Simon Ateba

Two teenage Nigerian girls who were trafficked to Burkina Faso to become sex workers in the West African country have been rescued.

Rejoice Chioma Israel, 16, and Rosemary ‎Uchenna Emmanuel, 19, left Nigeria on 11 July with a man who promised to take them to Malaysia via Burkina Faso for a better life.

The trafficker explained to them that they will be given fresh passports and some vaccines in Burkina Faso before proceeding to Malaysia for well paid jobs.

But once in Ouagadugu, the capital of Burkina Faso, they were handed over to a Nigerian woman called Onome who introduced them to prostitution.

“The madam told us we will have to do ashawo (prostitution) or pay her N1.2 million each to take us back to Nigeria,” Rosemary said in an interview in Lagos on Tuesday.

They refused and explained they were on their way to Malaysia and were just making a brief stop in Burkina Faso for new passports and vaccines.

“She invited bad boys to take away to a village ‎on motorcycles,” Rosemary said.

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It was at that time they were rescued by some people who called an anti-human trafficking NGO founded by a Nigerian and known in French as Association Nationale de Lutte Contre le Traffic des Jeunes ‎or the National Association Against Trafficking of Young Persons (Lutra – Jeunes).

During the rescue operation, Rosemary said, she was pushed off the bike and sustained injury in her right hand and right leg.

Before embarking on the journey, Rosemary and Rejoice worked at a small restaurant in Port Harcourt away from their families in Imo and Abia States.

They lived together and worked at the same restaurant where they earned about ‎N3,000 a month.

They were there for some months until one day, a man visited the restaurant and told them about the well paid new jobs in Malaysia.

They contributed only N5,000 each and were handed over to the man’s brother who took them on the journey. The journey from Port Harcourt to Burkina Faso ‎lasted about two days.

They were then handed over to the Nigerian woman there who manages at least 30 other Nigerian girls ‎with some as young as 14 years old.

“They were de‎ceived and trafficked from Nigeria with the hope to secure manual work in Malaysia to better their future,” said Ochuko Patrick Otoba, a Nigerian and President of Lutra-Jeunes, the NGO that rescued them and brought them back to Nigeria on Monday after two days on the road.

“But they were surprised to find themselves in Burkina Faso, forced to take up prostitution as they new trade. When they refused, they were maltreated and beaten up with injury of irreparable degree,” he said.

Otoba, a human rights activist, said the number of Nigerian ‎girls who have become victims of human trafficking across the borders of West African countries, especially Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso is on the rise.

“Enslaved, indebted, sold like donkeys, the young victims are between the ages of 14 to 22 and they are deceived by traffickers ‎in Nigeria who are also Nigerians,” he said.

He called on the Nigerian government to embark on serious awareness campaign, rescue other victims in Burkina Faso, build rehabilitation centres to house these victims and begin empowerment projects for rescued victims who are not educated but need skills to get back into the society.

His own NGO, he said, has not received funding from the government, and had been struggling to cope.