20-year-old Damilola Oyeyemi, who was repatriated recently to Nigeria from Lebanon where she was trafficked, has accused her trafficker of attempted rape before she travelled out of Nigeria.
Her alleged trafficker, Anthony Afolayan, is a pastor with Christ Apostolic Church.
She said Afolayan convinced her mother and deceived her into travelling to Lebanon where she ended up working as a domestic servant to an abusive employer.
Oyeyemi said Afolayan told her she was scheduled for a test in Lagos as part of the procedures to secure her travel papers but unknown to her, the pastor’s wife was out of the house.
“His wife is a nurse,” she said. “She has one week off and one week on. I did not know that she was on duty that week. He came to my room at midnight. I had already slept. He woke me up and told me to come to his room and that he wants to sleep with me. I said if he tried that with me, I would tell everyone. That is why he left me alone.”
Afolayan denied Oyeyemi’s accusation.
“I am a pastor. In Jesus’ name, I would never rape anybody,” said Afolayan when contacted by SaharaReporters.
On how she travelled to Lebanon, Oyeyemi said Afolayan reached out to her mother.
“He told my mommy that he has a job offer for me in Lebanon. He told my mommy to pay N300,000, but we were only able to pay N200,000.
But Oyeyemi was not required to pay any money to travel because all the travel arrangements were usually settled by agencies in Lebanon that contract African women for domestic services in the Middle East country.
She said when she arrived in Lebanon and found the job to be too tough; she requested to be sent back to Nigeria.
“When I called him to say I wanted to return to Nigeria, that the work was too difficult, he told me he did not have any business with me. He said I should make sure I send him his money.”
Oyeyemi, who was only 19 when she was told to clean ceilings and fans while standing on a ladder, said she did not make enough money to pay the pastor the remaining balance of N100,000 he demanded.
She said she worked for less than three months before asking Abu Hussein, the agent who purchased her to return her to Nigeria.
“When I returned to the office, he beat me mercilessly, he deprived me of food and locked me up for six months. I think it was during the COVID-19 lockdown. So, he decided not to find another madam for me.”
She said she was deceived by the agent, who sold her in Nigeria, that she was going to teach English.
“I realised I was not going to be a teacher, day one of my time in the house of the first employer. My madam woke me up to come and clean. I was shocked. I told her I thought I was supposed to teach. I cried for two weeks and forced them to take me back to the agent’s office.”
Oyeyemi said she was first beaten to remind her that she needed to start performing her domestic duties.
“After beating me up, he took me back to my boss’ house. Later, I sustained an injury on my leg and told my boss to return me to the office. The agent beat me up again before finding medical aid for me.”
She said with the help of some NGOs in Nigeria, she succeeded in putting pressure on Hussein to return her to Nigeria, but by then, airports had been closed due to the pandemic.
When evacuation flights began for other stranded Nigerians in Lebanon, Oyeyemi said she was booked to fly back to Nigeria five times, but Hussein prevented her from boarding.
She said along with other six Nigerians, Hussein insisted that they would spend one more year in the country before he would let them go. But she said persistent pressures from NGOs and Nigerian government officials finally led to their rescue back to Nigeria in August.
Pastor Afolayan, however, said that his sister-in-law, not him, facilitated her travel to Lebanon and denied ever asking her to pay him money.
“I’ve never asked this lady or her mother to pay me any money. All the money they paid I transferred it to my sister-in-law who frequents Dubai,” Afolayan said.