Some of the victims
The 13 victims from Katsina State were handed over to the Chairman of the transition committee for Kankara council area, Mallam Anas Kankara on Thursday night after they had undergone profiling in Katsina. The council chairman consequently facilitated their reunion with their respective families in the council.
Alhaji Hamza Brodo, who is the Special Adviser on Narcotics, Drugs and Trafficking to Governor Aminu Masari, took the 10 victims from Gusau to Zamfara on Thursday to facilitate their reunion with their families.
The 23 victims had earlier been welcomed back to Katsina State by Masari on Tuesday, October 1. The governor assured them that the government would do all it could to arrest the man who tricked them into slavery.
Some of them shared their harrowing experiences with our correspondent shortly before the government commenced their profiling. They said they didn’t know they were being sold into slavery until they got to Burkina Faso. They said the man who tricked them out of Nigeria, promised them menial jobs with good money in that country.
One of the victims, Abubakar Hassan, said, “On arrival at Burkina Faso, we were given uniforms and other work tools to commence work, and all of us didn’t waste time to start work because we were anticipating our first payday.
‘‘Wagini and a woman (the alleged traffickers), however, began to show different sides as they were no longer friendly as they used to be. They were making excuses to be away, sometimes for weeks, and left us hungry and without money.
“Since I began work in Burkina Faso, I saw Wagini only once as he was away most of the time. He told us one day that he wanted to return home to Nigeria and would spend 14 days there. That was the last time I saw him.
“The woman overworked us for hours. She didn’t give us any wages or money for food. To our dismay, we worked without getting anything in return and lived in poor conditions. Some of us became sick in the process and had to depend on some sympathetic Nigerians and some people from the Niger Republic, who assisted us with food, and bought needed drugs for us. We lived in such a condition for three months.”
Hassan, who is from Kankara Local Government Area, further disclosed that a friend to the local leader of the Hausa community in the area where they were residing, later met them and asked why they were living in such condition.
He stated, “He was passing by one day and he saw us. He came and asked us if we were Hausa. We said yes. He asked us where we came from, and we told him we were from Katsina. He told us he was also from Katsina.
“He then asked us why our condition was the way it was, and we narrated to him how we found ourselves in the situation. He then promised to speak to the Sarkin Hausawa about us so that he could wade in and assist us.
“We were originally 39 in all, and there were those among us that decided to escape due to hardship. Five people among us escaped and trekked long distances before we were picked up by a sympathetic driver and ferried to Lagos.
“When the woman learnt about it, she panicked and tried to put measures in place to keep us from escaping. We continued to work but one day, we felt the suffering had become unbearable and that it was time to do something about it.
“Seven people among us said they wanted to leave immediately, and we called one Abubakar, who is a friend to Wagini, to tell Wagini on phone of our intention. But the woman went and reported us to the authorities.
“She said we could not leave until her money was paid back, including the money used in buying the tools we used for work. She, however, refused to let us go even after it was agreed that she would be paid for expenses incurred.
“We even reminded her that she had yet to pay us our wages and was hardly giving us anything to eat for her to allow us to go. She refused to give in for the three months we were there. We had lost all hope of ever returning to Nigeria.
“They refused to tell us what they would pay us as wages, and didn’t give us money for food; we realised that these people were up to no good and had no good plans for us. We had become slaves working for them.’’
One of the victims, Abbas Audu, said they agreed to follow the traffickers to Burkina Faso because they wanted to make a living to cater for themselves and their families.
Audu also said the woman overworked them and some of the victims became sick in the process. He added that since they had no money, they had to depend on good Samaritans for food and drugs.
Audu said, “The woman overworked us as we had to work for hours without getting paid. She even made us live in poor conditions. Some of us became sick and had to depend on some Nigerians and immigrants from the Niger Republic for drugs and other needs.
“Our condition continued like that for several months until a friend of the Hausa Chief in the area visited us and asked why we were living in such condition. We narrated what happened to him and he promised to speak to the Sarkin Hausawa so that he could wade into the matter.
“It was after much pressure that she reluctantly allowed us to go. She demanded that expenses spent on us be paid her, even though she didn’t pay us anything in wages.”
One of the victims, Ali Ali, stated that they were promised jobs that would fetch them good money once they reached Burkina Faso.
Ali further said he and other victims were transported from Kankara council area to the Benin Republic where they were handed over to a woman who later took and handed them over to a man in Burkina Faso.
He said they worked for several days without food, adding that they were treated cruelly.
He said some of them who fell ill were denied medical attention, adding that the development made them believe that they might have been sold as slaves in Burkina Faso.
Another 70-year-old victim, Muhammadu Lawal, from Zamfara State, said, “We have no knowledge about the fact that we have already been sold into slavery. Had we known that, we would have not accepted the offer to leave Nigeria for Burkina Faso. We spent at least 75 days in Burkina Faso without having access to food when needed and other basic needs.
“At times, we get food and at other times, it took us long time. We visited some people to get it until when they were tired of our requests for food.”
Aliyu Gusau, who is among the rescued victims, said, “My trip came about when our trafficker called our boss on the phone that he needed 10 persons to work. He took us to Cotonou and joined us with the woman. We were involved in hard labour without food or money.
“It took us two or three days to see the woman who bought us. Our trafficker came and we stayed for three days. He promised us that he wouldn’t deceive us. He told us that he would go to Nigeria for 14 days and return. Since then, we not seen either him or the woman.’’
The Katsina State Government, in a statement by Abdu Malumfashi, Governor Aminu Masari’s Director General (Media), earlier revealed the plight of the victims.
The statement noted that the victims were lured out of Nigeria by one Alhaji Usman from Kankara council area state, who was at large.
The statement added, “The victims, seven of whom have been assisted to return to Nigeria by the Nigerian Embassy in Burkina Faso, have already arrived Katsina State. Contrary to the news about the incident, the 31 Katsina State citizens were not kidnapped but tricked and sold into slavery in the Benin Republic to a Beninoise lady by one Alhaji Usman from Kankara town, now at large. His mobile numbers are with security and other government officials.
“The Benin lady thereafter took her ‘slaves’ to Gaoua, a town 150 kilometres from Ouagadougou, the Burkina Faso capital, where she kept them in servitude without food or money. The lady has been apprehended by the local authorities in Gaoua.