Some of the teenagers who were rescued by the police and the Anambra State Ministry of Women and Social Welfare from a brothel in Awka, the state capital, share their experiences with IKENNA OBIANERI
I was severely beaten while trying to escape – Precious
How old are you?
My name is Precious Friday. I am 16 years old and I am an SS3 student. I am from Ebonyi State.
How did you end up in a brothel in Anambra State?
It happened last Monday while I was in our compound washing clothes. Two ladies came in and introduced themselves simply as Ifeoma and Chika. They told me that someone directed them to me and that I was interested in working as a sales girl.
Have you met them before and what was your reaction?
I never met them before. When they asked me if I was interested in the job of a sales girl, I told them no, because I was not through with my studies. Then they asked me to recommend any of my friends that had completed her secondary education. I told them I didn’t know any friend that would be interested in a sales girl’s job. Thereafter, they left our compound and after a few hours, they came back again.
What was their mission this time?
They requested my mobile phone number which I gave to them. They left and after some time, they called my line and asked me to come and meet them at Abakaliki Stadium and that they would come and pick me up. It seemed like before the two ladies came back to me, they had already contacted two other girls whom they had convinced because when I got to the stadium that day, I met two other girls who were also waiting for the ladies.
Can you remember the exact time the ladies came to your compound and when they called your line to come to the stadium?
I did not look at the time they came but it was in the afternoon and it was in the evening time that their call came. That was when they told me that I should meet them at the stadium.
Why did you honour their call when you had already told them you were not interested in the job offer the first time they came?
I just wanted them to leave me alone by giving them my contact number. But I did not know what got over me after I received their call. I left all I was doing and went to where they asked me to meet them. Up till now, I still cannot explain what really happened at that point.
What eventually happened when the ladies came to pick you up at the stadium?
When they came, they told the three of us that it was already late and that we should go to their house to pass the night. They told us that we would be moved to Anambra State the following morning where we would do the sales girl’s work.
How did you react to this offer?
As I said earlier, I was not really conscious of myself; I just agreed to whatever they told us without any resistance. The ladies instructed us to switch off our phones as our parents kept calling us that evening. They said that we should not tell our parents where we were. So, I switched off my phone. Then the following morning, they moved us to a place in Anambra State. It looked like where prostitutes stay. They first took us to a small room that was very dark.
What happened thereafter?
I asked the ladies what we were doing there, they shouted at us to keep quiet and not ask them any question. They directed us to go and take our bath after which we were moved to the sitting room. I asked the ladies about the ‘sales girl’ job they promised us. We started screaming that we did not like where they brought us to. At that point, they brought out canes and threatened to flog us. They took off our clothes and gave us half pants to wear, but we refused to wear them, and they threatened to flog us again, but we later wore the pants under duress. They started introducing us to men. There was one woman, who is the madam; she is called Ezenwanyi. She told some men that they just brought us fresh.
How were you treated?
We told the woman that we did not want to do prostitution and that she should take us back to our parents, but she insisted that we must be able to pay back the money that was used in transporting us to the place before we would regain our freedom. The woman said we must make N10,000 each for her that day, if not, there would be heavy sanctions. She would go and bring men and they would hang our legs on the wall. When we cried to her that we were still virgins and don’t know what she was introducing us to, she would tell us to shut up. They did not allow us to go out and if any of us tried to escape, they would beat her mercilessly.
Did you try to escape?
It was on Thursday as I was standing by the wall, a man, one of the customers, who had also come to engage us, saw me and told me that I was too small for the work I was doing. I told the man how we were tricked to the place. The man then offered to help me if I was willing to leave the place. I took him to the room given to me and gave him my mother’s phone number and I told him to call and explain to my mother where I was and what happened. I did not want him to call my mother immediately there because I did not want those people that brought us to notice anything because they were always monitoring our movement.
So, I told the man to tell her that if she was coming, she should come with security officers because the people that captured us were deadly and could go to extra length to hurt or even kill her if she came alone. The man went out and after some time, came back to my room and said he called my mother and she started crying on the phone. The man suggested that I should try to escape and that he would help me to monitor the environment. So, he went outside and started signalling to me to make a move. Unfortunately, they caught him while he was doing so and gave him a hot chase. Luckily for him, he escaped being lynched by the group, while they came back and gave me a serious beating.
How much were you making per day for the “madam”?
Each man that slept with us paid N1,000 and we were mandated to make N10,000 per day but on Sunday, we were mandated to be making N40,000. They insisted that each of us must make N40,000 for them every Sunday, warning that they would kill us if we failed to do so. They said that after all, nobody knew our whereabouts. So, that Sunday, we were in our various rooms crying because we knew it would be a very difficult task to make that amount as they have requested. So, very early on Sunday, they first gave me a lot of clothes to wash and as I was washing the clothes, they started bringing men for me again.
How were you being fed?
We were not being fed as we ought to be, most of the time, they would not give us food but they will bring men to us.
How many of you of the same age were camped in the brothel and do you know how much you made in a day?
We were over 50 girls there and the ones that are within my age were about 18. We managed to make N10,000 and every day they beat us for not making up to the target. They told us that what we made was very small and that we should be using our bodies to make more money. They told us that during their time when they joined the profession as young girls, they used to make N20,000 daily and N40,000 every Sunday.
How long did you stay there and how were you rescued?
They brought us to the brothel on Tuesday and we were rescued on Sunday.
Non-existing jobs used as bait to get us – Esther
How old are you?
My name is Nwohun Esther. I am 16 years old, I just wrote the Junior Secondary Certificate Examination and I am about to get into SS1. I am from Ebonyi State.
How did you get to the brothel in Anambra?
How I ended up at the brothel is really a puzzle to me. But I can still remember how two ladies entered our compound one Monday afternoon and approached me and promised to offer me a job as a sales girl, which I initially declined.
Can you recall what your experience was like at the brothel?
When they brought us there, I told them that this was not the sales girl job they promised us we were coming to do and that they should free us to go back to our various places. But the ladies introduced us to another “madam” they called Ezenwanyi.
What role did this madam play?
She was the one in charge of the affairs there. Those ladies that brought us there (Ifeoma and Chika) were in charge of recruiting girls for her.
What did she tell you when you told her to release you?
She told us that if we want to go, we should pay her N150,000 or else we would stay at the brothel for one year before we would be allowed to go.
Are you leaving with your parents and did you inform them about the two ladies’ move to lure you out of Ebonyi State?
I am leaving with my parents. But my parents were not around when those ladies came the first day to tell me about the job. It was only me and my younger sister that were around throughout that day.
While you were at the brothel, did they bring medical doctors to treat you?
No, nothing like that happened.
What is your ambition or do you like sales girl job?
My ambition is to be a medical doctor.
How were you rescued?
It was on Sunday, we just saw that the policemen raided the brothel and brought us out. I was in the room when they came in and asked me to come out and as I came out, I saw other girls lined up outside until the police came and asked us to enter their vehicle and they took us away. The following day, we reported to the Ministry of Women and Social Welfare and were kept at a place where we are currently being rehabilitated.
Was Ezenwanyi around when the police came?
She was not around that moment, but I think one of the ladies was caught. The men who also work with them at the hotel had fled when they sighted the police and I am not sure if any man was arrested.
Have you contacted your parents?
I called my mother and told her about the whole thing. She expressed joy that I am still alive. She said she had searched me everywhere and was worried.
We were fed only once daily – Nnedimma
WHere are you from?
I am from Ebonyi State. My name is Nnedimma Ogbanga, I am 16 years old and I am about to enter SS1.
How do you feel now that you have been rescued from the brothel?
I am very happy because I did not like the prostitution job they introduced us to. They deceived us that we were coming to work as sales girls and that they would take care of us. They ended up putting us in a brothel. It was a horrible experience, I cried every minute of the day. When I saw the police people entering the compound on that Sunday, I was the first person that ran to meet them and begged them to take us away from that place.
What kind of treatment did you receive there?
I started receiving a lot of advice from the old ones there as I continued to cry. They would tell me to endure and that I was going to get used to it, but I insisted that I did not like the profession and that they should release me. They treated us poorly and it has created an unforgettable scar.
How were you being fed?
It was only the day we made money to their satisfaction that they gave us food. If not, they would not give us food. If any of us should make N10,000, they would give her food and it was a meal in a day. Sometimes, they would take us out for all-night work and after returning, if we did not make enough money, they would still not give us food.
What did the ladies who brought you to the brothel do to you?
The women who brought us to the brothel seized our phones and other belongings before handing us over to another woman called Ezenwannyi who notified us that before we would be released, we must bring the sum of N150,000 or serve her for a period of one year.
How do you feel after you have been rescued and were you expecting to be rescued soon?
I feel very happy. I was hoping and praying I would be rescued soon. Each time I cried, I called upon God to rescue me and I thank Him for sending help. I also thank the Commissioner for Women and Social Welfare in Anambra State for her interventions.
How do you think you were rescued?
One of us was able to use a whistleblower’s telephone to get across to her family member and the whistleblower in turn notified the Women Affairs Ministry who with the help of the police raided the brothel.