National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP)
Omotinne looked up to the signpost almost reverringly. Trying to keep the remainder of the hope Carlos had gifted her. Omotinne had been visiting the agency for the past one month since she arrived. Aunty Ijeoma had told her about a program for people like herself. She had said it with so much pity in her voice that Omotinne resented her for being so concerned. She would not have gone if Aunty Ijeoma had not left money for her on the kitchen counter with a note that said ‘please try’. If she had not seen the shame shine in her Uncle’s eyes when his friends who usually came over to play draft had seen her and asked whether that was his niece who had been in Obodo Oyinbo for years. So she went.
Omotinne met Uju there. When Omotinne saw Uju she thought of a phrase she has read in a book when reading for pleasure was possible. Ka udo di Ka Ndu di. She rhought Uju personified that phrase. She simply let life be. She did not have the same resigned look all other participants had. She definitely didn’t look like she had been through the things that she had been through. She breathed love at every turn. She seemed to be the only one who had actually learnt from the counselling sessions. Uju was the only one of those in her hairdressing training class the government had put in place for “victims of trafficking” to reintegrate them, who wore make up. She was the only one who brought a mannequin to class showing off beautiful styles she had done at home unsupervised. She impressed the trainers and annoyed her classmates. In spite of the fact that the whole class detested her, she went out of her way to be friendly.
At first Uju’s friendly overtures irritated Omotinne greatly, but Uju’s good spirit was infectious and Omotinne realised she could forget her troubles whenever she was with Uju. They started spending time together and from there what would blossom into a life long friendship emanated.
After weeks of “re-orientation” and “empowerment”, pictures were taken, interviews granted and the Nigerian government washed itself off their matter.
“They have been equipped with the necessary skills to make something out of their lives. They would be monitored closely to ensure their progress and development. To prevent them from slipping back into their former lives.” The fat man in an undersized shirt and an ugly tie, representing the Governor had said.
But that was exactly what would happen in Omotinne’s instance. As well as Uju’s.
It is true that the government with the assistance of private individuals and Non governmental Organizations white envelops were given to the “victims”. It is true that these envelopes held money. It is true that five thousand Nigerian Naira was given to the over Six hundred members of Omotinne’s rehabilitation program cohort. It is true that what was given could not have been capital for any business. Transport fare perhaps?