The Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, has expressed dismay at the high rate of Nigerian girls trafficked to Saudi Arabia for forced labour.
The girls are trafficked to Saudi Arabia under the guise of getting jobs but instead end up being used for slave labour, tortured and sexually abused.
The minister was horrified when the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Director-General, Dame Julie Okah–Donli, briefed him said in Abuja on the outcome of the investigation on Nigerian girls trafficked to Saudi Arabia.
Onyeama, who described the situation as pathetic, said that the Federal Government was going to deal with the issue holistically and see the end of the menace.
He said that there was a report that had a negative impact on the country and the people which made the ministry set up an investigation team on it.
He said, “The report showed that this is a real scourge; it is just too pervasive now in our society. A lot of work is being done by NAPTIP which is commendable.
“Human trafficking is about trafficking beyond our border as a large part of it goes on beyond our border and this is a concern to us at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We need to sensitise our country and our people and to bring the issues closer home through a personal experience.”
Onyeama said that the ministry was in the process of having inter-ministerial meetings with all MDAs to really address the problem and tackle the issue once and for all.
He said, “We want to put in place mechanism to tackle this issue, it is a crime against humanity, our youths are suffering and it is not something we can tolerate.
“And every effort would be made, nothing would be spared towards eradicating this menace from this country and from the face of the earth.”
The NAPTIP Director-General in her briefing told the minister that over 50 Nigerian girls were trapped in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Okah–Donli who came along with one of the victims rescued by the team said that the team was set up by the minister after a complaint was lodged by NAPTIP on the nation’s youth being innocently trafficked to Saudi.
She said, “We came here to lodge a complaint about the rate at which our young ones are being taken out of the country to Saudi Arabia under the guise of accessing employment opportunities.
“There were calls from victims who were trapped in Saudi, who are suffering and you graciously set up a team comprising NAPTIP officials and the ministry to go to Saudi and investigate.
“When the team visited Saudi Arabia, we met with more than 50 girls who were interviewed. We were told that there were many more girls who were stranded in various parts of Saudi Arabia.
“One of the victims was brought back and she is here to recount her ordeal.”
She said that there were a lot of Nigerian girls who were stranded in Saudi working under slave-like conditions in people’s home.
According to her, most of them are raped, most are made to work 18 hours out of 24 hours.
She said that many were made to sleep in very poor condition and not paid in accordance with what the fraudulent trafficking agencies promised them.
“There is a very big cartel that works with embassies, who secured visas for the victims because those who have genuine businesses don’t easily get visas but the trafficked,” she said
The victim who was veiled while narrating her ordeal in Saudi said that she was lured by a friend living in Dubai who connected her with a woman in Banex Plaza in Abuja.
The girl who spoke in English fluently but didn’t reveal any of her identities said she left for Saudi with other girls on Dec. 30th, 2017 before being rescued by NAPTIP through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She said, “It all started through a friend who claimed she was living in Dubai; she introduced me to a woman agent in Abuja, I was living in Lagos and the latter invited me to meet her in Abuja.
“When I came, I was taken for a medical check-up in Dr Wada’s Hospital.
“The agent promised that I would go to Saudi as a sales girl and that I would be earning equivalent of N150,000 there.
“Everything was processed through her and when we got to Saudi it was a different thing entirely, my passport was seized and I ended working as a house help.”
She said that when the condition was unbearable she called the woman and said that she could no longer cope but the agent said she could not leave.
According to her the agent said she must pay N1.7 million before she could be released.
“And if I could not pay I would have to work for two years, so I contacted a journalist friend who contacted NAPTIP that contacted the Nigerian Embassy through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” she said.
The girl who said she almost committed suicide before help came for her called on the Federal Government to come to the help of thousands of Nigerian girls trapped in Saudi Arabia.
She said, “I want Government to assist those other girls that are stranded because it is not easy. Nigerian girls are passing through hell in Saudi, there may not be work in Nigeria but it is better to stay back.
“I went through physical torture because my boss and her children beat me when I said that I wanted to go back to Nigeria.”