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Many faces of Nigerian female migrants in Castel Volturno in Italy



A Nigerian female migrant in Castel Volturno in Italy : ready for business. Reuters Photo

A Nigerian female migrant in Castel Volturno in Italy : ready for business. Reuters Photo

Once a holiday dream for middle-class Italians, Castel Volturno is now a dilapidated seaside nightmare where Nigerian female migrants open their homes to other migrants wanting cold beer and quick sex.

Called “connection houses”, the rundown coastal homes serve as bedroom, bar and brothel to a migrant population with nowhere better to go. They are on the rise and their clandestine nature means Europe’s heavy influx of refugees and migrants, be they fleeing war or poverty, can exist out of sight and beyond help.

The International Organization for Migration said about 55,000 migrants had reached European shores in the first half of this year, many landing without papers, hope of a home or a job.

“I do what my fellow girls do here,” said Grace, a 26-year-old Nigerian who did not want to give her real name.

“I don´t like it, but it´s what to do. I have no choice. No job, and nobody to talk to or run to for help.” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation outside a house where she sells sex.

A seafront sprawl 30 miles (48 km) north of Naples, the ramshackle town began life in the Etruscan age – before the Roman empire – and was a popular summer playground for Neapolitans during the 1970s.

In 1980, its fortunes fell when it became an emergency shelter after an earthquake left 250,000 locals homeless and the government commandeered local accommodation to fill the gap.

As tourists deserted, the economy crumbled, along with the impressive villas and commanding apartment blocks that now play home to African migrants and those without many better choices.

“We have about 30,000 rooms that were built illegally and are now abandoned,” local mayor Dimitri Russo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, explaining how irregular construction ramped up in the 1970s to cover the 27 km of coast with new housing.

Russo said many homes lacked the most basic infrastructures, such as sewage, and were not fit for human habitation.

That has not deterred its newest residents, many of them migrants who washed up on Italy’s shores after fleeing conflict, poverty or hunger in Africa, hoping for a fresh start in Europe.

In the dark, unpaved road that crosses the main Antonio Gramsci street, a tiny light highlighted a woman smoking under the porch of a low house. Squeezed into a radiant, green dress, Lovette welcomed all comers – she is the landlady here.

Inside, a group of six African men sat round a table strewn with empty bottles. One man gently braided a young Nigerian woman´s hair with white filaments. On the side of the dining room, a huge Dumbo stuffed toy lay on an empty bed.

Some of the men just wanted a drink, a gossip and a smoke; others stopped by to pay women like Grace 15-20 ($20) for sex.

While her hair was combed rhythmically through, Grace sat riveted before a TV series broadcast by a Nigerian channel, ROK.

Her new life in Europe was not meant to be like this.

A native of oil-rich Delta State in Nigeria, Grace landed in Italy a year ago, dreaming of a proper education.

After staying in an immigration centre in Turin and then in Rome, she lost her identity card. Along with many undocumented and unemployed migrants, Grace ended up in Castel Volturno.

“All the girls owe money to the criminal organisation that brought them here,” said Andrea Morniroli, who works for the non-profit Dedalus, a Naples-based organisation trying to combat human trafficking in the region.

Connection houses – common along human trafficking routes in Africa, though new to Italy – have made his task harder.

“Nigerian prostitution is moving indoor(s) because the road has become too dangerous for them,” Morniroli told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “And this represents a hurdle for us, as intercepting the girls becomes harder.”

In 2016, 11,000 Nigerian women arrived on Italian shores. The number halved in 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration, estimating that eight in 10 of the women might be victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The first real wave of Africans came in the 1980s. Working in local tomato fields, they found huge, cheap houses to rent.

Over the years, the city attracted a population of migrants who found themselves up against a wall: those who were denied papers, had lost their jobs, or could find no stable occupation.

Castel Volturno also drew impoverished Italians, unable to make ends meet in the outskirts of the nearby cities.

According to the civil registry, some 26,300 dwellers are registered in Castel Volturno, of whom 4,300 are not Italian.

The town is home to a pan-African population of 2,595 residents and, to a smaller Eastern European community composed mostly of Ukrainians, Poles and Romanians.

But mayor Russo said the real population stands at almost twice that, among them 15,000 unregistered migrants.

Some have just docked after a dangerous sea voyage, others have lived in Italy for years, he said.

For many, it is a comforting taste of Africa for those far from home, where the food, talk and feel are all familiar.

But Nigerian criminal gangs have taken root, too.

“The consistent presence of a migrant population, both regular as well as irregular, together with the weakness of the rule of law and the central state, turned Castel Volturno into a hub for women trafficking,” said Morniroli.

“I was on those streets for almost two years,” said Promise, a 34-year-old who did not want her real name used.

Now a married mother of two, Promise said she was lured to Italy by a Nigerian woman who went to her village in Edo state promising a job in her tailor shop.

Promise said she managed to escape and sought help in Casa Rut, a shelter run by nuns for trafficked victims in Caserta, just inland from Naples.

It took Promise two years to get over the ordeal; she said her recovery began the day she left Castel Volturno.

“If you want a different life, you cannot stay among them,” she said. “My fellow countrymen and women have always tried to persuade me that I should endure without rebelling.”

One of the nuns who runs the Caserta centre said the fact that Castel Volturno had become a community of exiles, withdrawn from regular life, meant it was easier to exploit its women.

“We bring them out of that environment, and prompt the dialogue with other cultures,” sister Rita Giaretta told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Otherwise, their only way out of prostitution is either to find a husband or to become a torturer themselves.

Nor is the trend encouraging, with ever more connection houses opening up, offering sex along with beers and company.

When Promise arrived on the street, there were few such connection houses. “But today, they are everywhere,” she said.

And their function has become integral to the wider community, said Morniroli, of the Naples NGO.

“They are becoming popular because they mix prostitution with food, drinks, and dancing,” said Morniroli, “and they hide the problem too, so they don´t annoy the public moral.”

The mayor disagreed, saying some alleged connection houses were just informal restaurants and bars set up at home by African women to make ends meet.

Rose said hers was a case in point.

As men chilled in the breeze washing over her balcony, the 27-year-old hostess carried out bowls of traditional Nigerian Okoro soup and bottles of ice-cold beer.

“Back in Benin I used to help my mother cooking, so I decided to set up a bar,” Rose said of her Nigerian home-life.

She said a madame had trafficked her to France four years ago, but she had quit prostitution when she opened up her house.

“My future is business,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Over the terrace, a young girl flirted with a newcomer. But Rose insisted that nobody sold sex in her place.

“It´s only me. And I don´t need it.”

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Magu fights for his honour in suit against The Sun



The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu has told Justice Doris T. Okuwobi of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, that he has never been investigated by the Department of State Services, DSS.

Magu stated this while giving evidence in a N100m suit he filed against the publisher of The Sun newspaper and four others over an alleged defamation.

Joined in the suit are the Editor, Saturday Sun; Fred Itua, James Ojo and Lawrence Enyoghasu.

Magu is seeking compensation for libellous imputations and statements made against him in a story published in the March 25, 2017 edition of The Saturday Sun entitled: “Magu Under Fresh Probe Over 2 Abuja Mansions”.

At today’s proceedings, Magu, who gave evidence in-chief, told the court that the statement of oath written by him through his lawyer, Wahab Shittu, represented his evidence in the proceedings.

Led in evidence by Shittu, Magu told the court that the publication was done deliberately to damage his reputation.

“The publication said I was under probe.

“But no government agency, has probed or investigated me since I came to the EFCC,” he said.

In his further testimony, he told the court that the publication was completely false, adding that “I cannot buy a house in Maitama, even if I have the money because houses there are so expensive.

“I live a modest life. My wife is a civil servant. We have only one house in Karu site, Abuja; and when I retire, I will go back there. The onus is on the defendants to produce the owners of the properties. The publication has done a lot of damage to my reputation and that of my lineage.”

When Magu’s lawyer sought to tender a letter of complaint written on behalf of his client to the publishers of the newspaper, counsel to the defendants, Charles Enweluata, objected to its admissibility on the grounds that it did not carry the legal practitioner’s seal.

He, however, said the “irregularity was curable.”

In his response, Shittu said: “It does not derogate the admissibility of the letter since the witness has identified and confirmed it.

“It is written on my letter head. The contents are relevant to the proceedings and the author of the letter has also confirmed it. He, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the objection by the defence counsel and admit the document in evidence.

In her ruling, the Judge ordered the claimant’s counsel to get the seal. “It will be admissible upon the fixing of the seal to the letter”, she ruled.

When the seal was eventually produced, the court admitted the document in evidence.

The claimant also confirmed to the court his statement in paragraph 18 of the said letter, where he mentioned that the Federal Government, through the Office of the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, officially appointed him as the acting Executive Chairman of the EFCC.

The letter dated November 9, 2015 was admitted in evidence as exhibit.

When the counsel to the claimant sought to tender a series of letters of promotion as well as letters of transfers that Magu had received in the course of his career as a police officer, the defence counsel objected to their admissibility on the grounds that they were electronically generated.

Counsel to the claimant, therefore, applied to withdraw the letters in the circumstance, saying, “I will apply to withdraw the documents, which are said to be electronically generated for now, even though there is certification for them.”

Giving further evidence, Magu told the court that the second story by the newspaper entitled” Magu: The Untold Story”, was not intended to correct the damage created by the first report done on him.

“They went to my town and interviewed several people. They wanted to get more things to damage my reputation. But they were disappointed.”

Under cross-examination by counsel to the defendants, Charles Enweluata, Magu admitted that his wife, Fatima, was not a party in the suit but that she was allegedly linked to the properties mentioned.

When asked if he read in the story that he was being investigated by the DSS, he said “Yes, I read the story.

“But there was no name of any agency investigating my wife or me. The paper did not mention DSS.”

Also, when the defence counsel put it to the claimant that the story carried the name of the Department of State Services as the investigating body, Magu said: “The paper did not mention DSS.

“I do not agree that the DSS investigated me or my wife in any manner.”

Consequently, the matter was adjourned till February 28, 2019 for further hearing.

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Eyiboh blasts Akwa Ibom govt, says peace slogan mere farce



Hon. Eseme Eyiboh

Hon. Eseme Eyiboh

The Campaign spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Akwa Ibom state, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh has described the much-celebrated peace slogan by the state government as an illusion.

He added that it was quite deceptive on the part of the state government to claim that all is well in the state even in the midst of glaring security challenges ravaging Akwa Ibom state.

Eyiboh, who is also the Chairman of Cross River Basin Development Authority, disclosed this on Wednesday when he was hosted in a radio programme at the Inspiration FM, Uyo.

According to him, “there’s no peace in the state, as celebrated by the ruling party, PDP. It is farcical of the state government to claim it has brought peace to the state despite obvious security challenges.”

He argued that normalcy and peace have not yet returned to crisis-ridden Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo councils of the state as claimed by the state government.

“As we speak, Ukanafun local government council secretariat is still under lock and key.

“Work at the council secretariat has come to a standstill. Some aggrieved youths went and terrorised staffers of Etim Ekpo local government council some months ago.

“If there is peace, why is Ukanafun local government council being administered from outside the area? Why is Ukanafun High Court seated in Abak? It means a poor person from Ukanafun seeking justice has to go to Abak.

“I know there is no peace globally, but the state government has not shown strong resolve to nail the crisis in the bud.

“The governor should not come to the public to tell the people that there is peace in the state. If there is peace, why was Mfon Udeme, former aide to the governor shot? Why was Nsima Ekere the APC governorship candidate attacked in his house? If there is peace, why do we have this welter of security flashes in the state? The architecture of peace in the state has deteriorated,” he said.

The spokesman, who was enunciating the campaign agenda of Nsima Ekere, the APC governorship candidate in the state on security and social protection, said “I am sure you are aware that in some local government areas in the state, there is no peace. In short, people are not living there. Even when government is coming out with a confession that there is rehabilitation, there is rehabilitation because there was crisis.

“For more than three years, some communities in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun local government areas were embroiled in cult-war that metamorphosed into killings, rapes and kidnapping of innocent people as well as closure of many churches, public schools, health institutions and markets.”

Speaking on youths who laid down their arms in the state, Eyiboh said; “Go and see the youths who laid down arms. As the beneficiaries of the programme, they are not enjoying it. Government should show clear direction, responsibility, capacity and willingness in handling the issue instead of dilly-dallying.”

On allegation that the rehabilitation has turned many to merchants, Eyiboh said, “In Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun, you have heard about the Debam cult. The rehabilitation is like the issue of defection. It has been turned to instrument of merchandising – you have merchants of defection and merchants of rehabilitation.”

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2019: CAN denies endorsing candidates



Rev. Samson Ayokunle President of CAN

Rev. Samson Ayokunle President of CAN

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), on Thursday said the association did not endorse anyone, but only met with 14 Presidential Candidates in Abuja to speak on their plans for the nation.

The President of CAN, Rev. Samson Ayokunle made the explanation in a statement issued by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, the Special Assistant, Media and Communications to the CAN president, in Abuja.

Ayokunle explained that the issue of endorsing anyone for a second term did not form part of discussions during the meeting.

“Our attention has been drawn to a news story published by an online news outfit that has become notorious for publishing fake stories.

“The story says CAN has endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for the second term in office after it met with some 14 presidential candidates in Abuja.

“There was nothing like that, either before, during or after the parley; not even at the tail end of the programme.

“The church cannot take the back seat in this situation because it can only prosper when Nigeria prospers. If the election is not free and fair, then, all Nigerians, including the church, will be in trouble.

“So, we decided to reach out to the presidential candidates to ask them their credentials for aspiring to the highest office in the land.

“Also, to interrogate their plans for all, including the church.

“We also brought them together to speak to their consciences so that they don’t set this nation on fire,” he said.

Ayokunle said that when he was asked for the outcome of the parley, he replied that conclusion would be drawn at the end of the meeting.

Speaking on the Buhari’s decline of assent to the Electoral Act amendment, he said: “the Executive and the National Assembly should put their house together.’’

“Whenever there is this kind of disagreement or a stalemate, the executive and the legislature should come together as partners in progress to mutually find a way forward.

“They can’t afford to play with the future of the country as the 2019 general elections is at hand.

“Everything must be done to ensure that the election is free and fair.”

The cleric appealed to the general public to beware of fabricators of fake news for whatever reasons.

Present at the forum were the former governor of Anambra and Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi, while the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amechi, represented the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Also the former Minister of Education, Mrs Obi Ezekwesili, the Presidential Candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, (ACPN) was at the meeting.

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