Big Story

My ordeal in Lebanon…and lucky escape, by Gloria Bright, Lebanon returnee

Mrs. Gloria Taye Bright…lucky escapee

All she wanted was to improve on her lot in life. Or, who wouldn’t want to lose a N14,000 a month job for that of N100,000+ a month? But that, in an uncanny twist of fate, was Gloria Taye Bright’s undoing–the quest for a better life for herself and her family, that is. For, that was how she found herself in troubled Arab Lebanon and to her entrapment…until help came from fatherland. In this report, another exclusive from the AbeyaNews stable, IHECHUKWU SUNDAY recounts the ordeal of this delectable Nigerian lady who was almost frustrated to death by a system that pays a tertiary institution graduate, a wife and mother at that, a paltry N14,000 (less than 50 cents) a month!  

Initially, the exodus tilted towards Europe, using Libya and Tunisia as escape routes. But, in the last couple of years, new frontiers have been discovered. These include the Middle East countries like the United Arab Emirate, Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman and Dubai, among others, where Nigerian youths emigrate, sometimes irregularly to get jobs. Most often, these vulnerable youths are promised jobs that are too mouth-watering to resist but which in reality do not exist there. They only discover to their chagrin that they have been deceived and lured into a kind of life they never bargained for. That is for those who survive to tell their stories. Many would be killed without a trace, while their families keep looking forward to seeing them some day.

However, very recently, a video of 27 Nigerian girls stranded in Lebanon and appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari, non-governmental organizations and well-meaning Nigerians to come to their aid trended in the social media. That drew attention to what is happening to Nigerians, nay African migrants, in not only Lebanon but also other countries in the Middle East.

Gloria Taye Bright, a native of Eruko in Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State, North-Central Nigeria, had a raw taste of what life holds for an African migrant in Lebanon. A National Diploma holder in Accounting and a teacher in a private school in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, before the ill-fated journey to Lebanon, Gloria was married with two children, a boy and a girl.

Genesis

Like most irregular migrants, Gloria was introduced to a Lebanese man in Nigeria by her sister, who had already gone to Lebanon ahead of her. Her sister told her that there was a teaching job in Lebanon and that the Lebanese could help to connect her with a family that would require her services as a teacher. She was told she would be paid $300 per month teaching English language in Lebanon. Already she was teaching Social Studies, Business Studies, English and PHE in a private secondary school in Nigeria where she earned N14,000 per month. So, on learning that she would be earning $300 per month in Lebanon, which when changed into Naira would amount to over N100,000 per month, she became so excited that she didn’t think twice about the offer.

The journey

Having been brainwashed and her consent obtained, the Lebanese, Mr. Wafic Hamza went to work and started processing her travel papers, which were procured in record time.

And, on October 25, 2019, poor Gloria took off to Lebanon, oblivious of what awaited her over there. Although she did not spend so much money in Nigeria, Mr. Hamza told her that she would forfeit her first two-month salary to be able to offset all the money spent to send her to Lebanon. The elated Gloria agreed without hesitation, believing that after two months, she would start making her own money

Drama at airport

When they got to the immigration office at the airport, she was told to tell the officers that she was going to Lebanon on her aunt’s invitation. They warned her not to tell the immigration officers what she actually wanted to go to Lebanon for. That was how she scaled the immigration hurdle. This ought to have been a good reason for her to think twice about the journey but she was so engrossed in thoughts about the amount of money she would be earning in Lebanon that she never trusted her hunches again. So, her sense of reasoning was temporarily imprisoned.

New twist

Barr. Julia Donli, DG, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP)

“When I got there, they welcomed me and asked me what I was told that I was coming to do and I told them. They didn’t have any problem with that. I started teaching the kids English language, and helping out with their assignments. Sometimes, I would even go to school with the kids to assist them. I taught them for almost one month before the music changed. The man is a soldier and his wife is a teacher. The wife informed me that I was brought to them as a domestic servant and not to teach any English,” she said.

Gloria was told that her agent lied to her. At that point, she had no choice but to accept work as a house help. Meanwhile, the $300 which was initially promised her was slashed by half. They told her she would be receiving $150 per month. Again, she didn’t have any choice but to accept.

Man’s inhumanity to man

She started working as a maid and that was when she knew that she had been sold into slavery and if she did not do something urgent, she could die and her body fed to carnivores just like others before her.

Narrating her ordeals, she said: “I was introduced to a very hard work. I would wake up by 4am to start to work and I would not close until 12 mid-night. I would clean the house, scrub and mop the floors, clean the walls, the ceiling, climb the ladder and jump like a monkey, wash clothes, cook and do other things without any rest. There is no rest at all. I developed chest pain and became so sick.”

When she became very sick, she called her agent in Nigeria and explained to him what had happened; how she was no longer doing the teaching job as promised but domestic chores, but he told her to manage the work because there was no job anywhere. She pleaded with him to assist her to return home since the job specification had changed but he refused.

“If there is no more work to do, I will sleep by 12 mid-night but if there are still things to do, I could go on until 1am or even 2am. I work round the clock. I work every day, from Monday to Sunday; no rest. Sometimes, when I plead with them to allow me rest, they would ask me to sit down, bend my head and rest for like 20 minutes and continue. They would never allow you to go inside and rest; you will just have to sit down where you are working, bend down your head and rest for 20 minutes before you continue.

“When my chest pain started, they told me that I had a disease and that I should pay back the visa fee, passport fee and all the expenses they made on my behalf for the trip. That was when I knew that it wasn’t my agent but my employers that catered for my travel expenses. Meanwhile, my agent had told me that I would use my first two-month salary to pay back,” she added.

Ransom introduced

She was required by her employer to pay $2500 to offset all the expenses made to bring her to Lebanon or she would be sold to another family where her duties would be doubly redoubled.

“They calculated the whole money to be about $2500 and they said that unless I paid the money back, they would never allow me to go back to Nigeria. They even threatened to sell me off to another family that would make my life more miserable if I failed to pay back the $2,500,” Gloria further narrated.

Between devil and deep blue sea

The choice of either paying $2500 or being sold to another family was akin to one being between the devil and the deep blue sea. How on earth could she raise $2,500 when she had barely spent three months on a salary of $150 per month? Would she remain silent and allow the family to sell her into perpetual slavery? She was in a precarious situation.

Sexual harassment dimension

As Gloria was racking her brain on how to extricate herself from the looming doom, the man began to harass her sexually. Although his wife was not aware of the new development, Gloria said the man would always come back when his wife had gone to work and demand that she should start massaging him. When she told him that she was not there to satisfy his sexual orgies but to work as a domestic servant, he made mouth-watering offers including paying her more money if only she could massage him and satisfy him sexually but she stood her ground. Irked by Gloria’s uncompromising stand on the matter, he wanted to apply physical force but Gloria had to employ her native sense to avert the looming danger.

Waist bead magic

Gloria quickly remembered her waist bead and used it to save the situation. She told the man that the bead on her waist was not ordinary, and that it had mystic powers that would instantly kill any man who slept with her apart from her husband.

“So, that was what scared him and he dropped the idea of forcing me to make love to him. But, it wasn’t easy,” she added.

Having failed in his bid to turn Gloria into his sex toy, he planned to sell her off if she failed to pay back $2500.

“He actually wanted to do that because when he took me to the office, in fact a prison where they put Nigerian girls, he handed me over to them. But, when they ran a check on me, they discovered that I actually had a chest pain, so they told him to go and treat me first. So, he took me back home and asked me to start calling my people to bring the money so he could release me. They gave me a time frame within which to raise the money or they would sell me off to a place where my people would never see me again. At that time, my agent had stopped picking my calls,” she narrated.

Her uncle’s intervention

She was lucky her employers did not know she had a phone that had internet facilities. She shot a video detailing what she was going through and called on her people and Nigerians to help raise the money so she could be free. The video, as usual, went viral and her uncle who lives in the United States saw it and that was it.

Hon. (Mrs.) Abike Dabiri-Erewa, DG, Diaspora Commission

“My uncle in the US saw the video and responded. He was the one that provided the $2, 500 with which my agents used to pay my employers before I was released to come back home,” she said.

Did she collect any payment at the end of the day? She said: “They didn’t pay me in dollars. They paid me in Lira, the Lebanese money. I am still with the money because I came back with it and I can’t make use of it. Even at that, they only paid me for two months instead of three months which could have been $450.”

Back to Nigeria

On January 14, 2020, Gloria was returned to Nigeria safe and sound. She is among the lucky ones. She only spent three months and some days before she was rescued. Many went and never returned. They died or were killed and nobody even saw their dead bodies.

But, God was with her because even her State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, became interested in her case. He personally went to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, to pick her up on her return and drove her straight to Ilorin.

The Governor made promises to Gloria but is yet to fulfill them. The National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) was also in the picture as well as the Rescue Africans In Slavery (RAIS). They all rallied round to ensure that she was brought back. NAPTIP equally ensured that the agent in Nigeria, Hamza, was arrested, prosecuted and sent to jail, where he is currently serving a seven-year jail term. NAPTIP also made sure that Gloria took part in the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) reintegration and empowerment training programme, after which she would be re-established. She is still awaiting IOM’s fund.

Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, Governor, Kwara State

However, one of the organizations that saw to her safe return, Phemnick Life Support, played a key role in her life. The organization rehabilitated her, gave her accommodation in Lagos and offered her employment. “Today, I work with Phemnik Life Support and I am so grateful to them. I also thank the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), which swiftly arrested Hamza and made him face the full wrath of the law,” she stated.

Fate of Nigerians in Lebanon

The fate of Nigerians in Lebanon, according to Gloria, is very gloomy. “They are really suffering. It is not a place where people can go. They enslave the girls; turn them into sex machines and all that. A lot of them are pregnant. They also kill a lot of them and dump their bodies inside water. It is not easy for Nigerians girls. There is nothing there. It is not as they paint it. Until you get there, you won’t know the place is like a war zone.

“There is no freedom. We don’t feed well. They lock us up inside and go to work. We are always indoors. Even if the house catches fire, you will be burnt inside because they lock you up and go to work with the keys. You eat what they give you not what you like. There is no rest and there is no medical treatment. If you are sick, they don’t take you to hospital. The highest drug they give us, no matter the kind of sickness is Panadol, and if after 10 minutes of rest you don’t get better, they will threaten to sell you. They would say you are not capable so they will take you to prison and get another person. And if you die, they will package you in a polythene bag and dump you. A lot of girls in my group died and they packaged their bodies and dumped them.”

Would she travel to Lebanon if given another opportunity? She said: “If I should go back to Lebanon, it will be to get justice for all the Nigerian girls there. I will be there to protest and campaign for the release of all the Nigerian girls there. I don’t wish my enemy to go there again.”

Hard truth

Gloria’s message to millions of youth out there is that there is no place like Nigeria. Government only needs to do the needful and the youths will stop moving en masse out of the country.

She said: “I never knew that Nigeria is okay until after my journey to Lebanon. Nigeria is okay, the only thing is for the government to empower the youths. A lot of Nigerians will finish school without a job. When I was teaching, I was collecting N14, 000 per month and I was teaching three classes; JS 1, 2 and 3. The money was too small, so when the offer of $300 came in Lebanon, I grabbed it. If they pay us very well here, nobody will go out there. We only tried our luck seeking greener pasture. There is nothing out there. Nigeria is okay. Countries like Libya, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Dubai and Oman are not good for Nigerian girls and even men. The jobs they promise in these countries do not exist in reality.”

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button
Close
Close