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.
EXCLUSIVE: Pregnant woman recounts ordeal in military detention
-I was handcuffed and leg-chained and kept in a toilet for 9 days
Norah Moses Gyang (referred to as Noroh Dung in previous reports) in an exclusive interview with SATELLITE TIMES newspaper narrates her ordeal in military captivity following her arrest and detention on October 3 in Du district of Jos, the Plateau State capital.
SATELLITE TIMES had reported how Norah, a heavily pregnant 20-year-old woman, was abducted in an early-morning military operation that indiscriminately netted 37 citizens – 28 men and 9 women.
Though the Army in a text message sent to this newspaper by Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relation, denied claims of arrest of any pregnant woman, Norah’s narration gives an insight to the siege by the Nigerian Army in search of a missing General. Excerpts:
“The soldiers invaded my neighbourhood in the early hours of the morning of 3rd October 2018. It was around 5.30 am but the morning was still very dark light night. I was heavily pregnant and due for delivery soon but the soldiers dragged me out of bed and took me away together with my mother-in-law. We were all in doors; no one had stepped out of their rooms. In fact, some people were still sleeping when the soldiers came. We heard several rounds of gunshots. We had no idea who the invaders were and why they were shooting. I immediately went into a panic attack. Before we could fully realise what was going on, soldiers had taken over the vicinity.
They went from house to house kicking in the doors. They were screaming and ransacking and smashing everything in the house as they went from room to room. I had no idea what they were looking for. I must have passed out with fright because when I became conscious of what was going on again, everything around me was spinning. Then I could hear people screaming as the soldiers began to hit them, demanding to know the whereabouts of the missing General (retired Major General Idris Alkali). The beating continued and eventually we were all dragged to the Rukuba Army Barrack.
Fed once a day
The soldiers fed us once a day. At times we would not even see food to eat. We were not allowed to say a word, not to the soldiers and not to our fellow detainees. So, you couldn’t even open your mouth to say you are hungry or that you needed water to drink. We were dumped in a toilet, five of us cramped in one toilet.
We were about 58 people and I was the only pregnant person; though we were five women. The rest were men and they were kept where the soldiers use to rear goats. Every body was chained in groups to the next person. We were leg-chained and even handcuffed; we could not move from one place to another. Even if you’re going to urinate, there was an armed soldier to escort you. Even if you want to use the toilet, if you get the permission, you must drag along the person chained to you. But that was nothing compared to the beating and physical punishment people received on the first day of our arrest. But after that first day, none of us was again assaulted.
But the scars of those beatings are still very visible, especially on the men. Yes, people were really hurt that first day. If you see some of the men today, their skins from their toes to their backs are peeling off because of the punishments and the horrible condition of the floor of the goat house.
Baby still unborn
We were the first set of detainees to be kept in that place in Rukuba Barrack. I spent nine days in detention. The saddest thing is that nobody has told me what my offence was. I am still living with the trauma. It is difficult to shake it off. The most difficult aspect was that I was not allowed to speak or cry out in my agony throughout my detention. When I was released, words were not coming out easily from my mouth. It was like learning how to talk all over again.
I am still suffering even after I had regained freedom. Because the whole thing has also affected my unborn baby apparently. I was due for delivery last month (September) but as I speak to you now, the baby has refused to come out. This is the most shattering experience I have had since I was born.”
Missing General: Detained PUNCH journalist saw heavily pregnant woman in Army dungeon in Jos
While agitations trail the detainment of a heavily pregnant 20-year-old woman, Noroh Dung, new revelations about her arrest and possible identity has been made following the arrest of Friday Olokor, a Plateau State Correspondent of THE PUNCH newspaper in Jos.
Noroh was on midnight of October 2 arrested on suspicions of probable links to the disappearance of a retired Army General by name Idris Alkali who according to Maj. Gen. Augustine Agundu, Commander, Special Task Force in charge of security on the Plateau, was a victim of fracas at Dura, when irate youths blocked roads and attacked travelers following the invasion of the community on September 2.
The 3rd Division Nigerian Army has remained in denial about the identity of Noroh, refuting claims that she was in their custody. “No such name in our custody,” Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations said in response to a text sent to him by SATELLITE TIMES newspaper.
The arrest of Olokor has further revealed how the Nigerian Army in their search and rescue operation indiscriminately arrested and detained 37 people comprising of 28 men and 9 women.
According to Olokor the raid happened on October 6 in Rayfield area of Jos when about 30 masked men swooped in and started shooting indiscriminately at sight and arrested every human being they sighted.
“My initial feeling during the shooting was that they were either the Fulani herdsmen (who had been a thorn in the flesh of the Berom ethnic nationality), fake soldiers on military uniform or Boko Haram. Many of them were masked,” he said as he narrated his encounter.
“Passers-by were not spared; women and persons who were living in nearby houses were picked. Even my identification that I’m a journalist with PUNCH Newspapers didn’t help matters as they did not even want to see my Identity Card. We were 37 victims of invasion, 28 men and 9 women” he added.
As he further narrated his ordeal, he said 28 of the men arrested were taken to the 3rd Division of the Nigerian Army in Rukuba Barracks, where they were kept in an uncompleted building.
There in the dungeon, they were greeted by 30 persons who were also detainees including an unidentified pregnant woman who is suspected to be Noroh Dung, the 20-year-old who was arrested during the search and rescue operation at Dura district in Jos.
Olokor’s narrative gives authority to SATELLITE TIMES report on the missing 20-year-old Noroh Dung whose arrest has been vehemently denied by the Nigerian Army.
Prior to the arrest of Olokor and the 36 others on October 6, the Nigerian Army had earlier arrested 30 suspects in Du district of Jos South LGA, in connection with the disappearance of Mr. Alkali.
While the army has remained in denial of Noroh’s arrest and detainment, it is suspected that more pregnant women could be sharing the same fate at the 3rd Division of the Nigerian Army in Rukuba Barracks.
Missing General: Heavily pregnant woman held captive by Nigerian Army in Jos
The fate of Noroh Dung, a heavily pregnant 20-year-old woman is still unknown as she was allegedly whisked away by operatives of the Nigerian army during a search and rescue operation in Latiya-Dura Dwei, Du district of Plateau state.
The reason why Noroh was arrested between midnight of October 2 and 3 still remains a mystery as the Army has remained silent.
According to a family member, Kaneng Rwang-pam, who spoke to SATELLITE TIMES, Noroh was arrested on suspicions of probable links to the disappearance of an Army General by name Idris Alkali, a move she said was baseless.
Prior to Noroh’s arrest, the community was on September 2 attacked by suspected Fulani herdsmen, leaving 13 persons killed.
Following aftermath of the attack on the community, Mr. Alkali was reported missing by mainstream newspapers and broadcast houses, which spurred the Nigerian Army into a frantic search for the missing General.
Mr. Alkali had been reported missing since September 3, a day after Dura was attacked by the suspected assailants. According to Maj. Gen. Augustine Agundu, Commander, Special Task Force in charge of security on the Plateau, Mr. Alkali was a victim of fracas at Dura, when irate youths blocked roads and attacked travelers following the invasion of the community.
Acting on intelligence report, the Army embarked on an eight-day search that involved evacuating water from a pond. On Saturday, September 29, about 7 pm, they eventually found the car of Mr. Alkali with registration number MUN-670-AA Kwara State.
Worried about the mental and physical health of Noroh, who’s EDD (Expected Date of Delivery) was the last week of September, Kaneng, a group of journalists and members of civil society responded to the information received by a close member of Noroh’s family.
The family is also mourning the death of another family member, Pam Luka Bot who according to Kaneng was a victim of the recent search and rescue mission.
Kaneng and the group on October 4 mobilized themselves to Latiya-Dura Dwei to ascertain the true state of things but were denied access by the military at Dwei. The entire community was on lock down, Kaneng said.
“We were turned back by the military at Dwei. No one was granted access to Latiya. It appeared the entire community is on lock down with no sign of life.
“The nearest check point which is the BUKEN Academy checkpoint maintained by the STF (Special Task Force) & the Gbong Gwom Jos, looked abandoned,” she said as she narrated their experience.
She also added that as they tried to explain their mission, the soldiers on ground at the community became aggressive and advised that they left for their own safety.
Kaneng who sounded audibly worried in a telephone call to SATELLITE TIMES expressed concerns over the unlawful detainment and violation of Noroh’s civil liberty and human rights.
“This also contravenes the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on the treatment of women in conflict situations which clearly stipulates protection of women as one of the 5 pillars,” she said.
Speaking to SATELLITE TIMES newspaper, Major Umar Adams of the Operation Safe Haven Jos said he was not in the right position to speak on the issue and directed our reporter to get an official response from Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations.
According to Mr. Adams, the 3rd Division Nigerian Army is in charge of the search and rescue operation, adding that his team (Operation Safe Haven) was acting as collaborators.
When this paper contacted Mr. Ogunsanya for an official response, he did not pick his calls but later responded to a text sent to him saying “No such name in our custody.”
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