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Over 20,000 Nigerian girls stuck in Mali

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NOT Less than 20,000 Nigerian girls have been trapped in Mali for sex business.

The victims of the sex trade are kept in appalling conditions, according to a report by Aljazeerah, a Qatari television network. The video revealed that thousands of the victims were kept in chattered shacks located at the outskirt of Kokoyo in western Mali.

Many girls said the human traffickers had promised them good lives with well paid jobs in Europe but found themselves trapped in Mali for sex trade.

Ranging from fourteen years old upward, the girls said they were forced to sleep with ten men per day.  Some of them as young as 14 years were practically yanked off the street of Nigeria in their school uniforms, the report revealed.

A sixteen-year-old teenage mother, also a victim, related that she came to Mali through the Benin Republic. She had been promised by her trafficker a good househelp job in the Europe where she would make a lot from her trafficker but that was reversed immediately she stepped out of Nigeria, as the trafficker turned her to a sex slave. The 16-year-old girl now has a baby.

“I followed her because she (her trafficker) didn’t tell me that I am coming to do ‘ashewo’ (prostitution), and she said I should not tell anybody that I am travelling,” the teenage mother said.

The girls even said they were registered by the law enforcement in Mali on arrival. They added that they pay weekly dues to authorities as the government does not have issues with prostitution except it involves minors.

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Having heard of the situation, the delegation of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) led by the boss, Julie Okah-donli, who visited some of the victims in Mali found it difficult to repatriate all the victims.  The rescue efforts were being hampered due to the collusion between Malian law enforcement agents and the traffickers.

The traffickers in Kokoyo town of Mali made it clear that Nigerians trying to rescue their citizens trapped in the sex trade is “unwelcome”.

Even though some of the girls have paid off the traffickers of an aggressive sum of $2,000 (about N720 thousand), many were still trapped.

Relating the status quo, a NAPTIP official, Prosper Michael, said the crime is very difficult to eradicate because there were lots of beneficiaries on the victimised girls. “The people you could have invited to rescue these girls are benefitting every week from them,” he said.

However, the anti-trafficking agency was able to repatriate some, while some of the girls had refused to come back to Nigeria stating they are too ashamed to face their families.

Julie Okoh, the NAPTIP head,  said the girls would not be forced to come back to Nigeria. But for those who will,  she said the agency would work with the Nigeria Embassy and the International Organisation For Migration to bring them back to Nigeria.

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