Lady who survived Trafficking and Labor abuse warn girls about traveling to Oman for jobs
25 years old Oyinlola Solanke is a survivor of human trafficking to Oman.
After surviving the hard labour she was put through as a maid, the mother of two who hold a diploma in Local government studies from Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, is now a humanitarian personnel and an activist against any form of trafficking.
She shared her story stating that she had to fake her fathers death in order to be allowed back home in Nigeria.
Solanke tells her story
“I am a survivor of human trafficking. Sometime ago, last year in April, I had some personal issues with the father of my children. I didn’t have a job at that moment. I kept complaining to his family that he was not being responsible. He was not helping me out with the two children I have and it was so hard taking care of them alone since I don’t have a job. I used to live with my mum with the two children, so I called him for us to get an apartment in Ibadan so that we can stay together. He agreed but few weeks before the time we were supposed to move to Ibadan, he called that he got a job in Lagos. I asked him ‘what about us? He said that he does not care. I insisted that I will come to Lagos to see the job and I found out that he works for his cousin’s husband. That was my first time of meeting his cousin and I decided to confide in her. I told her to help talk to him to be more responsible towards his children. During the conversation the fact that I don’t have a job came up and she told me that her younger sister is in Dubai working. Then she said that her sister told her that there is an opportunity to work in Dubai. I agreed. At first they did not tell me the nature of the job. All they said was that I should send the data page of my passport and at that time, my passport had expired. I had to renew my passport and there was no money for that. I borrowed the money to renew my passport and I also had to do a police report. When I went to do the police report, I filled in Dubai as the destination I was going to because that was the country they kept mentioning to me. Till that time, they have not told me the nature of the job. After I sent the data page of my passport to them, within three days, the visa came out. When I told the lady in Dubai that my police report is ready, that was when she asked me where I filled as my destination, I told her I filled Dubai. She told me no, that the place I am going is not that far from Dubai that it is more like from Lagos to Abuja.”
“Not knowing she was just trying to trick me. The place that they were sending me was Oman. Oman is a different country even though it is not far from Dubai. I had to borrow money again to do another police report to correct it to Oman. They sent me my ticket any by the time the visa was out, that was when I found out that I was going to be working as a maid for a family. I was a bit reluctant. When I went to tell the cousin to the father of my kids, she was angry with me. She said that she has heard so much about me that I am a proud person. That I don’t have a job and I am being picky. That was when I decided to change my mind. I wanted to still be with the father of my kids and I didn’t want to have problems with the family. So I agreed and traveled. I had a few hitches in Kenya airport which delayed me. when I got to Oman, I got to understand that the lady that sent me there asked the family for money for me to renew my passport which she never gave me and she was demanding I pay her all she spent for the visa including that of the passport renewal. The family I was to work for insisted that they will collect my passport and I refused. I told them I paid for my passport myself, that was when they told me that they paid for that too through the woman and she never told me. At first when I got to the family I was to work for, I was ok. They were nice. But the labour was just too much. I felt that as a maid, it is normal to go through labour abuse; I mean you are there to serve them. I wake up 5am and work, work that most times I forget to eat. I sleep like past midnight or 1am and I am still going to wake up at 5am again.”
Solanke explained that though she was given time to rest but the work load is too much for just one person. Her biggest fear started when the man of the house started making advances towards her.
“Sometimes I rest but when the work is just too much, the time they give me to sleep will pass and I am still working. I always tell them in Nigeria that I am fine. I always console myself because of my two kids because nothing good comes easy. The time I started having problems and I decided that I was going to come back was when my boss started disturbing me for sex. He would come to my room every night trying to have sex with me. I always battle with him, it becomes a fight. The only thing that helped me was that his wife was a full time house wife. It is only the little times she goes out to go get groceries or to greet her family that he would come and meet me. if the wife was a working class, I am very sure he would have succeeded. There was a time he hit me and my face was swollen. The wife asked me, I had to lie that I hit my face with fear that if I tell her, it would have been my words against his. I sent the pictures of my swollen face to Aunty Kehinde Okoroafor in Nigeria. Because of my boss constant barging into my room to try to have sex with me, I made up my mind that I don’t want to stay anymore. I called my family but there was nothing they could do. I contacted Mrs. Kehinde Okoroafor and she started paying attention to me. She called me every day to find out how I was doing. I had to plan with my friends. I sent a message to Efe Smith, a guitarist and told him to send a message to me the following day at 7pm to tell me that my dad is gone. I told him to act like he is my brother. I started telling all my friends to start pretending that I had lost my dad. They day I got the message, I pretended and started crying. I told them to give me my passport that I have to go to Nigeria. I said that I need to send my data page for my family to pay for my ticket back home.”
Solanke confirmed that if not for these staged acting, they would not have allowed her to come back home.
“No way. It is a contract and they will tell you that they have paid for your life and you cannot go until two year. At that time, I had stayed over six months. I already know that if you stay six months, you have paid of whatever money they spent on you. Before I left Nigeria, they told me that my salary would be 150,000 but when I got to Oman, what they paid me was 70 Omani Rial. In Naira, it’s not up to N70,000 monthly. I went through a lot. At the time I was faking the death of my dad, I could not eat or sleep. I lived in fear. Few weeks before I came back to Nigeria, I used to sleep in the bathroom because that was the only place where I was safe.
“The wife of my boss does not allow me to lock the door of my room. I can only close it. They too do not lock their room. They have this mentality that someone can die in their sleep and they won’t be able to open the door. Locking the do would have been the best way to keep the man away, since I could not do that, I started sleeping in the bathroom which was the only place I could lock up because he was always coming to me every night. I slept in that bathroom for weeks, sometimes I don’t even sleep. I will sit on the WC till morning. Sometimes I will be chatting with Mrs Kehinde and she would cry on the phone with me. When they allowed me to go, they said I have to book my ticket myself. Aunty Kehinde had to raise a campaign for me. The campaign was ‘Please help Oyinlola Get Back To Nigeria’. Many though it was a scam when she posted on facebook. Many helped out; some gave all they had in their account to help me. When my mum’s brothers finally booked my ticket, I told aunty Kehinde that we would return the money of many that helped. I saw the screenshot of someone that had only N5,000 in their account and donated N4,000. My coming back was just God’s intervention. I didn’t even allow my boss take me to the airport because I was afraid they can do something to me. At the airport I even saw a lady that spent only six days in Oman. She could not stand the labour.”
Solanke has been using her story to stop young girls in search of a better job abroad from travelling to Oman.
She stated that she will be launching a walk against human trafficking and labour soon to create awareness about the risks.
She also noted that Information reaching her suggests that many women and girls are moving from Ibadan, Osun state to Oman without knowing what they are going there to face there.