Officials of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), with help from the police, have raided a hotel in downtown Kubwa, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where underage girls were allegedly used as commercial s*x workers. But the girls arrested are angry and eager to return to business. GRACE OBIKE reports
Some things do not add up. Some information went out to the authorities that a brothel in Kubwa, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was a thriving centre for not just teenage prostitution but also child trafficking. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) briefed its officers. The police were also informed, and together they mounted surveillance on the spot, watching the goings-on for a length of time. When they felt they had enough evidence, they swooped in, arresting some girls and patrons of the facility. They also sealed up the brothel, in accordance with the relevant laws.
Now, you might think that the officers were on a salvage mission to rescue underage girls who were being exploited, but what the NAPTIP and police officers got was not what they expected.
First, it looked as if they were rudely interfering in the girls’ private businesses, and that whatever the girls were up to was fine by them. They were angry at the visitors and were making faces at them. Some of them were even overheard plotting how to beat the authorities by lying about their ages to create the impression that they were old enough to be responsible for their behaviour.
Second, the girls did not betray any fears or shame. Some were saying they were not likely to be away for long, and will soon be back to take off where they left off.
Prostitution, they say, is the oldest trade known to man. The FCT has its fair share of the trade. In Kubwa, a suburb of the FCT, Woman Boku, a hub of the flesh trade, is known by all.
On September 27, NAPTIP said that they received an intelligence report about a place being used for underage and exploitative prostitution. Intense surveillance was mounted by officers of the agency which led to the arrest of four suspects: Onyinyechi Osuoha, 32, Nkechi Chukwuma, 37, Sandra Chi, 32, and 27-year-old Favour James during the raid.
NAPTIP in a joint operation with officers from the police busted the human trafficking gang and rescued 11 girls while four suspected human traffickers were also arrested. The hotel where the girls were harboured, Thales Guest House, is located at Pipeline Area in Kubwa, a suburb of Abuja.
According to the agency, the raid was done in accordance with sections 43 and 52 of the Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015, which authorise NAPTIP to enter, search and seal up properties suspected to be used for human trafficking purposes.
The agency said preliminary findings revealed that the suspects often lure the victims, who are underage girls, from various parts of the country with promises of employment in the Federal Capital Territory. However, upon their arrival at Abuja, they are put to work at the Guest House, serving the clients and thereafter introduced to prostitution, at the end of which the suspects collect the money paid to them.
Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, commended her officers for a smooth operation while lauding the collaborative efforts of the Nigeria Police Force, which she described as a “true proof of strong partnership between the two law enforcement organisations, aimed at ridding the society of ills such as this”.
She also sent a strong warning to operators of brothels who use underage girls as prostitutes to desist from such acts, as the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 criminalises the sexual exploitation of minors, in any form.
She further enjoined members of the public to report such establishments to NAPTIP, as they are not only immoral and an abuse of human rights, but also a criminal act that is punishable by law. Dame Julie Okah-Donli added that “young girls should either be in school or learn skills that will enable them to be empowered as functional members of the society, not holed up in brothels to be sexually exploited by human traffickers”.
But the girls who were rescued did not look excited about the rescue. Looking very angry as they were being taken away, the girls whispered among themselves, warning each other to inflate their ages and pretend to be older. Some confronted their mates who packed more luggage, saying, “Why you do pack plenty clothes, this arrest no pass two, three days, dem must release us and life continues.”
One of the girls who gave her name as Emmanuelle Okoroji explained to The Nation that she came to Abuja on her own.
“I came to Abuja on my own,” she said, “I am from Abia State and used to live in Aba. Before I left Aba in February this year, I was an SS2 student of Chinwe Unique Secondary School in Ohanku Road, Aba. I take care of myself and my family through my hustle, my father is dead, my mother is a cripple and I have four other siblings.”
The second victim Favour James explained that she has finished her NCE and is prostituting to get enough money to return for her HND. She said, “I rounded up my ND at the Delta State Polytechnic Uzoro in 2016, I came to Abuja in 2017 and am here to hustle for myself so that I can make enough money to return for my HND.”
The girls who stared angrily at the officers that raided their place of business were taken away alongside some customers as NAPTIP sealed the establishment.
Source: The Nation