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Edo Women

Why Edo ladies no longer go to Italy

Written by Uchechukwu Olisah 24 November 2012

The search for the Golden Fleece which basically drove Edo youths, particularly those of Benin extraction, to Europe in the late 80s and early 90s, is today, no longer a fad. The mass movement to some of the countries of Europe namely Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium appears to have considerably dropped in the past few years. These migrants, a number of them illegal, especially the girls, ended up mainly in prostitution, while the men engaged in menial jobs and illegal drugs business.

The trades were a thing of pride for those plying them and members of their families. It was an era when dollars, and later, Euros, flowed in, and the senders of the foreign currencies and members of their families and, sometimes friends and well wishers, relished. Any family which did not have anyone – woman or man, especially young woman – abroad, had not started. That family was a laughing stock, a societal unit lagging behind in the fashion of the time.

This boom in sex trade got to a stage it became an organised business with worldwide network of sponsors and recruiters who with promises of better employment and opportunities of making quick money,  lured young women for reasons ranging from poverty, illiteracy, and bandwagon effect to greed, to Europe under slavish conditions. 

In the first 20 years or so, it was tales of success, of quick money. The Italos, as the women are fondly referred to, and Jandos, as the men are called in local parlance, ‘made it’ and returned home with ‘triumph.’ They came back with, or sent home exotic cars, built modern houses, sank boreholes to provide water, and made lots of foreign currencies available for their people to have good life.  Indeed, these were the years a popular singer named Ohenhen came out with a hit song celebrating the wealth of a popular Italo whom he extolled for her generosity.

The consequences, some of which were insidious, did not matter then. What mattered was the success of that moment. Some people travelled with the consent of their families, just as others either by themselves or through collusion sold off some of their families’ properties, particularly parcels of land and buildings, to sponsor their trips. In fact, there was no stigma attached to the whole phenomenon. It was a case of if one came back with money, even if they were a prostitute or commercial sex worker as some people put it, they were honoured and respected. But if one came back poor, they were sex workers, they were failures and they were laughed at.

However, what was thought to be a success started taking its toll. Some of them got badly beaten up, others became diseased, yet others died without a trace. A number of them also came to the realisation of their slavish condition when they got to know about the thousands of dollars or Euros they had to pay as settlement or sponsorship fee when they got to their trafficked destination.

The image of the people of the state and indeed that of the state got bruised. Some of them were hit by deportation. Others ended up in jail. Some of them later got to know that whether deported or not, their families back home had fleeced them. It became a tale of woes, all of which, individually or collectively, left them in a tragic state, sometimes without the will to try again.

Observers attribute this declining trend to greater education, more public enlightenment and awareness regarding the dangers of illegal immigration, prostitution and illicit drugs trade and the continued global economic recession which left Europe as one of the most troubled continents.

This increase in the creation of awareness, education and enlightenment on the dangers of the then fashionable mass movement to Europe was mounted by the Oba of Benin,Idia Renaissance, churches, non-governmental organisations and concerned individuals, as well as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Offences Commission (NAPTIP), among others.

The combined efforts of these individuals, institutions and organisations have no doubt helped in stemming the tide of the craze for going abroad and led to the introduction of an anti-prostitution bill, its passage by the Edo State House of Assembly and the signing it into law by then Governor Lucky Igbinedion. The law, which was introduced as an executive bill, provides severe penalties for sex trade practitioners and their sponsors.

The law, cited as the “Criminal Code (Amendment) Law 2000,” amended some of the provisions of the criminal code law cap 48 laws of Bendel State 1976 as applicable to Edo State.

The law prohibits any person from sponsoring a girl or woman by giving her any financial, physical or material assistance to enable her travel out of Nigeria for the purpose of becoming a prostitute or to carry out any immoral act.

It stipulates that any person, who administers any oath on a woman or girl or performs any fetish ritual to enable her to travel out of Nigeria for the purpose of becoming a prostitute or to have unlawful carnal knowledge with any person is guilty of an offence. On conviction, such a person will be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment or to pay a fine of N500,000 or both.

The law also has it that any female person who knowingly offers herself for the purpose of prostitution or carry out any immoral act within or outside Nigeria, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to an imprisonment for two years or pay a fine of N20,000.

Also, any man who patronises any woman in an act capable of being called prostitution is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to two years’ imprisonment or to a fine of N10,000, just as “any woman who lures or induces any male with gratification for the purpose of having carnal knowledge with her is guilty of an offence and, if convicted is liable to two years’ imprisonment or a fine of N10,000 or both.”

The law provides for a prison term of 10 years or a fine of N500,000 for those who lure or induce women into prostitution if they are found guilty of the offence. In addition, they will forfeit any property acquired through prostitution to the state.

During the Igbinedion administration, some of sex trade practitioners and sponsors were arrested and charged to court. The Federal Government agency, NAPTIP, has also done a number of arrests and prosecutions of offenders, and has continued to do so. The agency has even secured a number of convictions, with many of the convicts jailed or asked to pay fines, or both.

Besides, with more and better formal education, acquisition of technical and vocational education, and greater entrepreneurial skills, young men and women of Edo origin, particularly Benin kingdom, started having, exploring and exploiting noble opportunities.

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