Two Nigerian girls trafficked to oil-rich Saudi Arabia to work as housemaids have been killed by their respective employers. The killings of the two young women occurred within a space of two weeks in the respective homes where they worked as servants by their Saudi bosses.
The first Nigerian girl to be murdered was by name Omotayo who until her death in June 2018 worked as a migrant domestic worker in Riyadh. She sent this photo to her friends in a group chat called “Strong Nigerian Ladies” – a solidarity group created by Nigerian migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. The group is a resort to self-help because the Nigerian Embassy in Riyadh has never for once responded to any of the SOS (Save Our Souls) telephone calls nor text messages sent by Nigerians in distress in the Gulf country.
SATELLITE TIMES female reporter was admitted into the group after convincing the group leaders that the engagement was meant to bring their plight to the African Union and the world at large. SATELLITE TIMES is involved in a field research conducted by the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa), a pan African trade union organisation with over 108 national trade union centres as its affiliates in 51 of the 55 African countries representing all categories of workers including domestic and migrant workers.
ITUC-Africa, which is championing the campaign to bring to world attention the horrific conditions of African migrants living and working in the Gulf Countries where their lives are worth less than those of camels.
ITUC-Africa field research focuses on the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The documentary has equally taken researchers to Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana; the African countries that have the highest numbers of migrant domestic workers in that region.
Omotayo, in her June post which happened to be her last, narrated to the solidarity group her latest incident of battery in the hands of the Saudi family she worked for. Her boss and the entire family had descended on her for being disrespectful to them. The maid’s only offence was that she insisted her three-month salary arrears be paid to her. She had put her foot down saying she would no longer accept excuses for the non-payment of her salaries just as she said she was tired of eating leftover food. Her action was seen as an affront.
No one can say with certainty what happened afterwards. A few days later she was dead. It is believed she must had been subjected to more beatings and torture.
While the solidarity group was mourning the death of Omotayo, another Nigerian maid was sent to early grave. The second girl was by name Shola. Her story was told by Adeola Oladipo, another housemaid in the Strong Nigeria Ladies Group:
“Shola has been constantly assaulted and starved by her sponsor in Saudi Arabia. Whenever she demands for food they would always beat her up and she became so slim like somebody with HIV.
“One day her male boss came as usual to beat her while she was doing chores in the kitchen. The beating became so severe she had to defend herself with a knife. In the process the knife cut her boss and her sponsor hit her on the neck and she collapsed. When the boss saw that Shola was dying, he rushed her to the hospital where he said she suddenly fell ill. A few days later, the Nigerian gave up the ghost in the hospital.”
According to a report by ITUC-Africa, an estimated 2.1 million migrant domestic workers continue to risk severe labour exploitation in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). However, this estimated number is most probably far higher.
Mostly women from Asia and Africa, migrant domestic workers face harsh conditions while employed in the Gulf.
Often confined to the home, they are isolated and at risk of exploitation. Commonly, they are not paid, not paid in full or not on time. The hours of work are often extreme, and some GCC countries do not set maximum hours of work in law. In those countries that regulate daily rest, workers can still be required to work up to 16 hours a day legally. Some workers are exposed to physical abuse such as beatings and sexual violence, including rape. This abuse can last for months or even years. The vast majority of migrant domestic workers are obliged to live in their employer’s home, which makes them extremely vulnerable.
A call for action
According to Joel Odigie, Coordinator of the ITUC-Africa research, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) successfully closed a campaign to improve the spaces for the defence and protection of the rights of workers in Qatar. The Qatar government made tangible commitment to improve her legislation, policies and practices that will enhance the protection of the rights of migrant workers living and working in Qatar.
Odigie added that ITUC-Africa has similarly been campaigning to improve the rights of African migrants to the GCC states especially to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who employ more African migrant workers.
“The study will help ITUC-Africa and her affiliates better understand African migrant workers trends to the GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It will catalogue the human rights’ situations of African migrant workers in these GCC states; help to analyse the legal employment frameworks in these GCC states; show whether these frameworks enhance or undermine African migrant workers’ rights; document methods by which rights’ abuses are perpetrated; document cases of rights’ abuses. The study will equally suggest ways to better address and prevent reoccurrence of these abuses”, Odigie said.
SARS Policemen keep man in dungeon, demands N2.9 million for his release
For over three months Samuel Edache, a Nigerian citizen from Nasarawa State, has been languishing in the dreaded detention facility of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS), sometimes unable to tell the difference between day and night. He is not sure what his offence is just as the Police has failed to bring forward his accuser.
In the early days of his detention, the Investigative Police Officer (IPO), only known as Mr. Adamu (telephone number withheld), demanded N500,000 from the detainee to enable him and his police team travel to Niger Republic to investigate allegations brought against Edache by an accused whose identity remains a mystery. After the detainee’s wife, Teresa Edache, had negotiated and paid in July 2018 a N100,000 “investigation fees” to the SARS operatives, the story changed. The Police investigators said they could no longer travel to Niger Republic, citing the Boko Haram insurgency and concerns for their own safety. They instead demanded that the detainee’s wife paid N2.8 million as “out-of-court settlement” with the faceless accuser.
Running to SATELLITE TIMES for help in what she said was her last resort to see that her husband’s ordeal comes to an end, Teresa Edache said her husband, who was a car dealer has not been charged to court in the three months he has stayed in the cell at F-SARS in Area 1, Abuja.
“They came to my shop in Lafia, Nasarawa State, to arrest my husband on 22nd July, 2018. I kept calling his mobile to have an idea where they had taken him to but they wouldn’t allow him pick my calls. Four days later, the SARS called me and said my husband was being detained at F-SARS in Area 1, Abuja. When I came to see him, they told me to bring 500 thousand naira for investigation, urging me to so do unless I want my husband to stay long in the police cell,” Mrs. Edache narrated.
The mother of two who must leave her one-year-old and 3-year-old children in the care of a 13-year-old nephew each time she braves the 3-hour journey by road from Lafia to Abuja added that the Police had continued to turn down her request to speak face-to-face with her husband.
“You can imagine the torture of travelling over 200 kilometres by road for hours only to get to SARS and you cannot spend even three minutes with your husband and you are made to travel another 200 kilometres back. I am allowed to only give him food. They call him out from an inner building; he comes to a window and there is a wall between us so you hand over the food and before we can exchange a few words the Police are shouting at you to leave; so, I have no opportunity to verify from him that the Police said he bought a Jeep from some armed robbers and sold it to a Customer in Niger Republic,” she revealed amidst sobs.
According to Teresa Edache’s brother who was privileged to speak with the detained man and had become involved in the efforts to secure his freedom; “the statement made by the Police IPO is that three armed robbers mentioned his (Samuel Edache) name that they stole the car and sold to him; meanwhile my brother-in-law is telling me that yes, he knows the people the Police is talking about but never as armed robbers and that the Jeep allegedly stolen from a widow cannot be the same Jeep he sold five years ago to a customer from Niger Republic”.
SATELLITE TIMES undercover reporter made it to SARS facility in Area 1 and managed to get a short interview and a photo of the detainee.
Mr. Edache suggested he was a victim of misrepresentation by an informant.
“The person who brought police to my wife’s shop is a police informant; he is working with the policemen who came to arrest me and it was the informant that mentioned my name and brought the police to my wife’s shop in Nasarawa. It is a set-up.
“The last time I had the business deal they are talking about was way back 2013 as a car dealer. I bought a car from them at 400,000 naira. But the Jeep they said was stolen happened in 2015. How can a Jeep be stolen in 2015 and I sold it in 2013? Does it mean that I bought it in 2015 and sold it in 2013?
“I need a lawyer, I don’t want any form of settlement by the police, I need a lawyer to get me out of this cell because I have no business with the criminals nor this particular stolen car”. Edache insisted.
Edache’s wife told SATELLITE TIMES that on Wednesday 5th September 2018, she was in church when the IPO called her to say she should come for a negotiation with the mystery complainant whom he had said was a widow. The idea was for the detainee to pay the widow for her allegedly stolen Jeep.
“We went there on Friday 7th September but we did not see any complainant in the station. Before then the IPO had asked me to bring 1.5 million for the payment but later when I got there with my brother the Police said the amount was now 2.8million for the jeep. They said the complainant had the receipt of the stolen vehicle.” Mrs. Edache recalled.
Eager to see the complainant with her own eyes, Teresa Edache sought to know why the widow did not show up. She was told by the IPO that the complainant would be invited to SARS only when the relatives of the robbery suspects were present at the station.
The detainee’s wife observed it was not the first time the IPO had failed to honour an arrangement made by him for her to meet with the complainant.
On one occasion of her brief exchanges with her husband, “My husband complained of having pile and being very sick; so I bought drugs for him but the Police collected it and threw it away” she lamented.
Reacting to Samuel Edache’s detention, Barrister Abrahim Abdulahim, a human rights lawyer at Path Solicitors told SATELLITE TIMES it was unlawful for the Police to detain
Edache without a legal backing and without the court giving an order for such detention.
“It is a violation of his human rights and nobody can detain someone for such a long time. Even if it is an arm robbery or terrorism case, the Police need to go to court for the court to determine it.” The lawyer explained.
Barrister Abdulahim went on to say that “maybe they have gone to court to secure an order for his detention. If there is an order from the court to detain him, then they can detain him in their cell. If there is no order of such, then it is an abuse of his rights and he can go to court to seek an enforcement of his rights and claim damages.
“It is about 10 million naira in damages for an unlawful detention. The most important thing is that whether he is a terrorist or a thief, let the court determine his detention, not the F- SARS police to keep him there for months. It is not allowed in law, they cannot do that,” he said.
It was gathered that the attention of the National Human Rights Commission Abuja has been drawn to the Samuel Edache’s case just as his wife continued to express fears that his life is in danger. Last Friday, a petition was sent to the Executive Secretary of the Commission for its intervention and protection of the rights and life of the citizen.
SATELLITE TIMES sought the response of the Nigeria Police Force over the detention of Citizen Edache. Media enquires by telephone calls, text messages and email sent to the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, were not responded to.
Army General’s wife cries out “I’m serving a jail term in my husband’s house”
Aisha Tijani, wife of a General in the Nigerian Army now retired, has cried out for rescue, saying her life is a living hell following 13 years of slavery in the soldier’s house during which she has been confined to a back room in the Boy’s Quarters, made a prisoner in her matrimonial home as she is forbidden to leave the house, denied access to visitors, forced to eat leftover foods and reduced to penury as all her businesses, including a private school, have been forcibly shut down.
Once during these 13 years when she managed to sneak out of the house to attend the dedication ceremony for the baby of a close church member, her husband, Brigadier-General Saidu Aliyu Tijani stormed the church, pounced on her, raining blows and profanities to the
horror of the guests.
The 50-year old Aisha who spoke to SATELLITE TIMES during a secret interview arranged by a neighbour narrated her ordeal saying she married the Army Officer in 1987 and that she had four children for him after which her husband became a changed person. The beleaguered woman recounted amid tears:
“The whole problem started 2006 when I was running a school in Lagos. Then, my husband was out of the country for two years. One day during the long holidays, I took my children to Jos to spend the holidays and the head mistress of the school called me on phone saying I did wrong by closing down the school without informing her. I never closed the school. I later found out that my husband had shut the school and sold the building because he never wanted me to work or do business from the beginning”, Aisha lamented.
She also recalled gaining admission to study Mass Communication at the University of Jos, but after one year in the University, her husband stopped her. Again, she enrolled into College of Education Minna, but was pulled out by her husband.
“Finally, we moved to Jos since he has sold the house in Lagos, then my husband was posted from Jos to Abuja 2006. He stopped sending us feeding allowance after the first two months, then I started taking care of the children by myself but after four months, I couldn’t take it anymore, she expressed.
“In 2007, I gathered the children and drove down to Abuja to stay with him, but he was not happy because before we came, he kept on complaining of no accommodation in Abuja. Surprisingly for me and the children when we came to Asokoro where he was living, it was a huge house. He insisted that we must go back to Jos but I refused and that was when matter got out of hand”, Aisha narrated.
Aisha who said she was literally serving a prison terms in her matrimonial home for offences not known to her added she scavenged to eat on a daily basis while her husband shopped for his own food.
“Nine months after we moved to Abuja, he came one day and said he has gotten a house for us in Suleja, Zuma Barracks in Niger state; that I and the children should leave. We moved because staying with him was frustrating and unbearable. I used my Golf car to move our things three times from Asokoro to Suleja. I complained to him about the condition of the new house because there was no light nor water and he promised to come and fix things but never did”.
When we could not endure the hardship in Suleja, we decided to join him in Abuja but the next day, he gave us N20,000 and took us to the park to go back to Suleja and we complied.
“All these went on until 2013 when he bought the house we are currently living in. He shared the rooms between our son and daughters and said the room upstairs was his and that he was not sharing it with me. Then I started sleeping in the parlour but when my son travelled to school, I moved to the boys-quarter. He doesn’t talk to me nor give me money for food or medications when am sick”.
Mrs Tijani added that in 2015, she stumbled on his husband’s Will dated 2012 and that the Will had instructions for his brother on how to share his property among the children and his brother. She said she had been married to the General for 33 years and that their first child was 32 years, the second was married and living overseas, the third was 24 years old while the last was 20 years old and a student of Covenant University.
SATELLITE TIMES sought the reaction of Brigadier General Aliyu Tijani, (rtd) over the allegations. In a telephone conversation, he initially denied having problems with his wife.
“We don’t have any problems, she is idle. Let her leave if she wants to do so”, he said.
When prodded on the Will that excluded his wife, he held nothing back saying:
“She is the one who told her pastor that I am not her husband, that she has divorced me.
“She left the house; it was her father that even came to beg me to take her back. I am just tolerating her for the sake of God and our children”, he said.
Tijani further added: “if she wants to separate, the road is very easy because I married her under Islamic law, so it’s just for her to pack away. In Islam, there is no complication in separation, you only need to say the word, ‘you are divorced, you are divorced, you are divorced; once you mention it, you are divorced’.
If I drive her to out of my house, there is no where she will go to stay, therefore I am sympathising with her because of God and the children.
Asked whether he could assist his wife in some way to stand on her feet, the General claimed he had been training their children all alone. “I have been feeding her all along, whenever I set up something for her, she will eat the money, she has not contributed kobo to the family. What kind of assistance”? he queried.
Zigi Tijani, the couple’s 24-year old son corroborated his mother’s story, saying there was nothing much the children could do to change the situation at home. He admitted his father acted like he was doing their mother a favour by letting her stay in the house, adding that he feared the worst for his mum now that the story would be out in the media.
This story was published under SATELLITE TIMES human rights investigation series
9-year old girl severely burnt by Kogi Scholarship Board’s boss
A nine-year-old girl, working as a child labourer in the home of the Executive Secretary of the Kogi State Scholarship Board, is now living with a deformed foot following a near-death experience in the hands of her Madam who pinned her feet to a hot barbecue stone until the child wailed and passed out. By the time the young girl came to, the soles of her feet were burnt with one badly so she would need a plastic surgery.
Mrs Rebecca Acheneje Omacho, the Executive Secretary, of Kogi Scholarship Board is currently facing trial at the Family High Court, Lokoja, Kogi State, for “ill-treatment of a child and causing grievous body harm”.
A neighbour who would not want her name disclosed, told SATELLITE TIMES that the maid, Favour Makola, then 9 years old had, “…her foot forced onto a hot stone and held down until the sole of her foot peeled off. The neighbour immediately called the Police who rescued, and rushed the girl to Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Lokoja for treatment.”
The case file sighted by this newspaper showed that at age 9, Makola “was already working as a labourer, cleaning the house and preparing meals for the household. She was subjected to daily mental and physical torture by Omacho, her aunt, making her lose the smartness and intelligence that started manifesting in her early childhood. She was also deprived the opportunity of going to school.”
SATELLITE TIMES gathered that little Makola planned to escape but each time her plots were thwarted by her guardian who as a routine kept her like a prisoner, locking her in before departing for work each day. But determined to break the no-to-school rule, the little girl on a certain day scaled the fence of the house and went to school. Thereafter the boss of the scholarship board became furious and unleashed physical violence on her, for flouting her rule.
Arrested in 2017 for child abuse, Mrs Omacho subsequently had her appointment as Executive Secretary of the Kogi State Scholarship Board terminated.
Speaking on the incident, Oluwakemi Omeiza Usman, the legal counsel for the State enthused: “Yes, her appointment was terminated because of the incident. The case is still ongoing until justice is done. The suspect is on bail but comes to court for sittings”.
Favour has since been re-united with her parents while her condition is being monitored by the State Welfare Department.
The case has earned Kogi, one of the few States that has domesticated the Child Right Act, applause from human rights activists and civil society organisations. However, the Kogi State Coordinator, Action Aid Project, Kehinde Orowosegbe observed that incidents of rape of minor and child abuse in the state are on the increase.
“There are numerous cases of rape being reported daily. In several cases, the parents of the victims will go to the police station to beg that the case be settled out of court because of family ties and stigma” observed Orowosegbe.
This story was published under SATELLITE TIMES human rights investigation series
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