Traffickers are on the prowl and always tricking many into slavery in a well-coordinated ring.
Usman Suleiman was among the 30 persons that were lured with a job offer in Sokoto only to find himself in Gaoua town, about 150 kilometres from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.
“It was as if we were under a spell. No one could talk nor complained. We were just following orders and directives, right from here in Katsina to Lagos and Benin Republic before Gaoua town in Burkina Faso. We were initially told that the work we were going to do was in Sokoto but then we saw ourselves heading elsewhere, somehow, we couldn’t raise our voices against what was happening. We slept in the open, begged for food and some of us who fell sick had no medication,” Suleiman explained.
Suleiman, who is married with three wives and nine children, said they spent about three months in Burkina Faso under severe living conditions and were abandoned as the work promised wasn’t forthcoming and they weren’t given the option of coming back home.
For Audu Sa’ad, he said when they got to the town they were showed a piece of land and were given tools to dig for the laying of telecommunication cable. “That was it. The project was just a decoy because we didn’t do anything but loiter around town,” Sa’ad explained.
According to him, they started to complain when they realized that no job was forthcoming and got agitated to return home. However, Sa’ad said it was then that they began to inform them that they are even been owed money as they have already settled our “bosses.” He said their “owners” evicted them from the work yard and they began to sleep in mosques and open spaces, begging for alms and food. That was not all. He said they once had a problem with security personnel in the town when some were arrested in the course of begging.
Another slave returnee victim, Sani Adamu said, “I began to sense something was wrong when after four weeks of our arrival, we were not allowed to return home for Sallah celebration as earlier promised. The language barrier worsened our stay there. There was no one we could explain our plight to . We were just left on our own. We had no money, no food, no means to reach our families. The few that had money, left.”
Abdullahi Amin of Kwakware village said most of them are jobless and idle in their respective villages and when the offer for a job came, they didn’t think twice but jumped at it. “We don’t know this Usman that took us to Benin Republic but his agents that came to our village. It was while in Cotonou that a woman took us to Burkina Faso. Even during the trip, we stayed for two days without food while being conveyed in the car until we reached the town. After two days of our arrival, it was then that Usman appeared and pleaded with us to be patient that he encountered some problems and his absence wasn’t deliberate. We began work on empty stomachs, digging dry land and worked for three weeks without any payment. Since then I have not set my eyes on him again.
“Some of us saw him collecting money from the woman in Benin. He told us he would send money to us and to our families back home to allow them to celebrate Sallah. He paid each of us N5, 000 and that’s all we got,” Amin said.
These were the ordeals of some of the 23 returnees that were brought back to Katsina following an intervention of the Nigerian Ambassador to Burkina Faso, Hajiya Rahmatu Ahmed, who contacted and informed the Katsina State Government about the plight of the trafficked victims, currently under the care of the Chief of the Hausa community in Ouagadougou.
According to reports, thirty victims were alleged to be lured with attracting offers by one Alhaji Usman Wagini, a human trafficker, who had already “sold” them unknowingly to a Beninoise lady based in Benin Republic. Ten of the victims are from Gusau, Zamfara State.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the Benin lady thereafter took her “slaves” to Gaoua, where she kept them in servitude without food or money.
According to sources privy to the development, the lady whose name is yet to be provided has since been apprehended by the local authorities in Gaoua.
The Permanent Secretary, Government House, Katsina, Muktari Lawal who oversaw the repatriation said it was a pathetic ordeal for the victims as informed by the embassy in Burkina Faso. He said the embassy couldn’t transport all of them back but could sponsor only seven with five vowing to even walk on foot back home.
According to him, the governor, Aminu Masari mobilized resources to bring them all back home and liaised with immigration officials to follow due processes passing through French countries. He said because there are only two flights to Abuja a week, a decision to for a road trip was reached.
On their part, the spokesman of the Katsina State Police Command, SP Gambo Isah said, a manhunt has already been launched for the suspect and when found will be arrested and brought to book.