that he would allow me to be going out. The man foolishly fell in real love with me, started to give me some freedom within the compound, but made his men to be watching me.
Everybody that visited him was into drugs; he was chronic drug man. So a day came he travelled for his drug business, I took some money and pretended I was going to the market, I covered my face like a real Arab woman. But I encountered some of his security men who never wanted me to go out; I told them that as a married woman I want to go to the market to buy things.
They called the man and told him, God changed his mind and he told them to allow me to go and buy things. I was praising God within me, but when I got out of the compound for the first time I did not know where to go. I just ran for my dear life. After some kilometres of running and walking, I came to a motor park and stayed there like a mad woman.
I was eating from the dustbin, after one week, a man came to me and asked me questions. At first I was afraid to talk to him because I never trusted anyone again, I saw every man that came my way as the same. After too much persuasion and pressure from this black man, I decided to open up to him. Surprisingly the man spoke Benin language to me; there it was like God coming down for my sake.
I told him my ordeal and how I came to Dubai, he was full of pity for me, he took me to a canteen and bought me food and water, after that, he took me to a place where used cloths are sold, bought me some, and promised to help me get to another country where I could find people to assist me get back to Abidjan from where I could return to Nigeria.
He booked a bus for me one week ahead, because buses don’t travel there every day, it is once in a week. So when it was the day for me to leave Dubai, the driver covered my face and put me inside the engine of the vehicle, he told me that that is the only way to get me out of the place without police seeing me. We started the journey to another country.
In fact I saw hell, but I never bothered about the heat, provided I left the wicked country. Finally we arrived at the border of another country. The driver handed me over to a woman called Ejiro who told she is from Delta State. She took me Abidjan after she heard all that I went through. She did not collect any money from me, it was from there I returned to Lagos.
When I arrived Lagos at night, I met a man again called Sherrif, a driver. In the morning people were running away from me because they concluded that I was a mad person. Nobody wanted to help me, so later in the day I summoned courage and approached Sherrif again and narrated my story to him, he promised to take me to Benin, that when I get to Benin my parents wound pay him (N15,000), I did not object to it at all I just wanted to get to Benin again.
I also borrowed his phone to call my parents that I was in Lagos coming back home after three years of slavery abroad. They never wanted to answer my call because native doctors had told them that I was already dead.
Your parents and family must have been so happy to see you…
In fact I do not know how to describe it, my mother was not at home, but my people seeing me in our compound was like the world coming down. They told me that my mother was in Lagos making plans for her travel overseas, because my senior ones there invited her to come for a visit just for her to stop thinking about me because they felt that I was no longer alive. So when they called my mother in Lagos that her lost daughter had returned home, she immediately took a taxi and came back to Benin to see me. It was celebration for my people.
Did you get paid during all this time you were in slavery?
I did not earn one kobo. They just sold me out without giving me anything. And till this movement, I have no idea how much I was sold for. But I know that the woman will not have peace in her life.
Did they use any bad object during sex with you?
I don’t want to remember that silly experience again. Every girl they kept in that camp was badly treated. As I speak now, there are hundreds of Nigerian girls, particularly Benin people, locked up in that camp waiting for an opportunity to escape. Most women that do this illicit business are from Nigeria, they get married to Abidjan men just for them to have freedom.
Did your mother agree to your travelling?
I never told any of my parents; of course no reasonable parent would want her daughter to go through such a journey. I did it on my own because I wanted to have better life for myself and my children.
When you came back to Benin, did you see your school girlfriend again?
No I did not see her; when I asked people about her I was told she was no longer in Nigeria, that she was living with her grandmother.
What is your advice to young girls still planning to travel abroad through the desert?
There is nothing there, the chance of surviving there is 20 to 80.The sponsors do not tell you the true situation of things. It is not something I would advise my enemy to do. It is a journey to hell. It is just God that brought me back to Nigeria. It is better you be a prince in your home than being a prince in a foreign land. I left Nigeria in 2011 returned home in 2017. It was a hell of a journey.
How do you feel now?
I am very happy coming back home; at first it was very difficult for me to cope, because all my friends had left. I hardly see anyone to relate with, but thank God for giving me a good and caring mother. Initially I left for Rivers State just to keep away from people, but that did not help my situation, after some time my mother encouraged me to come back home and face life the way it is. Today I have a trade, I’m a designer, I make cakes and I also work. If there is any girl still having the intention of travelling abroad let her have a rethink, because those sponsors are devils! I thank God for saving me.
Yes I regret everything about the journey. I also have a lot to tell people. But the most important thing is that I’m a live to tell the story. I saw a lot of Nigerian girls being killed by Arabs, thrown into the sea. Dubai people don’t like outsiders, they treat them like animals. It is not a place for anyone to go particularly if you want to go as a young girl looking for a better life. Well, I thank God for everything.
Metro and Crime7 hours ago
Plateau women protest as military searches for missing general
News22 hours ago
Amosun, Osoba absent as Ogun APC makes U-turn on consensus
Politics15 hours ago
Why Wike moved PDP’s convention to Rivers – Northern group
News22 hours ago
Italy court sentences two defendants in $1.3bn Nigeria oil scandal
Metro and Crime8 hours ago
Five killed as rival cult groups clash in Lagos
Metro and Crime7 hours ago
Badoo: Survivors narrate close shave with death
News7 hours ago
Buhari meets Ambode in Aso Rock over re-election bid
Politics8 hours ago
Issues that ‘ll shape polls