My humiliating ordeal as a slave in Oman - 22-year-old Nigerian girl

The quest for greener pastures abroad by some Nigerian youths is on the increase despite calls by concerned citizens to desist from such practices.

The aftermath of such trips, orchestrated by touts and dubious travel agents with consequential effects, is a sordid story. Many who embarked on such trips either to the point of destination or turned back, return to tell tales of bruised emotions or disorientation.

The plight of these young African girls who are lured into the belief that life is better outside the country has become an unending story. Such obnoxious arrangements – call it economic migration, human trafficking or slavery in disguise- have attracted huge derision from the general public, even with the highly placed monarch, Oba of Benin, raining curses on the perpetrators.

Many people assume that the heinous trade started with foreign businessmen, but the truth is that Nigerians are either partners in crime or originally conceptualized the idea. In a true life story, Damilola Falodun, a 22-year old native of Ekiti State is one of such victims who escaped and returned from Oman, Middle East by sheer grace.

Vanguard’s Weekend Woman caught up with her during the recently held Queen Moremi Ajasoro cultural beauty pageant in Lagos. Her story is one case too many among others who either have died or do not know how to get back to Nigeria.

I am a native of Ekiti State and live at Oluwaga area of Ipaja, Lagos State. Currently, my parents are late. Before then, my father was a businessman residing in Abia State. For quite a period of time, about seven years, I never got to see him until his death in 2014.

He was separated from my mother when I was much younger, due to irreconcilable domestic issues caused by his family. Initially, he came home sparingly and after my step sister got married, he stopped coming home but ironically, he would call me especially on my birthdays to wish me well. I was 19 years old then and in school, preparing for my Ordinary National Diploma first semester exam (OND) when I received a call from home announcing that my dad was dead. I became devastated and had to miss the exam as a result of that. My father did not survive an asthma ailment coupled with the fact that he lived alone away from home.

As I was trying to get over his death, another death occurred and it was my mother, just four months after my father’s death. This occurred during the start of my second semester exams.

 As a result, I could not sit for it and that was how I dropped out of school without any result. My mother became hypertensive and did not survive it. She was a petty business woman who had supported us with her trading even when my father was not there for us. I felt the pains of his absence but later got used to it. My mother was equally a caring person.

While working at DSTV office in Ilupeju, I met some friends who introduced me to another job at a resort in Epe, ‘Inagbe Resort’ as a waitress. From there the idea of travelling abroad to better my condition was introduced to me by these friends, Taye and Kehinde, twin sisters who were also working in the same resort.

 My initial idea was to gather some money and start a business and later continue with my education, but through their assumed conviction, my plan changed. According to them, it is easy to work and continue education abroad than here in Nigeria and I consented. They also told me that working abroad is hourly, that it would enable me to create time for studies. My initial country of interest was Canada but after unsuccessful attempt to secure Canadian visa, I opted for Oman in the Middle East and this happened in 2015.

The same twin sisters introduced me to a traveling agent, who was a pastor of a church. The pastor who was very frequent at the resort for business was very handy to handle the transaction without us knowing his office. We trusted and believed him because, as a man of God, everything he does would be genuine.

After about two months without seeing the visa, we decided to go to the agency by ourselves only to discover that the pastor has duped us and disappeared with our money. In our bewilderment and still trying to overcome the shock, the owner of the office he used told us that since we were still interested in traveling, another option was Oman in the Middle East.

According to him, the country was in need of workers and visa processing was very fast. One of us became courageous and decided to go. She eventually left for Oman and after some months, she encouraged us to come through a coded SMS message from Oman. I was inspired, and changed my mind of going to Canada since the essence was to have a new life. Within one week, after paying the agency from the money I saved from working at the resort, the visa was handed over to me en-route to Oman.

On arrival at the Oman airport, a driver was sent to pick me alongside other African girls. While on the way to their office, our passports and other traveling documents were taken from us. We stayed in the office for about two days before we were assigned to homes to work.

 I was not privy to the nature of the job until we were told that the only job available in Oman for the African girls was house-help job called ‘Shangala’ in Oman language and prostitution.

I also noticed that the reason the girl that left before us could not divulge any information to us was because every document including phone was taken from her.

The only means of communication was a coded text messages under the scrutiny of the masters. Under the contract agreement signed here in Nigeria by the agents, unknown to us, communication or the use of phone was not allowed; hence it would be taken away from us. It was a two year arrangement contracted by Nigerians in collaboration with their Omanis counterparts there.

In Oman, we were told by the Omani lords in a simple language, “You are our property. We have bought you for two years and you don’t own yourself until you finish the contract.” This was why our passports were taken away from us; they called it their own property until we were done with the contract. While there, you must work for at least one year before your salary would be handed over to you.

Now, the irony is that, the so called masters would apply some tricks that would make you not to last for three months in a place. The moment you became frustrated and wanted to change from your home to another home, the entire contract would be canceled, and you would start all over again. Under these conditions, many girls were inhumanly treated. Some died in the process while some became perpetual slaves to the masters.

The job description was horrible. As a maid, you have no rest for a whole year. We must serve an extended home of about six to seven families. In Oman, they keep nuclear homes and each housemaid served the entire homes without rest or any holiday. Other inhuman treatments include sexual harassment, violent physical attack by wicked masters, while some would push you out to make sure you did not complete your contract.

Moreover, every salary you work for before the completion of the contract would be paid in advance to the agents in Oman. You can only have access to your salary when you complete a contract with a house. Information about work condition was kept secret and you dare not use their phone in their absence. The experience was horrible.

I communicated with a family relation living in the United States who had wanted to take me out before when my mother was still alive. When she got to know about how I was suffering in Oman, she quickly responded and sent a ticket to me.

 When I told the agency that I had a ticket to travel home, they were initially hesitant but they eventually brought out my passport and cancelled Oman Visa in it. They then took me to the airport and handed me the passport at the point of exit. They did that so that I would not change my mind and return to Oman to live as a free person. Of all the girls staying in Oman, no one had her passport with her. The agency keeps each person’s travelling documents until they are done with you. It’s such a humiliating experience.

I came back to Nigeria in May 2017 after spending about two horrible years in Oman. While I was there, I noticed that all Arab countries treat young black girls the same way. They will not let you have any decent job even when you are qualified for it. They see us as objects for sex and maltreatment.

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