Operation Rescue in Benin, By Reece Adanwenon

After her miraculous escape near Cotonou, Tobore meets Beninese Journalist, Reece who was on hand to help her recover from the shock of close shave with death.

I get out of my car and look among the people at the bus stop for someone resembling Tobore’s photo. But the short, skinny creature in jeans with the head scarf recognises me first. “It's Reece?” The girl looks lost and terrified. I embrace her and help her into my car. As soon as she sits down she bursts into tears. She takes her scarf off and reveals a practically bald head with only a few tufts of hair. “Reece, they cut me, they cut my hair”, she repeats. For the rest of the day, and the days thereafter, she keeps crying, with an empty look in her eyes that drives me mad with worry. What kind of a journalistic assignment has this been?

The doctor, whom we visit to get treatment for her bruises, as well as some pain killers, calmants and sleeping tablets, takes me aside after seeing Tobore. “Please take good care of her. This girl has seen the devil. She is in shock and needs time to recover.” As her colleagues in Nigeria and Evelyn in Amsterdam help plan for Tobore’s return to Nigeria, I note down what I know about human traffic in my town, Cotonou, for the purposes of this story.

Education fees

It is no secret that daily, girls from other countries enter my town to either work here in the red light district of Jonquet, or to be trafficked onward to other places. Most do this voluntarily as prostitution is legal in Benin. A Ghanaian girl, Gift, has told me she relies on sex work to feed and educate her two children back in Ghana.  Her pimp apparently gets her good customers. ‘Tourists, businessmen, the hotels phone us to service them.’  Nigerian Adesio, in her thirties, says she was lucky to become the girlfriend of a trafficker who set her up in a nice apartment and helped her find VIP clients. “But he started to beat me up after a year and then I decided to run, change my identity and begin again as an independent. Another lover helped me to do that.”

At Benin’s University premises, ‘Club U’ helps local girls to put themselves through school. “If you look good, male students involved in the business will approach you on campus and offer you a job”, law student Ingrid (19) tells us. “I am an orphan. I work here three years now and it pays for my food and shelter as well as my studies.  We have good clients: celebrities, parliamentarians and executives.”

Though many girls complain of lack of access to health care, abuse by lovers and pimps and harassment by police –who often take them in under a pretext and force them to have sex with them for free; the worst ones even take the earnings they have on them-, I have not yet encountered any woman held as a slave, unable to escape.

After listening to Tobore, however, I can’t help wondering what way out there is in Cotonou for a girl who, even if she set out to travel willingly, has come to realise that she has made a mistake. Are there criminals in my town who hold women against their will? If so, what are the authorities here doing to help them?  Where can a girl run to?

The fight stops at the border

I interview the police commissioner, but he tells me there is no such thing as forced human traffic. “These girls are all here voluntarily. We don’t need a rescue programme.” A contact at the Nigerian embassy is of the same view: ‘they’ are here out of their own volition and the embassy has never been presented with a request for help. I wait for an hour at the Ghanaian embassy without finding anyone willing to comment.

So, whilst millions of US$ are budgeted by the authorities in our next door country, Nigeria, to stop human traffic, much of which goes to Benin, there is no such effort in Benin at all.  This raises the question how serious the Nigerian authorities are. Being the bigger and richer neighbour they could easily demand action from the Benin government.  But apparently, unlike the human traffic itself, the Nigerian fight against human traffic stops at the Nigerian border.

After a few days of rest, medical care, good food and shopping for new outfits, a phone and a wig, Tobore has recovered sufficiently to make the trip back to her home country. Dressed as a market woman, with flowering blue boubou, matching blue scarf and comfortable market slippers, my friends and I wave her back through the Seme border.

I can only hope the story was worth it.

NEXT CHAPTER

3. Interview With Tobore Ovuorie

 

  • edidiong

    This account is unbelieve but quite true. Its sad to know that even the military is part of this human trafficking syndicate. That people are murdered for their organs is horrific and to think that the camp that host these girls and boys is somewhere in Ikorodu is quite disturbing. However these people can and should be exposed big time. I'm glad the undercover reporter took photos and recorded voices,that's so cool.

  • Farouk Musa Isa

    Hey, wait a minute! Is this a fact or fiction?

  • Ade

    This is horrible! Nigerian govt must do something about this!!!!

  • Ifedayo

    This is serious, but a great risk. Assuming Premiumtimes lost this girl to these beast? That will never be my wish...and really, that God it never happened. But just like my IR Professor will always tell me, no story is worth your life. Thank God you made it back and one day may fall in love with you...then I will want you to do the head to the scalp again and have a picture of it to show the children of hopelessness that embark on such journey.
    Also, how I wish the 'yeyedeysmell' authority will do something about this. No! Never! It all ends there.... So, please let's find a way to tell this story in bigger medium, possibly some 'to-be-victims' will hear this and have a change of mind. Love you Tobore. Great work...

  • http://www.dailytrust.com Fidelis Mac-Leva

    Reading through Tobore Ovuorie's undercover investigative piece reminds me of the aphorism: Journalism is the art of attempting the impossible. Through her uncommon journalistic bravado, Adanwewon attempted the impossible-even at the risk of her life- just to make it possible for readers to have a first hand accout of the gory associated with the 'booming' Human Trafficking business that has become institutionalized in Nigeria. Paradoxically,like the Boko Haram debacle, the Trafficking Cartel has infiltrated the ranks of the military, Customs et-al! This award winning masterpiece serves as a challenge to Journalists in several other investigative endeavours...!

  • goodcitizen

    Difficult to believe. If this is true the question is this, Are the madams and top military brass touchable? I commend the reporter and congratulate her for her escape. One of the reasons it is difficult for God to answer prayer concerning Nigeria is this. Some how God must visit the Madams and their connections in the military, police, customs, immigration and politicians with tragedies and strange sickness so that they can have a change of heart. It is not difficult for right agencies to take it up from here if there is will. The addresses are not difficult to locate if we are serious. It will cost some money and a good crack team but it is worth it. The reporter should get a good treatment because i believe the information here were not free. She must have gone through unprotected sex with VIP clients as 'special force'. Thanks.

  • oge

    OMG, I am crying.

  • tosin omoniyi

    interesting and great journalistic work. worthy of commendation and award...

  • Sophie

    It was so worth it.

  • johndodod

    let it not end here; if it involves protest marches; we MUST DEMAND ACTION; too many things are swept under the carpet in nigeria leading us to where we are now

  • igbiki

    IT IS WOTH IT.

    But the Trafickers must have to be stopped and punished.

  • akyn

    what a story. i hope tobore can remember some of the landmark of the places she was taken. the answer begins at these locations.

    • johndodod

      let the investigators start with questioning the police man mentioned; he would help tie up some lose ends and also the ex colonel;SHAME ON HIM; he should also be invited for questioning; No sacred cows

  • jag_nicca

    ALLAHU AKBAR .....I dont even know what to write .... OMG !!!!

    • Lloyd

      can't you see the hyprocisy in your belief of a God? What kind of God would allow this evil to go on?

      • jag_nicca

        OK .. Noted ...

      • notGodbutman

        it has nothing to do with God, he gave us all free will and these folks have chosen to use it for evil or would you rather not not have free will and be a robot?

      • Lloyd

        All I see around the world wherever I look are problems caused by god and religion: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa it's all over belief systems. I HATE religion for what it has done to our world!!

  • Olu

    Thumbs up for Tobore and Thank God for her life!! What a shame? We have succeeded in messing up our own society and we keep at it by messing up other societies. Who are these uncouth women becoming champions with the immigration service of another country? (Caro & Eno) The whole ECOWAS region is cursed!

  • Adebanke Alabi

    I cannot believe what I just read. I am in shock. Beheaded with machetes for organs? My God. The horror in these people's hearts. How do you get so far over the edge and do that to another person?

    • Ahjot Naija

      Hope you have recovered from the shock. This story is a lie. pure and simple.

      • Adebanke Alabi

        And you know this because?

  • Emmanuel

    I pray that God will visit all their godfathers will with untimmely and mistirious death.

  • Naadette

    are these people (mama Care and her gang) truly human beings? Beheading fellow humans for human parts? Flogging fellow humans all night? We all need to caution as many girls as we can!! This quest for wealth should stop!!!!

  • Naadette

    are these people (mama Caro and her gang) truly human beings? Beheading fellow humans for human parts, flogging fellow humans all night? We all need to caution as many girls as we can!! This quest for wealth should stop!!!!

  • Francis Adah

    This is what happens all the time but our girls will not learn any lesson. The quest for money is too much.

    • johndodod

      did you read the part about army men who are supposed to be in borno fighting boko haram, or salaried immigration officials who collect bribes or the 'BIG MEN' in Abuja, Lagos who fuel this trafficking cos of their idiotic lifestyle. pls a little more sympathy for the girls who in desperation are been used

  • TitiLola

    I just hope this is only a fiction! I live in Odongunyan for God's sake!!!!

  • Sola

    I can't stop laughing at this jumble of lies and fictionalisation in the name of journalism. I am not saying these kinds of events do not take place in the world of trafficking but, come on! There is no single thing in this story that shows that I cannot sit in my room with a laptop and concoct the same story! I can cite at least one hundred holes in this story!! Jeez!

    • Anonymous

      Pls cite ur example. I want to know.

    • igabi

      So if you know these 'kinds of events' do happen, why the denials. Pls cite 30 holes in the story, that is just under one third of the number you said you could cite. Pls do that quickly.

      • Ahjot Naija

        He Igabi, can't you see this is Nollywood at its best. Tobore is one crook of a journalist. But why would she do this for crying out loud? Guess she knew many of her readers willl believe her trash without looking back!

  • Hamamatu Ibrahim Manu

    Pple can do and undo in this our faithless world full of desperadors. Only God can protect us.

    • Abubakar Sadiq Jabbo

      True talk, Sister.

  • Michael Chima Ekenyerengozi

    The investigative reporter should also be investigated.
    This may be a fiction being circulated as exclusive.

  • olatj

    Wow! D horror human beings put each other through all be cos of money! Money dat can not be spent after u r declared dead. Smh! With all these madness going on in the country how do we expect it to thrive n be great. God can not be mocked. U reap wat u sow.

  • Anonymous

    Indeed, you were very lucky to be alive. I thank God for you

  • KMargaret

    Are u trying to tell me the journalist did not partake into rapes and sex while being screened! Bullshit and if she did why would you do all that just to sell a story! She too could have been beheaded! I'm not sure the story has been told in full

  • Ibanga Isine

    Am so surprised that Sola, a
    journalist from a serious newspaper like The Punch could cast aspersion on a
    great job done by a colleague. I just can't understand why she would go to the
    limits to discredit a report published by another media organization that has
    not been found to have a penchant for exaggeration and lies. Seems she has
    something against Tobore that others don't know and she should go ahead to
    state her case and stop insulting the sensibility of those who believe in the
    cause of true journalism. I think she should also contact the foreign media
    organizations that partnered with Premium Times to sponsor the investigation
    and get firsthand information about their involvement in the story. Enough!

    • Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu

      I lived in Nairobi, Kenya, between 1992 and 1994 as a student. One day, the attention of Nigerian students was called, by a Kenyan student, Thomas Ochieng, to something he saw at a hospital in Nairobi -three Nigerian girls, sick and admitted at the hospital, were all chained to their beds. On inquiry, he was told they were prisoners. He spoke to them and they told him that no Nigerian official is aware of their imprisonment. He returned to campus to infirm us. Five of us, Mike, Ephraim, Andrew, Ralph and me moved in. We met them at the hospital and they explained to us their travails. all lies we later found out. they simply told us they were on a business trip to Kenya when they were arrested and framed up. We moved on. Contacted other Nigerian community in Kenya. Bro (Prof) Anselm Uba then of Catholic University of East Africa, came into it. He provided his car. We moved over to the Nigerian High Commission In Kenya. Met with our High Commissioner, Clarkson Umelo. He told us that he is aware of the matter. He also informed us that he was contacted as soon as the girls were arrested. Fact is, they were arrested at the Kenyatta International Airport as outbound passengers on connecting flight to Italy with fake travel documents. their leader, a male, collected all BTA on them in guise to bribe their way through, but bolted after securing his head. Nigerian High Commission agreed to intervene and secure their release on ground that their families in Nigeria are contacted and brought to the airport in Lagos to receive them. They refused such help. They rather told the High Commissioner that the only help they will accept was one that could secure their release, get them travel documents and ensure they continue their trip to Italy. They had imagined how those who knew they were on mission to Italy would feel when they are deported halfway. Despite persuasion, the refused. asked what their mission to Italy was, they told the High Commissioner, that they were being sent by their 'madam' to meet a 'white man'. That was how the refused help and ended in a Kenyan Prison. I believe Tobore's story. Even if anyone thinks it it fiction, it is fiction well told out of real life situations. No faults.

      • Remmy Nweke

        My take is that Tobore story is a daily occurencce but my concern is that law enforcement aids this trade. So, where does one now go to? So, so terrible? Another concern however, is that most of our journalists do not have insurance cover. If you are into social work, you don't have option than to believe the story, but how much risk can a journalist take just to excite yourself and probably entertain our world of public. May God keep you and if that pix used was yours, just be careful. On the lost of your blackberry, I think on recovery of the same SIM and having registered it before then, data on it could be recovered as long as you still remember your login details; buy same kind of blackberry+data recovery and you will be home. Also, check with your service provider and if its on the cloud, better for you. You can still get your pix and data back.

  • sammy

    Please I have a case of child trafficking to report, where do I go for necessary help?...contact me on +2348051301002