Encouraging child trafficking under the guise of recruiting domestic workers
‘I Never Consider The Risk Of Hiring Bose As A Housemaid’
Bose (surname withheld) is a young girl from Togo. Ten years ago, the mother who was residing in Cotonou, Republic of Benin handed her over to her Nigerian friend, who plies her trade in Cotonou. That was how Bose was brought to Nigeria at the age of 16.
Her mother’s friend later contracted her out to Chief Francis (surname withheld) to work as a housemaid. Bose has lived with her boss for almost nine years in Isolo area of Lagos. She has grown to gain the confidence of her employer. Today, she is virtually in-charge of the household, because her boss and the wife are always very busy.
Because of her good behaviour and diligence, many families looking for housemaids within the area have relied on her to get one from her place. So far, not less than nine housemaids have been contracted by Bose to work in different families in the area.
Speaking to The Guardian in pidgin English, Bose said: “My Oga and Madam are very good people. They no dey shout at me. They no dey beat me. I dey eat everything I want. I dey drink tea, bread and others. But I dey work well well. I no dey sleep sometimes just to finish my works. I like to stay here forever. I don won to go again. I have gone home once since I came to this place”
When asked whether she has her residency papers and is being paid salary monthly, she said: “Which paper? I no sabi anything about papers. My aunt wey carry me come here dey in-charge of everything. Na through her I dey bring all these my people here to work for people. I dey go her house almost every Sunday. I no know how much my oga dey give am for my salary. Na her dey carry the money give my mummy.”
Her boss, Chief Francis told The Guardian that Bose is a good girl, who has lived with him for almost 10 years now.
Francis said: “She was brought to me by somebody through one of our family friends. We have watched and groomed her over the years. She has proved to be a hardworking and respectful girl. I can say we are lucky to have her with us.”
On the risk of housing her without her passport and not knowing her family background, Francis responded: “Life is all about risk. We need a house-help because we are always too busy to take care of the household. My children have grown. Some are married and others are living outside the country. There is nobody here to take care of this big house. Cleaning and sweeping is a very big work.”
‘I’m Not A Housemaid, But A Housekeeper’
From Ayoyinka Jegede, Uyo
Goodness Friday Ekarika, 22, hails from a village in Obot Akara Council Area of Akwa Ibom State. She resides at Essien Essien Avenue, Eket Council, where she works as a housemaid. She is the eldest child in a family of six and her parents are traders. According her, she opted for the job to raise money and go to school. Goodness who joyously narrated her story to The Guardian said: “I am enjoying my work and my employers, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Okon, took me as their own biological daughter. They feed, clothe and hired a private lesson teacher for me. They registered me at Girls High School Eket, where I will re-write my SSCE exams. They pay my salary into my personal bank account.”
According to her, she was not contracted, her boss came directly to her parents in the village and both had a discussion on terms and conditions before she started working for him.
Her words: I’m not a housemaid, but a housekeeper. I left my village so that I can have a better education, because in my village when you finish secondary, you’ll be forced into learning vocational skills. I’m determined to be a graduate, so that I can speak better grammar. I am happy doing this job because I’m not treated like a housemaid. I’m being taken as part of the family.
“I feel free to do whatsoever I like, eat whatever I want at any time, sleep whenever I want, take care of my boss’s children and do few house chores because my boss’ wife do house chores too. My salary is paid duly into my own personal account opened with my name. I am very joyous working as housekeeper because I see my dream of attaining the highest educational height come true. I am not spending my salary, because whatever I need is being provided by my boss.”
Goodness who took The Guardian reporter round her apartment, said: “Can you see I have my own personal bathroom and toilet? I even have two phones. My boss’ wife buys me clothes and shoes. She bought some for me when she travelled outside the country.
Speaking with The Guardian, Goodness’s boss, Mr. Okon, was of the view that it is illegal to contract out children as housemaids. He said he took his own housekeeper as part of his family, even though they are not blood relations.
Okon called on individuals wh maltreat housemaids to desist, stressing that there is reward for all actions in life whether good or bad. He is against contracting out children as housemaids, especially a situation where the so-called maids are being trafficked into prostitutions and other illegal businesses.
‘Their Salaries Are Usually Paid To Their Agents Or Recruiters’
By Tobi Awodipe
Iya Papa (who refused to reveal her real name) is an “agent.” Her agency is not the usual one people know, but the one that supplies houseboys and girls to families as long as they are willing to pay her fees. Trying to get hold of her was a herculean task and she insisted on a telephone conversation first, as she didn’t know the caller. Posing as a customer requesting for a housemaid, she said her agency fee was a non-refundable and non-negotiable N10, 000.
She asked me where I got her number from and I explained I was referred by one of her customers. She then proceeded to ask which gender I wanted but in the next breath, said she had only boys for now, but was expecting “new orders from next week.”
“Aunty, do you want Nigerian or imported? If it is Nigerian you want, which state do you want and what age bracket? What are you selling,” she asked. Saying I needed a girl, she said I should manage the boy like that, that he is hardworking and young. I said I wasn’t selling anything, but needed the maid for my children. She promised to call me back when she had ‘fresh order’.
One of her customers, Cynthia (surname withheld) said the agent was a big business woman and it’s the business she uses in catering for her family. She, however, lamented that the agents were usually not honest and always looking for ways to scam customers.
“I have no idea where she gets the girls from and the girls would never tell you the truth. Even the ones you can see are clearly not Nigerians, would be telling you they are from Cross River or Akwa Ibom State. Their salary is usually N10, 000 per month, but recently it has increased. Now, N10, 000 is for inexperienced girls who have never worked before, while you pay N15, 000 for the experienced ones, depending on their size too. However, their salaries are not paid directly to them, but to the agents. I don’t know how much they remit to the girls’ parents, but that is not my business. Male housemaids are usually cheaper than their female counterparts and you can get one for as low as N6, 000 or N7, 000.”
Asked if the girls are sent to school, she answered in the negative, saying “that is not part of our arrangement. I only agree to feed her and pay her salary, schooling or vocational training is not my business.”
She lamented that the agents always change the girls often so as to keep collecting agency fee.
“Your maid will suddenly start saying she wants to go and visit her sick mother in the village and when you reluctantly give her money to travel to the village, you never hear from her again. When you call the agent to complain, she would tell you not to worry that she would bring a new one. It’s an arrangement between the both of them. When a new maid comes, she doesn’t bring even a pin to your house, but when she’s going, the agent expects you to buy all sorts of things for her. When I asked my last maid, she said the agents collects all the clothes, phones and things I buy for them and sends them empty-handed to the next house they are going.”
Another woman who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity said: “Housemaid is a necessary evil, ‘but one I cannot do without one. My husband and I work full time and there is nobody to look after my children. I got a maid from Iya Papa and it has been from one problem to the other. She said she was experienced, but it was obvious she was not and I had to start teaching her even the basics. She eats a lot, she is always hungry and I had to take her to the hospital to check if there was any problem. Worse, she steals from me and even from the children and I have complained several times but I am afraid of changing her and the new person may turn out to be worse.”
Requesting to speak with the maid who gave her name as Blessing, she told The Guardian that she knew she was coming to Lagos to work as a maid.
“Things are very hard back home and we are many in my family. I was suffering back home and I was not even going to school, so I don’t even miss not going to school here. However, I would like to learn hairdressing because I don’t want to do this work forever but I would need to go and learn and I would need money to set up after learning.”
When asked how she was ‘recruited’ and where she was from, she refused to divulge the latter but said a woman came to their village and was asking around for girls that wanted to go to Lagos to go and work.
“I was told that I would be receiving some money while the rest would be sent to my parents to help them and I gladly jumped at the opportunity. However, nobody has given me any money, but the agent said she is helping me to save my money and she would start giving me when she had deducted the cost of transport and other costs. This was two years ago. I have three other sisters that are working as housemaids in different part of Lagos and it is the same story with all of us. I don’t know how much my parents are collecting, but we don’t get anything.”
ASOHON Arrests Ten Child Traffickers, Illegal Home Operators In Four States
From Gordi Udeajah , Umuahia
The Social Taskforce of the Association of Orphanages & Homes Operators (ASOHON) said in Umuahia, Abia State capital, said that in its drive to eliminate child trafficking in the southeast zone, it has apprehended 10 suspected child traffickers/illegal Orphanage/Home Operators in four southeast states since its inauguration in Owerri, Imo State capital in September last year. Of the 10, he said that three were arrested in Abia, four in Anambra, two in Imo and one in Enugu.
Chairman of the Taskforce, Mr Akpulonu Godson Edobor, made this known in Umuahia at the state Police headquarters when he led ASOHON members on a courtesy visit to the State Police Commissioner, Mr Leye Oyedade.