Two young girls who were approached by a suspected unidentified female trafficker at Ekpoma in Edo state in Nigeria to seek greener pastures as workers in a restaurant in Ivory Coast ended up in Togo to work as prostitutes. The girls were to pay the woman who never told them her real names but was called “Madam Excellent” the sum of 800,000 cefas while they prostitute. Although, these girls, Franca Akhimen, 25 and Ehinon Onofua, 23 were lucky enough to summon courage and escaped from what would have been the beginning of life on the wild and dangerous side which they might never have been able to come out of, if luck had not been on their side. In an interview with Encomium Weekly, Franca and Ehinon, who disclosed they have learnt their lessons in a hard way, gave a graphic account of how they were deceived and almost ended up as prostitutes…
Can you tell us what happened and how you ended up in Togo to prostitute?
Franca: It was in Epkoma in Edo state where I met one lady… I was actually going to church when I met her and she approached me and said she was looking for girls that can work in her restaurant in Ivory Coast. So, when I got home I told Ehinon and we arranged to meet her and she told us what the plan was and when we will be leaving Nigeria for Ivory Coast. So, on February 2, we left Edo for Lagos, had a stop at Mile 2, and she told us that was where the car that will take us to Ivory Coast will pick us. So, at exactly 9.30pm, the car came for us and we all boarded that evening. When we got to Togo, I noticed that we were not going to proceed with our journey, so I asked the woman why are we here, you said we were going to Ivory Coast not Togo, and she told me to keep quiet, that whatever she asked me to do I should just do it without complaining. Later, she went out to buy clothes and came back with some skimpy and short dresses and gave them to us to wear. I asked why such dresses, because they don’t look like clothes that are worn by a waitress or a person selling food. Again she told me to keep quiet and just do whatever she asked me to do, adding that we were brought to Togo for prostitution and in return we get to pay her 800,000 cefas each. So, I told my sister, we can’t do this kind of job, we have to find a way to escape from her than to stay here. So, we left without even carrying our bags in order not to arouse any suspicion of us running away. And as we were trying to escape, we met a guy, after listening to our story, he told us he doesn’t know anybody in Togo, because he is from Ghana and can help us get there so that we can get the help we needed. When we got to Ghana, he took us to Christ Embassy Church where we met with two guys and one of them gave us some money which is worth like N700,000 each and we left with the guy that brought us from Togo to lodge in a hotel, because it was getting late and there was nowhere to sleep. He, however, promised us that in the morning he will take us to some pastors so they can help us with transport fare back to Nigeria. But to our surprise in the morning while I was taking my bath, the guy took off with the money we were given at the Christ Embassy Church. So, we approached the manager of the hotel and told him our predicament, and he called a taxi, paid the driver and asked him to take us to the Nigerian Embassy and also gave us some money. But unfortunately, when we got to the embassy we were told that there was no money to give to us to return to Nigeria, but God so good one of the workers there, asked us to come with him to his house since it was on a Friday and we had no where to stay, but told us that if the embassy does not help us by Monday, he won’t take us back to his house and we have to find help somewhere else…
And did he take advantage of you girls while you were in his house?
Franca: Not at all, he really took care of us and only God can repay him for his kindness. And when we got to the embassy on Monday, there was still no hope for us until we met Mr. Moses Owaro, President of the All Nigerian Community Ghana, who took us back to the embassy with a letter explaining our situation to them, and still no help was forth coming due to financial constrain, and eventually had to fund our trip back to Nigeria with the help of Chief Christopher Obareki, a member of the board of trustees of ANC-GH with the sum of 800ghc to buy our tickets back to Lagos and also gave us N6,000 for our trip from Lagos to Edo state.
Did your families know you were embarking on such mission?
Ehinon: Hmmmm, we didn’t tell our parents because we wanted to surprise them by going to Ivory Coast to work and come back home with lots of money to help us start our businesses, because we just finished learning fashion and design, so we were hoping when we make money, we can come back to Nigeria and buy sewing machines and open our own place and that was a big mistake on our part. But Mr Moses Owaro spoke with my brother in Nigeria to explain the situation of things. So, currently our families are aware that we are in Ghana and will be returning home soon.
How were you able to cross the boarder without the authorities suspecting any foul play?
Ehinon: Anytime we got to the boarder, we were told to come down from the car and cross over to the other side on foot. And what the woman kept telling the immigration officers and other security personnel was that we were going to the next country to buy goods to sell. They told us not to show any sign of fear or fidget in front of the officers.
So, how did you feel when you realized that you are being tricked into prostitution instead of working in a restaurant?
Franca: We felt bad, and we just wanted to leave that place even when we had no place to go, rather than sleeping with different men while she takes all the money.
So, what is your advice for young girls like you who are looking for fast means to get rich?
Ehinon: My advice is that, if anybody approaches them and promises to take them somewhere for greener pastures, they should not go, find out if indeed its legitimate. Please confirm before you travel with any stranger that offers you job in foreign land, please don’t go, especially the girls. I’m appealing to you, because you will end up in prostitution and that was the mistake we made. We need to be patient, though there can be delay in reaching our goals but with God it will surely happen.
Franca: You know it is not everybody that tells their parents their plans, especially when it is this kind of travel. They should please not hide anything from their parents.
Also speaking on the issue, the President of the All Nigerian Community-Ghana, Moses Owaro called on parents and guardians to be more vigilant about strangers who offers, to take their children abroad for better opportunity, while security personnel should be extra vigilant at points of entry, be it at the boarder or at the airports as young girls like these are smuggled out every now and then. Which is one of the reasons why the All Nigerian Community-Ghana in partnership with Ghana Immigration and other security agencies will be mounting a post at points of entry into Ghana most especially to enable us have the necessary information about Nigerians that are coming into Ghana and what they are coming to do.
– ADEBUKOLA ADENEYE-EDAH