By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
Oyinlola Solanke, is a Nigerian mother of two who escaped from Oman through sheer guts and the help of a good Samaritan after 10 months of slavery. In this interview, the young graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife, shares details of her experiences in Omanand how she was trafficked to the Arab nation by a close and trusted family member. Oyinlola is now the Secretary of Erelu Eyinade Foundation (EEF), an NGO focused on ending human trafficking and child labour in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the President of Erelu Eyinade Foundation (EEF), Erelu Toyin Olumilua-Mark, has blamed the pervasive poverty in the land and the illusion of finding greener pasture in any other country but Nigeria for the high rate of human trafficking and child labour in the country.
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She said EEF has been in the vanguard of bringing cases of human trafficking to the fore, rescuing victims, and giving them hope for a new start in life.
“Those that are homeless we give them shelter. Those who are jobless and school dropouts, we re-enroll them in school. We have been helping survivors and reaching out to our people with advocacies. We will be travelling to Ghana to rescue some Nigerian girls who are been taken away forcefully for modern day slavery,” she added. Excerpts:-
Before I left Nigeria, I was having some personal issues and I felt the best way for me to escape the trauma at the time was to shut everybody out and leave the country. I had two kids and was jobless in Nigeria so I agreed to work as a maid abroad to make money. More so, I believed I had someone over there who was seemingly living fine.
So, I went to Oman on trust. I went through a person really close to me. She is my sister-in-law. At first she didn’t tell me it was Oman. I was told it was Dubai. When I sent my data page to her, it wasn’t up to seven days before my visa was out. When I went to do my security report, I told the police my destination country was Dubai. I remember telling my in law that my police report was ready and she asked which country did I tell them I was going to? I said Dubai. Then she lied to me that ‘Dubai to Oman is like Lagos to Abuja’ so I should get a new one for Oman. She confused me.
My ticket was booked for me. I was supposed to go through Kenya Airways but I was having problem confirming my ticket number. At that point, I wanted to back-out of the trip but because they were giving her problems in Oman, I reconsidered that it wasn’t fair to put someone who wants to ‘help’ me into trouble. Eventually, I went to the Arab nation.
My experience in Oman
The experience I had in Oman was not really a good one. I was told I would be paid N150,000 monthly and I compared it to my jobless state here in Nigeria and felt it was better to travel to Omar but when I got there, I experienced so many things I wasn’t told would happen. An example was my finding out that my Nigerian passport would be forcefully taken from me. I also wasn’t able to go out on my own. I spent 10 months over there and I can now say boldly those months were days of slavery.
I always fought to be paid my salary
I was working as a maid for a family over there. As a Nigerian, as a black, you can’t go to Oman and tell me you have a good job. I remember when I was coming back to Nigeria, I saw a lady that spent just six days in Oman. She was not sexually abused yet but she could no longer stay there. She was already treated like a slave who must wake by 5am and go to bed by 1am the next day. The slave masters in Oman don’t want catch you sitting down for a second.
My salaries were paid but always with a fight. They were paid to me because I didn’t joke with my boss’ family. I didn’t play with them. They couldn’t predict me. I did my job, and stayed always in my room with my phone.
I slept in bathroom for weeks to feel safe
Staying in their house, I was told I couldn’t lock the door while in the room. Few weeks before I came to Nigeria, I was sleeping in the bathroom because that was the only place I felt safe. It was the only place I could lock the door behind me. It was hell.
How I resisted sexual abuse
Sometimes, my boss came to my room to force me to have all manner of sex experiences with him but I resisted each time. I learnt Taekwando while growing up. My boss is a short fat man. I used to beat him and tell him, if you really want to have sex with me by force, you must return to the gym.
I had to lie that my father was dead. I cried always, planned with some of my friends in Nigeria to chat me up on WhatsApp claiming I had lost my dad. I begged my boss’ family to allow me return to Nigeria, attend my father’s funeral and spend two weeks with my kids before returning to Oman. I didn’t come back to Nigeria with anything.
I still remember telling them, when I got there initially, to get me a resident card or I wouldn’t work. That decision was also one of the things that made my return possible.
I used to also remind them that London is not far from Oman and I had family in London. That my family is asking me my address in Oman. I threatened my boss and his family that they don’t want to tell me their house address, I would use Google map. I kept telling them that and it put them in slight fear of me.
I remember when I started having serious problems with my boss, I contacted one Mrs Kehinde Okoroafor. If not for her, I don’t think I would be in Nigeria by now.
Illusion of greener pastures abroad
As I speak there are so many girls waiting to board the flight to Oman. But, they must be told that there are no greener pastures in Oman. I tell you, ladies who are there and appear wealthy to girls in Nigeria are the traffickers. They take girls to Oman for labour and keep ripping them off their money. They don’t even spend a dime facilitating the trip from Nigeria to Oman. I paid back every kobo the woman who took me to Omar claimed she spent not knowing it was my boss who spent his money to make my trip happen. He even sent me money while I was in Nigeria but I didn’t know his name at that time. The lady who took me to Oman lied to me that someone was going to do a Western Union money transfer to her through the name on my passport so I should receive the money and deposit it in her account. There’s no greener pasture for any black person in the Arab world. That’s the truth.