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When I woke up, I realized my kidney had been stolen, human trafficking survivors recount ordeal

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Human Trafficking Survivor: “When I Woke Up, I Realized My Kidney Was Gone”

Immediately after she graduated from university, Fatou Badjie, 23, was approached by a close friend about employment prospects in Lebanon. The friend told her that there were job opportunities and if she decided to go there she’d earn a decent salary. She felt strongly that the friend would wish her nothing but success. She agreed to go to Lebanon.

“So I just jumped into it without asking questions. He came with a document and I signed it without hesitation,” she explains.

In the signed document, Fatou agreed to pay D3,000 as deposit before her friend would process her travel documents. To her, this was an opportunity to get her family out of poverty.

“I paid the money and the next day he brought my passport and visa. Everything was intact. The following week, I left for Senegal.”

Excited and hopeful, Fatou boarded a plane in the early hours of 26th June 2014, and flew more than 3500 miles to Beirut in Lebanon.

“I met an immigration officer who immediately took my documents and asked me to follow him. He took me to a small room where I found over 100 girls of different nationalities.”

One of the girls told Fatou that she was sold by human traffickers. Fatou became scared and confused. She stayed awake the whole night wondering what would happen to her the next day.

In the morning, she confirmed she was in trouble.

“Some women came and started touching me and the other girls. One of them touched me and asked me to follow her. She told me that she had bought me and that I was her slave. I started laughing because I thought it was a joke.”

There was no joke and Fatou was actually trafficked to be bought for modern day slavery. The woman took her to Hamra, a neighbourhood in Beirut where she laid down the house rules.

“She told me that my job was to take care of her husband who had cancer.”

Bathing the sick man, changing his clothes, carrying him on her back and feeding him became Fatou’s daily routine.

“I’d wake up at 6am and I would not stop working or go to bed unless the old man managed to sleep. I was so frustrated. I never thought I could go through this kind of trauma in my life.”

When Fatou got fed up, she approached her boss and told her she wanted to leave. “I told her that the contract I signed in The Gambia said I was coming to Lebanon to work in a restaurant and earn a living. She told me she spent a lot of money on me and I’d have to pay the money back before I could leave.”

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Fatou was compelled to stay on even though she never received any salary for her work. But her conditions worsened after that conversation with her boss. She’d put a hot place of rice on Fatou’s back and eat from there. Other times she’d face more severe punishment than that.

One day she accompanied the boss to the hospital not knowing there was a plan to do an operation on her.

“When we went to the operations room I was scared. She told me to sit and wait. As I was waiting, I dozed off and I didn’t remember anything. When I woke up I realised that I was operated and my left kidney was removed, without my consent,” Fatou says.

It would later emerge that the boss’ sick husband was in need of a kidney and Fatou’s kidney was given to him.

Even with one kidney removed, Fatou’s nightmares continued. She was arrested and jailed after cutting her boss with a knife in self-defence. In jail, she was regularly beaten and the guards made several attempts to sexually assault her. After 18 months in jail, she escaped and ran away to a seaside. Through the help of a fisherman she met, Fatou processed her documents and returned to The Gambia in April 2018.

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Amie’s story

Amie Jobe was trafficked to Egypt in December 2014 by a friend who worked for the immigration department. He told her that there were a lot of job opportunities in Egypt and she’d earn up to $450 a month.

Once Amie accepted the offer, the officer processed her passport and introduced her to a group of Sierra Leoneans based in The Gambia. They took her to Dakar and handed her over to another agent who helped her to get an Egyptian visa.

“When I arrived at the airport in Cairo, my luggage was taken from me by two men who put me in their car and drove away. It was a 12-hour journey,” she tells The Chronicle.

“When we arrived at our destination, they put me in a room and locked me in for about an hour.”

The men later confiscated her passport and told her that she was sold into slavery. For the next two weeks, she was locked inside the room. At the end of the two weeks, an Egyptian woman picked her from the agents’ house.

“The woman bought me. When I got to her house, she told me that my task was to take care of her three kids. From that day, the kids became my responsibility. She forced me to wake up as early as 5am to look after the kids.”

Three months later, Amie fell out with her boss after a heated argument which resulted to the boss hitting her. She wanted Amie gone, at 2am.

“I told her I wasn’t leaving without the salaries she owed me for the three months I worked for her. She ended up giving me $50 instead of $450 a month. $400 went to the Nigerian agents who received me in Egypt.”

Amie had to walk 90 kilometres in the middle of the night.

“There was no car and I was imagining all kind of things. I could have been kidnapped, killed or raped.”

Amie was indeed tortured by the police and sexually harassed by the Nigerian agents before she was able to return to The Gambia.

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Today, both Fatou and Amie dedicate their time to the Network of Girls against Human Trafficking, an organization they set up along with other survivors of human trafficking to sensitize Gambians about the human trafficking and help combat it.

“There are so many issues that can’t be forgotten in this whole situation. I didn’t think that our own brothers and sisters would be so mean that they’d take us from our country and sell us out as slaves just for money. If you go through these things you can’t forget them,” says Amie.

The Gambia is listed by the US State Department as a Tier 2 country, and its 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department said the Government of The Gambia did not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, though it was making significant efforts to do so.

“Gambian women are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking in the Middle East, including Lebanon and Kuwait. Authorities have identified Gambian trafficking victims in Egypt, UAE, and Finland,” the US State Department said.

Editor’s Note: Fatou and Amie have asked us to use their real identities, as well as photos in this story for advocacy purpose.

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Nigeria Update

Doubters of Covid-19 are the true Nigerians BY Ayodele Okunfolami

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COVID-19: India records over 5000 new cases

Sir: Government at all levels and private bodies have continued to use several channels to inform the populace of the reality of the pandemic and how they can keep safe, however, not a few Nigerians remain sceptical.

These doubting Thomases may be convinced that COVID-19 is real abroad but not in Nigeria. They view the Coronavirus pandemic as nothing but another scamdemic the Nigerian political class are using to enrich themselves.

They wonder how it is easier to locate the poorest of the poor who typically are without addresses for palliatives but can’t contact trace travellers with official passports and contacts to be tested.

They ask how the school feeding programme is being carried out when schools are not in session but complain they don’t have enough beds for COVID-19 patients.

They query the speed in which the social register increased by a million in two weeks but tests for coronavirus is still below 40,000 after three months. These things don’t sum up.

Word on the street is that since some index states got grants in billions of naira from the federal government to tackle the disease, other states don’t want to be left out and so are churning out inflated cases even if the illnesses are mild fevers unrelated to corona.

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The doubters question how Lassa fever that is claiming more lives is all of a sudden neglected to battle a virus they swear is not a black man’s disease.

Conspiracy theories floating the air makes matters worse. Are Africans pawns in the struggle for who controls the emerging world order? Is it a lab virus to depopulate the earth? Does it have any connection with 5G? Why the uncharacteristic rush by a hitherto absentee National Assembly to repeal the archaic quarantine act for a new one that makes vaccination obligatory?

If you think the Thomases are the uninformed, you are wrong. Even a sizable fraction of the urban elite propagates the falsehood of the whole thing.

This is being reflected in the noncompliance to the lockdowns, social distancing or wearing of facemasks in banks, shopping malls and other supposed corporate settings the elite patronize.

These Thomases should not be blamed. The inability to lead the conversation, engage the people and be transparent in dealings by those in authority have led to rumours and fake news making the communication managers mainly debunking already viral false information.

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And when they do speak, it is muddled in contradictions. The foggy explanations on the whereabouts, identity and mission of the Chinese 12 (or are they more) and the messy quarantining of the Benue index case only adds to the potpourri of cynicisms.

Why does it appear as if some states are discrediting the work of NCDC priding in their contestable zero positive patients? And why did NCDC, a supposedly data-driven agency, unprofessionally retract some of its figures in seeming apology to some states?

Beyond what is being heard, the inaudible is louder. We have all lost faith in the government at one time or the other. Our belief in the government protecting us keeps eroding as we moved from hiring private security to installing more fortifying home burglaries to avoiding living in certain areas.

When we couldn’t get potable water straight from our kitchen sinks that makes us all drill personal boreholes, our belief in the government watered. When we enrolled our children in extramural lessons because their undermotivated teachers and underequipped public schools couldn’t give them the optimum.

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We are now moving them from private schools to school overseas. It is the same with the health sector where we now trust alternative medicines and prayers more than teaching hospitals. Even those that use the pulpit to encourage us to believe in Nigeria have their children in Canada.

Those that doubt COVID-19 doubted it long before the index case was reported in our shores. Distrust in the government is subliminally becoming a religion and daily press briefings or campaigns by elected officials washing their hands with water flowing from golden faucets won’t make proselytes of them overnight. Good governance will.

So, if you encounter one of those people that don’t believe in coronavirus, just spare yourself arguments. Socially distance yourself from them because their carelessness may infect you with either the reality of the existence of the disease or the reality that you are the one living in deceit.

Ayodele Okunfolami, Festac, Lagos.

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Full text of US letter demanding probe of Akinwumi Adesina

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AfDB PRESIDENT

The United States received your letter of May 5, in which you share your view that the board of governors of the African Development Bank should adopt the conclusions of the bank’s ethics committee and declare that the president is “totally exonerated of all the allegations made against him.” Our constituency cannot make such a declaration at this time. We have deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process.

Instead, we urge you to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing. We emphasize that undertaking an independent evaluation of facts, at any stage, is not at odds with a presumption of innocence.

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The allegations set out in the whistleblower complaint submitted on January 19, 2020, raise significant issues that all relevant governing bodies of the bank must handle with the utmost care, using all tools available to them. Had the ethics committee undertaken a proper preliminary examination that was in line with the board of governors resolution B/BG/2008/l 1, standard practices at other international financial institutions, and the bank’s own rules and procedures, it would have reviewed available facts that could be gathered by external counsel and found in internal bank records.

We fear that wholesale dismissal of all allegations without appropriate investigation will tarnish the reputation of this institution as one that does not uphold high standards of ethics and governance. This is a serious risk when we need strong confidence in the AfDB to play an influential role in the current global economic and health crisis, and when many shareholders are seeking legislative support for payments under the recently-concluded general capital increase.

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Therefore, the United States cannot support dismissing the allegations at this stage. We believe the board of governors must demonstrate that this institution takes governance, anti-corruption, and transparency seriously. We thus request that you take steps to initiate an impartial, independent investigation into these allegations. Whatever the outcome, the AfDB will emerge stronger for having taken seriously its obligations to uphold good governance.

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The United States sincerely wishes the AfDB to remain a high-quality institution with the capability to address the needs of the African continent, particularly at this critical time. Considering the scope, seriousness and detail of these allegations against the sole candidate for bank leadership over the next five years, we believe that further inquiry is necessary to ensure the AfDB’s president has broad support, confidence, and a clear mandate from shareholders. Please accept our regards and appreciation for considering our request.

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Nigeria’s five years of a turnaround under Buhari BY Abe Kolawole

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NPTF: Buhari appoints Ex-IGP Abba, seven others into board

It was then military president, Ibrahim Babangida after several failed attempts to revamp the Nigerian economy while in office, let out in exasperation that, “ the Nigerian economy has defied all solutions.”

Babangida it was who introduced the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, devalued the naira, introduced the Second Tier Foreign Exchange Market and privatized many sectors of the economy.

But when all these did not post the desired result on the economy, he threw his arms up in surrender in that statement that portrayed his helplessness.

Fast forward to 27 years later, the country’s economy, which seemingly defied five administrations after Babangida and countless policies and strategies betrayed its rigidity, as they say in medical parlance, began to respond to treatment.

Two things, according to experts have made the difference in the approach the current administration has adopted which are impacting positively on the economy.

The first is the integrity of the man on the saddle, President Muhammadu Buhari and the second is his well known zero tolerance for corruption.

Whereas past Nigerian leaders have been able to come up with beautiful economic policies and programmes, such have failed to yield positive results due to the lack of discipline and moral rectitude required on the part of the leadership to see them through.

However, unlike others, Buhari came tailored-made for the job. Since his days in the military where he served in many credible positions including the federal commissioner for petroleum and natural resources to when he left office and served as the chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), the president has shown that he cannot be enticed with material things to shift focus from doing his job creditably well and can go to any length to ensure he protects the people’s interest.

With that sense of commitment, he has been able to churn out results in any assignment. It was for instance during his time at the petroleum ministry that many projects including federal government’s investment in pipelines and petroleum storage infrastructures and the building of about 21 petroleum storage depots all over the country from Lagos to Maiduguri and from Calabar to Gusau were done and when he became chairman of the PTF, it is on record that the project executed by the fund far surpassed the expectations of even the administration that established it.

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Nigerians became nostalgic for a repeat of the Buhari leadership when they recounted that after he left office as Head of State, no administration has rivalled his commitment towards developing the country.

Since he was sworn into office on May 29 2015, the story of Nigeria has changed. The economy which was in doldrums began to show signs of recovery; states which could not pay salaries were helped to do so through the provision of bailout funds; small and medium scale enterprises began to boom and the agricultural sector was opened up through investment-friendly policies.

The power sector which had drained huge resources in the past without reciprocal improvement, quickly picked up as thousands of megawatts of power were not only added to the national grid but transmitted and distributed to consumers. That’s not all, though.

The petroleum sector recovered from its convulsion with just a push as queues at the filling stations completely disappeared and the availability of petroleum products became the new order.

Corruption which defied many administrations was forced to take the back seat when the Treasury Single Account, TSA, was introduced and those who stole from the public till in the previous administrations were made to face the wrath of the law.

Not less than 8,000 ghost workers were uncovered in the public service and many public servants who were benefitting from corrupt practices of the past, living large at the expense of others, discerning that a new sheriff was in town, repented and adjusted their ways.

But perhaps the greatest legacy for which the current administration would be remembered for both now and in many years to come is on the aspect of security.

Prior to 2015, the security situation in the country was so embarrassing that Nigeria became a laughing stock the world over.

Its soldiers were the butt of jokes in other nations including even smaller African countries due to lack of motivation, poor welfare, inadequate equipment and training as well as corruption. Troops battling terrorists in the country and in the Lake Chad region were forced to abandon the fight to flee into other countries for safety.

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Several communities in the Northeastern part of the country were taken over by insurgents who boasted with glee that they are on the verge of carving out another country out of Nigeria as the then administration looked on helplessly.

The terrorists not assuaged by their takeover of communities on the fringes of the Lake Chad penetrated further into the country spreading the bloodletting activities to many states in the Northwest and Northcentral parts of the country and capped it all with their heavy presence and operations right in the heart of the federal capital in Abuja.

It was an all-time low for Nigeria as many infrastructures like roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and communication facilities were destroyed by the insurgents in addition to the many killed and the thousands abducted, raped and terrorized.

President Buhari, well aware of the crisis when he resumed made the issue of security part of his inaugural speech, promising to deal with the situation and promised to relocate the military command to the theatres of war.

He also searched hard to fish out those who would help him attain the goal of freeing Nigeria from terrorism that was making life so difficult for a vast majority of the populace and he appointed Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai among other service chiefs, as the Chief of Army Staff. Jackpot

That was the watershed. The narrative on the war on terrorism, insurgency and sundry other crimes suddenly took a different twist.

The terrorists that were making videos of their exploits including the bombing of significant edifices like the United Nations’ office, the police headquarters both in Abuja and attempt at attacking the office of the DSS began to flee as the heat turned on them.

They were in no time forced to evacuate from the FCT as the heat became unbearable. Their weekly ritual of blowing up worship centres in an average of one per week vanished and their threats to bring down the country fizzled out as the military took the war to their base and entered their fortresses in Sambisa Forest and the Mandara Hills.

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The so-called capital of their caliphate in Gwoza was overrun to the extent that the leader of the Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau abandoned his location with his tails between his legs leaving behind his cherished flag and Quran which were retrieved and presented to the President by the Chief of Army Staff.

All the 20 local government spread between Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States which were under Boko Haram control were recaptured by Nigerian troops and all the communities liberated. This saw to the drop in the population of people at the Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps as many returned to their homes and communities.

The Buhari administration through support to the military and other security agencies also saved Nigeria from the threat of secession from some disgruntled elements in the Southeast and put a permanent stop to their criminal activities while the head of the outfit, Nnamdi Kanu fled.

Between 2015 and 2020, the military also launched several operational codes to take care of certain security issues affecting the country ranging from cattle rustling, kidnapping, highway robbery, ritual killings and banditry.

Each time the terrorists made futile attempts to bounce back through surprise attacks on certain towns and communities, the military showed resistance and resilience, turning around attacks on Biu, Damboa, Garkida, Michika and other places.

People in these communities have seen more than an actionable assurance that their security is now guaranteed and never have failed to thank the Buhari administration for that.

As the heat became too much on the terrorists, they resorted into harassing villages on the fringes of Nigerien borders in Katsina, seeing that they are losing their grip on all fronts. President Buhari, unrelenting, equally ordered for operations in that area that would take care of that problem permanently.

Indeed even residents of places far away from the Northeast like Abuja, Kaduna and Kano have also had a cause to remember what transpired in the years gone by and to thank the Buhari administration for the wonderful job it is doing which has made life more meaningful and secured for them.

Kolawole is former PRO, National Association of Nigerian Student and wrote from Ondo State.

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