Pulse Cares: Failed emigration stories of a Nigerian footballer and a victim of human trafficking

In Nigeria, any member of a family that successfully migrates to the United State of America or any country in Europe automatically becomes the family’s breadwinner.

Failed emigration stories of a Nigerian footballer and a victim of human trafficking.

Nigerians’ desire to seek economic refuge abroad is largely motivated by the growing spate of insecurity, unemployment, corruption, ailing economy, unending harassment, and exploitation of the youths by security operatives.

The general air of malaise in Nigeria continues to force the youths to take tough decisions about their future. While some japa (emigrate) to continue their post-graduate education in Europe or America, others leave the country as professionals to work abroad.

For Ajibola Eniola, a budding footballer and Bisi Akanni, an unemployed young woman, the desire to escape the country to seek better opportunities and settle abroad was almost achieved, but their escape plans betrayed their dreams.

In 2021, Eniola was one of the promising young footballers who planned to leave the country to showcase their soccer talents in Europe.

His dream to make a name for himself at one of the popular football clubs in Europe was further motivated by his desire to elevate the social status of his parents and siblings.

In Nigeria, any member of a family that successfully migrates to the United State of America or any country in Europe automatically becomes the family’s breadwinner.

This is the mindset with which Eniola nursed the desire to become a professional footballer outside the shores of his fatherland.

Aside from the fact that Europe provides the best platforms for young footballers from Africa to develop their skills, there are other Nigerian factors that motivated his desire to ply his trade in Europe.

Eniola believes that lack of welfare facilities, poor remuneration, and insecurity are some of the reasons many young Nigerians prefer to leave the country for any football club that may need their services in Europe.

As a young Nigerian, who aspires to become a professional footballer, there is no way you won’t nurse the ambition to play abroad because our local league is not big enough to provide the necessary welfare in terms of salaries, sign-off fees, match bonuses, and the likes. There are lots of differences between European and African leagues, and there are lots of disadvantages to playing in the Nigerian league.

“Provision for away matches is very poor, security very poor, and pitches are not in good condition. All these factors are what you put into consideration as a footballer and that is why most Nigerian footballers always dream of playing abroad.”

According to him, young African footballers’ chances of playing in Europe are mainly dependent on agents who scout players for football clubs.

Eniola explained that a lot of Nigerian agents are fraudulent and their main aim in scouting players is to milk the players dry and leave them with no hope.

Nigerian agents are fraudulent. We have agents in the country who have 10 percent of right sourcing. First, you go for several trials, the agent may take you to any camp, where there is no food, they treat you like you’re not human until you go to the pitch to show yourself.

“And if you’re picked, the agents will tell you to call your parents to raise a certain amount of money depending on the country they are taking you to. Some might take you to Cyprus for trial in a league that is nothing to write home about.

“Some agents who are believed to be considerate would charge you N3 million to N4 million. Even before you sign any contract you’ll still go for trial, after that, you’ll sign a pre-contract to see how consistent you are, for this you can only get a training allowance, which is paid to the agent.

“I know a number of talents that have been duped by agents. Partially, I am one of them but thank God for my street knowledge, I did not fall victim. I have two visas for Uganda and Kenya that I turned down”.

Explaining why he turned down the visas, he said, “I google a lot of things, I search a lot because I like my life. I searched everything about the clubs, their players, and their welfare, but they have good pitches. This was 10 or 12 years ago. I can’t remember the names of the clubs, then I was still U-20”.

So, because of his understanding of how Nigerian agents work and his friends’ ordeals in the hands of fraudulent agents, Eniola, who has now given up on his dream to play football in Europe turned down the invitation for trials in Kenya and Uganda.

Unlike Eniola, Bisi was desperate to leave Nigeria to anywhere her spirit leads her. She wished to relocate to Dubai to establish herself and become the golden daughter of her family.

In her quest to relocate, she met an agent whose name she refused to mention because they are still on good terms despite her initial disappointment about the manner of her relocation.

Bisi was promised a Dubai visa. She was told about the glorious job opportunities in the country with the hope that she would make millions of Naira in no time if she worked hard.

“Finally, Bisi would leave the trenches and send money home to her siblings and parents to do good things”, she had hoped.

Unfortunately, her dream to relocate to Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates did not go as envisaged. Instead, she found herself in Lebanon, where she worked as a housemaid and nanny for a couple for two years..

“The plan was to leave Nigeria for Dubai with a promise that they would help me get a lucrative job. I was happy that I was leaving the country, but I ended up in Lebanon to work as a housemaid and nanny”, she said.

Bisi’s trafficker was getting some returns on her salary, but she could not complain because she had signed an agreement with the man she had thought was a travel agent.

“Things went really bad when my employer attempted to rape me but I resisted him and that marked the beginning of my ordeal.

“He started making life difficult for me, complaining about everything and eventually stopped paying my salary”, she narrated.

After the expiration of her two-year visa, she left Lebanon for Nigeria, but due to her conviction about financial prosperity abroad, she left Nigeria again to work as a domestic servant in the UAE.

While in the UAE, she got pregnant, and when her visa expired, her employee dismissed her after refusing to help her get her visa renewed.

Now a single mother, Bisi returned to Nigeria in 2021, while her baby daddy is still in the UAE.

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