Women trafficking from Nigeria is well organized. A Nigerian-based female called "Mama" or "Madam" plays a key role in recruiting and persuading young women to leave their Nigeria for Italy. Young women as young as 14 years are often enticed with the offer to work or study abroad, by physical threats or payments made to her family. Afterwards the deal is done. She is sold into slavery and forced to embark on a very long treacherous journey by land and sea to the ultimate destination, Italy. Before departing Nigeria they are made to swear oaths of secrecy to hold every information in confidentiality. However, on their way, the girls undergo many initiation rites including repeated gang-rapes, forced oral and anal sex, drug and sex orgies, etc to test their will to survive. Those who couldn't make it through the brutal rituals are sent back.
There are three levels of organization in the trafficking of Nigerian women and girls: A "Madam" living in Nigeria; the Nigerian "Madam" living in Italy; and the third, the "messengers," the persons transferring the money from Italy to Nigeria.
In another style of recruitment, prostitution is hidden by women claiming they are in well-paying jobs and need assistance to handle the volume of business. They make friends with unsuspecting young girls and shower them with lavish gifts. The girls are then gradually introduced into such business as hostesses, out-call prostitutes, club dancers, beauticians, masseuses, strippers, pornographic video actresses, entertainers, etc. Women in these positions are frequently trafficked. Since many of the girls are already in similar circumstances in Nigeria taking it abroad, for them, is not a problem. Some of them are aware of what they are going to do in Italy; some are intentionally deceived with prospects of an artistic career as dancers or actresses.
Nigerian girls are contracted in the suburbs of cities, such as Lagos or Benin City, and in the countryside in the south and east. Madams act as "go-betweens" for girls and women and the traffickers. Money is sent to the madam to pay the debt to the traffickers and to the girls’ families.
The trafficking of women to Europe is now a well-known phenomenon in Edo state. Many women therefore know they are likely to work as prostitutes if they agree to travel to Europe. However, they may have little understanding of the conditions under which they will work and of the size of the debt they will incur.
In anticipation of leaving Nigeria and helping one's family out of poverty, it is tempting for these women to believe in promises about good jobs. Whether this means being duped, or deceiving one's self, is not obvious. Importantly, the fact that the women may have known, or ought to have understood, that they would have to work as prostitutes does not excuse or legitimate subsequent abuse.
The women are particularly easily controlled because they and their families are forced to pay back huge debts to the trafficking organization for the cost of their trip and related expenses. It can take several years to pay off these debts.
Debts for travel are supposed to be paid off in 6 months, but in the majority of the cases after three or four years, the girls are still in prostitution to pay back the debt they owe.
A Nigerian madam, or "Mama," supervises and controls the women and girls. She organizes their activities and collects their profits in Italy. The women physically and psychologically fear the "Mama."
Very few of the women trafficked to Italy wish to return to their country of origin. Some say there are no opportunities there. Some fear reprisals from the traffickers, and others are ashamed to return without being able to show that they have been successful abroad. Unfortunately, some of them die in the process and never realize that goal.
The stories about so-called “pirates” seizing ships off the coast of Somalia that have peppered the international imperialist media for at least the past year or two became center stage with the April 8 seizure of a ship filled with U.S. sailors called Maersk Alabama. Now with the determination of the U.S. government to try 15-year-old Abdi Wali Muse as an adult after having murdered his other three companions with sniper fire after they had apparently surrendered, a lynch mob fervor inside the U.S. is being mobilized.
However, the question that anyone who knows the history of the U.S. in the East Africa region — or anywhere else in the world, for that matter — has to ask is, “Who are the real pirates?”
The reality is that the Africans being characterized as pirates are mostly fisherman being starved by imperialism’s actions of real piracy. The waters in that region are being overfished by European and Asian companies who steal more than $300 million worth of fish from Somalia’s waters every year. On top of that, European companies have been using Somalia’s waters as a dumping ground for deadly toxic waste that they wouldn’t have anywhere near their own shores for the past two decades.
U.S. and European piracy in Somalia is longstanding
But the U.S. and Europe’s piracy in Somalia began long before the overfishing and toxic dumping became known. The reality is that the Somalia, which is also called the Horn of Africa, plays an important role for the U.S. and Europe’s looting of oil wealth in the region. They used to have a lot of problems stealing that oil so they cut a ditch called the Suez Canal to divide that area of Africa and facilitate ships carrying this stolen wealth getting to Europe.
However, large oil tankers can’t get through the Suez Canal, so they have to go around the Horn of Africa. This has made Somalia of serious geo-political significance for the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. was intervening in Somalia during its struggle with the Soviet Union for geo-political influence.
The Soviets then had a relationship with Said Barre who was in power in Somalia. However, when the Soviet Union developed a relationship with the government that went into power in Ethiopia in coup d’état in 1974, its relationship with Barre soured. This is because of conflicts between the Ethiopian and Somalian states as a result of the artificial borders carved into Africa by Europe for its own interests.
Said Barre then developed a relationship with the U.S. However, when Barre’s despotic regime was chased out of power in 1991, it created a problem for the U.S. The U.S. imperialists started manipulating the situation in Somalia. The forces who overthrew Barre were united by their opposition to Barre’s terrible regime, but with him out of power their basis of unity was gone. There began a struggle for power using U.S. arms and what was left of Soviet arms in the country.
During the time that the U.S.-supported Barre regime was in power the U.S. had him hand over two-thirds of Somalia to U.S. oil companies. So former U.S. president George Herbert Walker Bush initiated a military intervention in Somalia in the 1992 as a lame duck president to protect the U.S. control over what has been described as a “valley of oil” underneath Somalia. In fact, the Conoco oil corporation’s compound in Mogadishu was used as the U.S. government’s headquarters when U.S. Marines landed there.
It was during this vicious military operation to secure the U.S. piracy efforts in Somalia that the events falsely characterized in the Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down occurred. It was during this period that the U.S. was bombing hospitals and residential centers in Somalia in order to facilitate stealing the oil there.
Fisherman from Somalia demand end to imperialist piracy
So now Africans who have been victims of U.S. and European imposed poverty and starvation are now being characterized as pirates. The reality is that in the face of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, skin infections and abdominal hemorrhages resulting from Europe’s deadly toxic dumping — added to severely depleted food supply from the theft of about $300 million of fish per year from Somalia’s waters — African fisherman from Somalia began using speedboats to intercept the U.S., European and Asian pirates to convince them to stop dumping the toxic waste and stealing the food supply of the African people or charge them for compensation.
One fisherman, Sugule Ali, stated, “We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas."
Obama uses Somalia situation as easy political target
The U.S. intervention in Somalia was clearly a political tactic used by neocolonial U.S. president Barack Obama to silence those who have called him too soft militarily. From the moment it was said in the media that U.S. sailors were on the Maersk Alabama ship, it became an opportunity to show his willingness to kill for U.S. imperialism to those who doubted him.
Unlike the quagmires the U.S. has been caught up in both in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Bush regime’s invasions, these four Africans on a lifeboat in the middle of the Indian Ocean served as easy targets wiping out with three quick sniper shots any question of Obama’s ability to kill colonized people for U.S. imperialist interests.
Hands off Abdi Wali Muse
U.S. courts have determined that it doesn’t matter that the young African who surrendered to the U.S. troops is only 15 years old. They will treat him as an adult.
The reality is that young Abdi Wali Muse is not unlike any other young African held in the U.S. prison system. He has no humanity in the eyes of his oppressor. If U.S. imperialism has its way, he will spend the rest of his young life joining the 1.5 million other African people held in U.S. prisons.
His imprisonment has nothing to do with any criminality. The fact is that the law is nothing but the opinion of the ruling class that has the ability to enforce its will by force. His only crime is that he dared to challenge U.S. imperialism’s ability to steal Africa’s resources.
We must demand that this process where the thieves put the victims on trial for piracy end. It is the U.S. and European governments that must be put on trial for theft of African resources and false imprisonment of not only Abdi Wali Muse, but the millions of Africans held in prisons or tied to prison systems in the U.S. and Europe.
Free Abdi Wali Muse! Jail the Real Pirates!