The House of Representatives recently took on the Lebanese government over abuse of Nigerians. PHILIP NYAM captures the scene
The issue of trafficking of young Nigerian boys and girls across the globe has been a major problem to the nation’s authorities for quite some time. This second slavery as it is commonly called in certain circles has gained currency, especially with the increasing level of poverty in the country.
Unsuspecting young Nigerians are easily deceived with offers of non-existing attractive jobs abroad by traffickers, who feast on the ignorance of these hapless citizens. According to the United Nations (UN), thousands of women and girls from Nigeria and other African countries are trafficked every year.
“They are often lured away with promises of jobs in Europe or Asia, but usually end up being exploited as domestic maids or forced into prostitution,” the world body said. Unfortunately, Lebanon has gained notoriety in recent years as a hub for trafficked Nigerians.
Recently (May), the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed that 50 trafficked Nigerian women who were rescued from Lebanon had returned home. He said they had all been placed in quarantine following their arrival as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic.
A week ago, the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs led by Hon. Tolulope Akande Sadipe, expressed displeasure at the attitude of the Lebanese government towards Nigerians residing in their country. The committee particularly called on the Lebanese government to as matter of urgency stop victimisation of a Nigerian lady, Ms. Temitope Olamide, who was reportedly maltreated by her employers and wrongly accused of murder as well as other Nigerians undergoing same faith. The committee, which was on an oversight visit to the office of the Nigeria Immigration Service at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, frowned at the continuous maltreatment of Nigerians in Lebanon.
Hon. Fadipe stressed that the Lebanese government must be held responsible for the violation of Temitope’s rights, which is in violation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). According to her, “we Nigerians are really concerned about Temitope because in the recent past, two other Nigerian women had died in mysterious circumstances. A few months ago, a video of Temitope Ariwolo circulated on the internet regarding the violation of her human rights and that of other foreign domestic workers trafficked to Lebanon.
“However, in the case of Temitope, she has been prevented from, being repatriated back to Nigeria and is currently being charged for murder. It is very obvious that these are trumped up charges to punish this young woman for taking on her employer and the system in Lebanon. “In addition, this is also an attempt by the Lebanese Ambassador in Nigeria to pervert Justice, as he has requested that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (“NAPTIP”) release a Lebanese national on trial for human trafficking in exchange for Temitope.”
Fadipe, who gave graphic details of the story of the trafficking victim, said Temitope Olamide Ariwolo, 31 was beaten by Mahmoud Zahran, the husband of her employer, Feyzeh Diab, on April 25, at a home where they live in Choueifat, South of Beirut. “The assault on that fateful day started when Mrs. Feyzeh Diab overheard Temitope speaking on a mobile phone and accused her of stealing the device. Apparently Temitope was having a conversation with her family in Nigeria to wish her son a happy birthday as he had turned xix years old two days before the incident.
“Temitope, said that Mr. Mahmoud Zahran hit her in the mouth, causing serious bleeding. She took a video of herself, which revealed the scale of the injury. This video has since gone viral, please find attached the referenced video in my email. Furthermore, Temitope mentioned past beatings by Diab.
She is said to have also suffered abuse and sexual harassment from both Zahran and Diab. “After the case was exposed, the employer, Diab, was interrogated by the Lebanese Labour ministry. At no point during this interrogation was the accusation of murder levelled against Temitope. When the repatriation flight was arranged, Temitope, was taken to the airport by the Nigerian authorities, however, she and nine other women were prevented from boarding the flight home because Temitope’s blacklisted employer and some other employers intervened. As a result, these women were prevented from boarding the flight.
“When this incident occurred Temitope sent out a message that she was not allowed to get on the plane to Nigeria because Diab did not approve her departure from Lebanon. To date, the other Nigerian women prevented from boarding have since been released and are awaiting repatriation to Nigeria whilst Temitope is being held back and obviously cannot afford Legal representation.
“The latest news that has been brought to my attention is that Temitope has been charged with murder. This is preposterous in my opinion. Who did she murder? It is sad that this young woman’s right is further being violated because she sought greener pastures as a domestic worker in a foreign land to better the lives of her two children.”
Conducting the lawmakers round their office, the comptroller of Immigration at the airport, Sadat Hassan, disclosed that the service had upgraded its facilities and was poised to offer the best. She conducted the committee members to inspect equipment like Data Analysis System (MIDAS), capturing cameras among others.
The comptroller, however, disclosed that some top politicians constitute a bulwark to the successful execution of their mandate. She alleged that some of these politicians always put calls to them to prevent her men from arresting illegal immigrants.
Hassan also told the House Diaspora Committee members that immigration officials don’t have the right to arrest or prevent a passenger who is an adult and have a valid document for traveling. According to her, “if a citizen has valid documents and he or she is an adult, it is difficult to stop him or her; we don’t have the right to stop such a person.” She, however, disclosed that her team were able to prevent many violation of Nigerians living abroad when she was posted to Germany as an attachee.