They trudged to our correspondent as if they were burdened with heavy loads. From their weary look, one could obviously tell that the teenage schoolgirls had gone through some troubling moments they never envisaged about two weeks ago when they left their hometown in Alaja, an uptown community in Warri, Delta State, for Lagos.
Born in homes where they said their needs could not be met, the girls, aged between 14 and 16, are left to fend for themselves by all possible means.
According to two of the victims, Oke and Efe, who are in Senior Secondary School 3, they needed money to register for the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination while their third friend, Gift, wanted to raise funds for tuition ahead of next session when she will resume for SSS 1 if she passes her Junior Secondary School Certificate Examination.
Like a hungry barking dog eagerly waiting for any food at sight, they did not give it a second thought when Anita Sunday, a native of the community, came from Lagos in July and offered them salesgirls’ jobs in the commercial nerve of the country.
Pronto, they left the village with the mother of three on July 31 brimming with excitement in anticipation of how the supposed new jobs would help drive home their demands while they also relish the peculiar aura of Lagos life.
But they would soon realise that their expectations were a wild goose chase a day after arriving at Ajegunle, a suburb of Lagos.
“When we got to Lagos, Aunty Anita said we would be ‘seeing’ men. She said we would be doing prostitution. We protested that she did not tell us that before we left the village. She said if she told us, we would not follow her. We told her we could not do it. She said if we refused, there was no way we could get transport fare to return home,” 16-year-old Oke said to the Lagos State Police Command in Ikeja earlier in the week.
At that point, Oke said she and her friends became confused and were left with no choice but to muster the courage to raise their school fees by whatever means. She continued, “I just finished SSS 2 class and I am preparing for WASSCE. My parents have separated. My mother lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Aunty Anita told us that we would be helping her to sell drinks in Lagos. But surprisingly, she used us for prostitution. She sold Efe to a woman who has a lodge in Ijora for N30,000 and took Gift to a hotel in Ajah. She sent me to an inn in Ajegunle.
“Normally, I collect N500 per ‘service,’ but some men pay me between N1,000 and N2,500, depending on how satisfied they feel. I made between N5,000 and N9,000 every day, but Aunty Anita collected all the money from me. At times, I would sleep with six men in a day.”
The teenagers were freed from the shackles of trafficking on Friday, August 10, after a Good Samaritan met Oke and Efe in Boundary, a connecting community between Ajegunle and Ijora. The man took them to the Layeni Police Station and operatives subsequently arrested Anita.
“Efe and I met at Boundary that Friday. After we finished discussing, she realised she did not have transport fare to return to Ijora. She started crying. It was in the process that a man saw us and asked us what happened. After we explained everything to him, he involved the police and Aunty Anita was arrested,” she said.
Gift, 14, embarked on what turned out to be a tortuous adventure in Lagos to relieve her mother of the stress of catering to four children – all alone. But if her mother was aware of the onerous job her daughter would be confronted with in Lagos, she would not have supported her decision.
Sadly, what Gift had gone through in the last few days – being on bed with no fewer than four men on a daily basis – was simply too enormous for her diminutive stature and age. More disappointedly, she has no dime for herself at the end despite sacrificing her body for all kinds of men, including old and young.