A desperate Bakassi refugee in Cross River State has been forced to use his 12-year-old daughter as collateral for a loan which he is now unable to repay.
However, the sick daughter, Blessing died, in 2013 and the younger one, Mary is forced to remain in slavery due to her father’s inability to pay back the money he borrowed.
Okon told Punch of his ordeal:
“I was desperate to save Blessing from dying. Her situation had become critical at that time. That was the only thing I could do to salvage the situation. I am heartbroken. I don’t know what came over me. It was sheer desperation I gave out my daughter so that the man would accept to give us the money,” he said.
Mary on the other hand opened up on her life in slavery:
“The man my father is owing has three female children and some other relatives are also putting up with us in the house. They normally give me a revenue target of N1, 000 daily. And sometimes when the market is bad and I don’t finish selling the water, they beat me up. They treat me very badly. I eat only once in a day and that is in the morning,” she said.“I wash all their clothes, including the ladies’ pants, and do other house chores, too. And if I hesitate on washing their pants, they get infuriated and throw objects at me at will. I will not feel happy if I go back there,” she added.
However, Mary’s plight is not yet over as she will be returned to her ‘owners’ unless her father can produce the money he owes.
Bakassi was handed over to Cameroon in 2007 forcing many Nigerians to flee their homes and livelihoods and end up refugees, like Okon and his family.