The shattered dreams of a hopeful mother
Mercy, a 24-year-old Nigerian single mother of one, thought her answers had been answered by a lady she met online who promised to help her secure employment abroad, only for things to turn sour when she got there. In this first installment, she narrates the events that preceded her first job offer in Dubai and the surprise that was in store for her.
Mercy’s boutique was severely affected when the Nigerian government declared a nationwide lockdown at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020. She resorted to marketing and selling her wares online but this also failed, since clothes shopping wasn’t exactly at the top of people’s priorities at the time. The business was her only source of income so by the end of the lockdown, she had already spent all her savings and had no capital to resume her business. With rent arrears running for five months and her landlord threatening to throw her out if she didn’t offset some of it, she tried to search for jobs around Abuja but found none. She had no one to borrow money from as she owed almost everyone in her contact list money. She then started giving more time to her Facebook friends to ease her stress, hoping to widen her circle and meet some people there that would be of help.
She started chatting with a lady on Facebook who, according to her posts, seemed to be doing well. Mercy decided to open up to her, sharing her situation, and requested if the lady could lend her some money. The lady immediately called her via Messenger and expressed her concern as a fellow lady. She suggested that Mercy join her in Dubai to hustle for her daughter as she had also left Nigeria eight years prior, a decision she has never regretted making. She said the company she is working with in Dubai is hiring ladies and they can cater for her travel expenses, which she would repay when she starts working. This was a miraculous evening for Mercy. She felt like God had finally answered her prayers.
After the lady’s recommendation, the company facilitated all her travel costs. She was able to travel within a month, leaving her daughter with her grandmother, hopeful that she would be able to adequately provide for her. On arrival, she was received by two men who took her to the apartment she was to live in. That’s where she first met the lady who had helped her, and whom everyone kept referring to as ‘mama.’ Mercy was asked to submit her passport after the lady made sure she was comfortable, which she gladly did.
‘Easiest job in the world’
The following morning, Mercy woke up to a house full of girls who looked like they had just come from an overnight party. Everyone was doing something; some were cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning the house floor, while others arranged the wigs and shoes. One of them asked Mercy to go to Mama’s bedroom for a meeting.
There, she met Mama and a skimpily dressed lady who was directed to issue her with instructions. “Your job is easy, just let men feel your beautiful body, and get paid any amount you want,” she said while approaching her and touching her inappropriately. “You mean prostitution?” Mercy asked in disgust. Mama interjected, claiming that it was simply her having fun and being paid in the process. “Easiest job in the world.” That is when it dawned on her that she had been brought here for prostitution. She declined the ‘job offer’ and demanded to be taken back to Nigeria. That was when things started going south. “What about the money and time I’ve invested in you?” Mama asked, clearly agitated. Mercy begged them to allow her to look for another job so she could be able to refund the claimed amount, which had now been exaggerated fourfold.
Since they had her passport, she couldn’t go anywhere nor could she go to the authorities to report it. The girls would go out every evening and return in the morning, all counting money. They seemed to be happy with their job with some sharing their experiences, persuading her to accept her new reality and cooperate if she wanted peace. Some of them were aware of what they were coming here to do while others were duped just like her and had to accept after realising there was no way out. Despite the girls’ advice, Mercy never saw herself sleeping with strangers for money.
Two weeks later, Mama presented her with a bill of utility and consumption for that duration and demanded to start getting paid. “I will make things easy for you. I got you your first guest and he’s on his way. Get ready,” she said, handing her ‘nice clothes’ to wear. The moment the doorbell rang to signify the client’s arrival, Mercy’s world came crashing down. She thought of jumping through the window but realised that was certain death and she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her young daughter an orphan. When they came to the bedroom they found Mercy still holding the clothes, crying. The man gave mama a disappointed look and left. Mama also gave her a disappointed look before going after the man, and she immediately knew that things were going to get tougher for her henceforth.