By Emmanuel Unah
Four schoolgirls have narrated how they were recruited into prostitution by a suspected human trafficker, Abigail Nweke Alo, in an alleged brothel located in Calabar business area. Felicia Nzuworgar, 17, Patience Williams, 18, Angela Benjamin, 17 and Charity Nkwogor, all from Okun and Vandeikya Local Government Areas of Benue State, said Abigail, who they called ‘Chairlady’, took them from their homes, in January, under the pretense that she was taking them to Lagos where she had a drinking spot to work as sales girls but ended up as sex workers in Calabar.
I was selling oranges in our market in Okun when she tapped me on the shoulder and I turned thinking she wanted to buy oranges but she told me she had a business in Lagos and wanted me to follow her. I did not know what came over me. I just followed her without even telling my parents and friends where I was going”, Felicia told Sunday Vanguard.
Patience, a senior secondary school 2 Student in Vandiekya, on her part, narrated that she was plating a friend’s hair in front of her grandmother’s house where she lived when Mike, a commercial motorcycle rider, who lived in her neighbourhood, came to inform her that a lady was looking for someone to work in a beer parlour in Lagos, and wanted to know if she would like to go with her.
I told Mike that I was still in school and could not go with the lady and that she should look for someone else. But instead of looking for somebody else, Mike went and brought the lady and when she looked into my eyes, I simply went inside and packed my clothes and followed her without waiting for my grandmother who went out to come back”, she stated.
Recounting her own experience, Angela said she was on her way from school when the lady met her and told her she wanted to take her to school in Lagos and also assist her (Abigail) in her beer parlour business and she went with her into the bus where other girls were waiting.
They girls, on their way from Benue to Lagos, stopped in Enugu where they spent the night in the house of a man who, according to her, had seven wives. The man was said to have given them concoction to drink after which they were warned that if they tried to run away, their private parts would rot and they would die.
“The man took us into his medicine hut and gave us the concoction to drink and, when we refused to drink, he beat us. He told us that if we went out without drinking, we will die. After we drank, he said that if we ran away from ‘Chairlady’, our private parts would rot and we will die”, Felicia said. According to her, after the encounter with the man, the next day, they continued their journey. “We got to Calabar in the night and when I asked ‘Chairlady’ if this was Lagos, she said yes”.
The next day, at the alleged brothel where they were lodged, the girls said Abigail gave them boxer shorts to wear and begin to ‘hustle’ for men like other girls in the place were doing. When they refused, ‘Chairlady’ descended on them and beat them mercilessly. “We arrived Calabar in the night and, the next morning, she collected our phones and brought boxer shorts to us that we should wear and, when we asked her where the drinking parlour was so that we could start work, she said we should hustle like other girls were doing by sleeping with men and, when we refused, she beat us up mercilessly”, Patience narrated. According to her, nobody came to their rescue as all the prostitutes in the brothel were afraid of Abigail because she was their head.
Everybody in the hotel was afraid of her because she was their boss and, if anyone dared to challenge her, she will send the person out of the place”, she said. They had to agree to begin sleeping with men after some days as ‘Chairlady’ allegedly went on beating them ceaselessly and denying them of food. “You can see marks on our bodies because of the beating we got”, Angela said. They recounted how each of them slept with an average of twenty men every day while Abigail collected the money they made, leaving them with N500.00 as feeding money. The girls explained that when they started the commercial sex work, it was very painful as they were not used to sleeping with such a large number of men daily.
It was very painful when we started. Everyday we slept with an average of twenty men for N500.00 each and, because we were young and new, men would line up and wait for us till about 12 midnight when the hotel closes and then ‘Chairlady’ will come in and collect the money and, since she used to count the condoms she was giving us, if you did not give her all the money, she will beat you mercilessly”, Patience said. The girls said Abigail had male aides who searched their rooms and their bodies at the close of work each day to ensure they had not hidden any money and, if any money was found with them, they would be beaten up.
They said Abigail, on arrival in Calabar, having collected their phones, did not allow any of them to step outside the alleged brothel for fear that they might run away and that, two of them, Angela and Charity, who attempted to escape, were severely beaten by the woman and her male friends. “ When I tried to run away, she brought a soldier and a policeman who were her friends who beat me up and poured tear gas in my eyes and, because of that, I became very sick and could not stand up for many days”, Angela recounted.
On why they followed the woman without letting their parents know even as they were still in secondary school , the girls said once the woman touched them on the shoulder, they became hypnotised and went with her. Abigail, who claimed to be from Ebonyi State, said her arrest by operatives from Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of Cross River State Police Command was due to jealously.
She said she was not the one who brought the girls to Calabar. Mr John Eluu, Cross River State Police Command Public Relations Officer, said the suspected human trafficker will face the law and warned young girls to be cautious of promises of jobs in Lagos or any other town by human traffickers without proof.
Chairlady’ has since been charged to court for alleged kidnapping and engaging in prostitution.