Estimated reading time: 39 minute(s)
A general belief that names affect behaviour could have been the perfect thing for ‘Morire’, a yoruba name that translates to mean, ‘I have seen goodness’, but, reverse was the case when she fell into the hands of human traffickers, ‘she saw evil in human skin, and hell prowling the highway of the reality that had hit her.’
In a bid at what could have been a tremendous business strategy, Morire found herself entangled with human traffickers, out of which the only way was to keep surviving, and that she did for five years – tortured, abused, sold to four different families, jailed, and survived.
The antecedent of her misfortune could be retraced but not to be erased for the scars they left, deep and traumatic in her mind would always nudge at her whenever she falls into the loop of reminisce.
The young mother, speaking at the Nigerian Immigration Service, Ogun Wing sensitization programme, organized in conjunction with the International Organisation for Migrants, IOM, at the Sacred Hearts Catholic College on Friday, disclosed that the persuasive technique adopted by individuals who claim to have businesses and educational provisions across the border for unsuspecting victims are quite appealing to the unsuspecting potential victims.
Urging that the victims endeavour to verify migration information through the NIS to prevent victimisation, she said there are lots of false agents camouflaging as public figures on the internet, in an attempt to lure people into their net.
She lamented that ignorance, lack of proper information when migrating for either academic or business purposes makes one vulnerable to human trafficking, which according to her story is a 10 percent chance of survival.
No one could have told the story of how the short route to success contribute to human trafficking better than a survivor – wounded, broken and healing in her own prime.
How The Journey Started
“I used to be a fresh out of secondary school girl”, John Morire started, like an adult who you could say had seen it all in life. “After my secondary school I went to stay with my aunt for a while because my mum is late.”
“In 2014”, she continued, stating that she got herself engaged with a small business of buying and selling clothes.
“That was where I met this woman who spoke to me about buying my goods straight from Egypt at a very cheap price,” and of course, whose ears wouldn’t twitch at the sound of that.
Morire cleared her throat and adjusted her blue t-shirt bearing the inscription, ‘Sensitization on Smuggling of Migrants’, as she delved further into the narration.
“You can get your goods and return home within a week” the strange woman persuaded her further. “I don’t have money for the trip, I am sorry, but I cannot make that decision alone, you have to speak with my step-mother”, Morire told the strange woman. Eventually, she spoke with the step-mother and out of what could be sheer ignorance or possible conniving, as the victim didn’t know what transpired in the meeting, she was given a affirmative go ahead when the step mother joined hand with her to raise funds by taking a loan from ‘LAPO’ – a popular microfinance bank.
They went through the rigour of raising funds for the trip together, and after the financial requirement was met, she put a call through to the strange woman to tell her she was ready. “Although, I don’t have a passport, but we have the money for the trip now,” Morire said confidently, while informing the strange woman of her readiness.
“Who said getting a passport was difficult, just send me N50,000 and I will get you your passport so we can move ahead with our plan.”
Apparently, international passport pursuance by these human predators cost almost nothing as many Nigerians are impatient about getting the document through due process from the Nigerian Immigration Service.
Without further ado, the passport was obtained, and with few things, Morire departed Ogun State with the strange woman.
Leaving No Traces, No Suspicion
The travel bus laid by at a Lagos park in Iyana Ipaja, with joy written all over Morire’s face as she alighted, she could tell they were in Lagos already by evidence of building structures and the unsurmountable noise of hustling and bustling of Lagosians.
Morire asked her guardian on the journey why they could not take a plane straight to Egypt from Lagos as she began to wonder why they had to go to Kano before progressing to Egypt. “We can’t get a direct plane to Egypt in Lagos, but we can get it in Kano,” the strange woman didn’t have to do much to convince her as overwhelmed Morire worried less.
Seeing that Morire was familiar with some areas in the Iyana Ipaja and Iyana Ogba, Lagos, the strange woman requested her phone to make a call but never returned it.
“When she saw that I could recognize some places in Lagos, she seized my phone by lying that she wanted to use it to make a call that she was out of airtime, so I gave her without thinking much of it but she didn’t return the phone to me.” Morire explained.
Taking her to a location where other potential migrants lodged, the woman warned Morire not to mingle with them because “she was special”.
The next morning when they set out, Morire revealed how she and others, numbering nine, who were travelling with her got drugged and slept off after drinking and eating on different occasions.
“So she bought water, waited for a while, when one of us asked for water, she gave us all and we all drank and slept off. By the time we woke up, we were already at a border where they checked us all and what we had on us.
“We went back into the bus after the check was over, then I told her that I was hungry and famished that I didn’t know when I slept off. She gave us all food and water to drink again and we slept off immediately after the meal. At that time, I didn’t know it was in the meals, I felt it was because we were on a long journey, we got tired and bored so we slept off.
“When we arrived at a small remote village in Kano, we were told to move to a small local bus which contained just us that were travelling with the woman alone.” She said.
…Two Weeks , Eight Days On Desert;
…At Least A Person Died On Each Of the Eight Days”
The journey had not even started when Morire started narrating how the journey started. She went into details of the desert experience, which she coded ‘Two Weeks and Eight Days on Desert’, another experience she doesn’t leave out of her testimony.
At Agadez, the strange woman had departed the migrants by handing them over to another group of migrants, totaling about 46 in number.
“As we were leaving at this point, we were given five itres of water each and garri to drink incase we got hungry”, she continued.
Narrating how 46 whole humans started a journey in the desert and reduces to Seven at the end of the journey, she explained that over 20 of the migrants were dropped and left to die in the desert, some died as a result of tiredness, thirst and hunger, fever, rape among others.
“There’s a reason I always say two weeks and eight days because for those eight days, one person died per day. The person that took us from Agadez that is passing through the enroute desert knew that something could happen to the tyres and he could have prevented it by, maybe, taking an extra tire, but he did not.
“So when the tyre got deflated, he brought so many of us down. We were 46 in the Hilux bus and they dropped 18 of us. At the end of the two weeks Eight days, we had just seven remaining.
Survival Battle Of The Fiercest
‘Man for himself’ became the case as the number was reduced to five. The predators had eliminated the number of the migrants drastically and the migrants were left to battle among themselves for survival as they were denied the opportunity to continue their journey.
Morire continued her narration, she said, “At the end of the Two Weeks and Eight days, when we saw another Hilux that accepted to take us, the driver said she could only take five out of the seven of us and we had to compete for the first five to get on the Hilux.
“That was when we did battle of the fiercest. We fought and stepped on one another’s toes just because we didn’t want to die there and we wanted to survive. Our urine became our water, because our water got exhausted at a point nobody wanted to die.
“But after we left that place, we cried for the two of us that couldn’t continue the journey with us.”
Officers – Gatekeepers Of Dinar
Officers were placed in strategic locations at different points to gatekeep the irregular migrants. Unarguably, members of the human trafficking syndicates disguised as security operatives extorted money from the irregular migrants taking the irregular routes
According to her, “When we were leaving for the desert, we had been giving N10,000 naira to exchange into their currency (Dinar). I had been warned before leaving that I would be paying on each of the check points on our way and that on no account should I pay for another person or pay more than necessary because such would affect my money which may hinder our progress on the journey.
“At these checkpoints, some of the officers were real but many of them were illegal. Migrants who didn’t have money to pay were beaten, harassed and molested.
“They would run their hands through our body and even in our private parts to search if anyone was hiding money from them, and one must not be caught doing so because the moment anyone is caught, that would be the end of the journey for such a person.
“Many were raped, sold to organ merchants and they did whatever pleased them with anyone.” She unveiled.
Human Commodities In Nigerian Cartels Abroad
Finally out of the desert, one would have thought the storm was over, but the tornado was still raging.
The victim revealed how she and others were sold and addressed as commodities to be sold to Arabs. Unfortunately, she said Nigerians owned the cartels of trafficking over there in Libya.
She said, “migrants were taken to another cartel in Sabba, owned by Nigerians. This was where we were coached on how to dress like Arab women, covering our body with the bubu cloth, our names were changed, my name was changed to Zainab.”
Narrating how they were sold and distributed, she said she was first given out as a wedding gift to somebody while others too were sold and given out as merchandise.
“They have their ways of distributing and selling off the migrants. They simply called a kind of register by the name of our facilitators or by identifying us by the places we said we were going to. `That girl wey dey go Egypt, where she dey’, ‘wey Mariam people? wey Usman people?’, that was how they called us out”, she revealed.
Morire disclosed that the migrants from that point were smuggled into the city behind a Hilux car, and covered up with some materials.
She explained that some of the migrants were scheduled to be sold for the following week and some for the month after.
One of Four Families, IOM, to the Rescue
Getting to her destination, Morire succumbed to fate as she was rechristened Zainab, and acultured to a life she might have described as ‘living in bondage’ back at home.
Morire, now Zainab, served as a domestic help like a slave in Arabian homes for years, without the freedom to choose what to wear, where to go, who to see or what to do.
“By the time I got to the place I was sold to, she too had sold me off to another Arab woman where I would work as a domestic help. I worked there for two years. In fact my name was changed .
“At this house, they found me disgusting and filthy, I was given a plastic cup, a plate and spoon to eat and drink with. I was a slave”. She said in a moment of realization of truth.
It has become an incontrovertible truism that there are good people on earth, home and abroad. Morire established in her narration that there was at least a family which she described with the adjective, “good”, die to their contribution to her safe return home.
“By the time I finished my tenure at the house, I was returned to my initial buyer who sold me to another Arab woman, from there I was taken to another family.
“I was sold four times before I ended up in prison. The last family I worked with was a very good family. They were the ones I called when I was in prison and needed a family to rescue me.
Morire revealed that it was the family that took her to the Nigerian embassy which facilitated her meeting with the International Organisation for Migrants, IOM, which eventually brought her back home.
The international Organization for Migrants
The IOM is the leading intergovernmental organization in the field of migration and it works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental Organisations.
Established in 1951 and now with 174 member states, a further 8 states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries, IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration. It is able to achieve this by providing services and advice to governments and migrants.
“IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.”
The IOM Constitution recognizes the link between migration and economic, social and cultural development, as well as to the right of freedom of movement.
The IOM focuses on four major areas such as: migration and development, facilitating migration, regulating migration, and forced migration. The activities include promoting international migration law, protection of migrants right, health of migration and the gender dimension of migration.
Home Without Home
Five years after falling out of grace with fate, Morire gains back her freedom but everything has changed.
People had great expectations of her return, but the disappointment spelled on her face and stature didn’t quite go down well with people who had known and heard of her departure to a land of greener pastures.
In Morire’s words, “Coming back home was not easy, People were like, did you not travel out of the country? You are supposed to be looking fresh. There was discrimination, the shame and the ordeal I experienced, no one knew what I went through.
“The essence of this narration is to guide us from making such mistakes. There are people who died enroute by trafficking, their organs were sold, raped, killed among others.”
Urging the jaw dropped and somber students of Sacred Hearts Catholic College, that had clad in their red and white uniform, Morire laughed to shame off her regretful story but testimony deserving encounter with the human predators called human traffickers.
She said, “I met a young girl who was supposed to be in senior secondary school one, at that time, she said she was sweet talked and her ignorant mother also fell for it.
“Please confirm these offers and information on social and other means available before you expose yourself to such,” she concluded.
Estimated reading time: 1 minute(s)
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