13-year-old Blessing Bassey Okon was living with her grandmother in Akwa Ibom when a stranger visited them, offering to employ the teenager and lessen stress for the older woman who could barely feed herself and the child.
Blessing’s mother had remarried after her father died and left her in the care of her grandmother.
According to Blessing, the stranger, identified only as ‘aunty’, took her to Calabar after gifting her grandmother N4,000. But in Calabar, the aunty who claimed she sold bags of rice forced Blessing into prostitution with a threat that she would let the child go hungry if she refused to do her bidding.
Here’s what Blessing said, according to The Sun:
“When that Aunty came to my village to pick me, she deceived my grandmother that she had a big rice shop which she wanted me to manage. She gave my grandmother some money and the old woman asked me to go with her. In fact, I was very happy because I wanted to leave the village to an urban area, so I would have the opportunity to engage myself in one trade or the other, since there was no one to support me.”Blessing also explained that when they got to Calabar, her madam, instead of taking her to the shop where she would manage, she was taken to a hotel room for prostitution.
“Unfortunately, it was when we got to Calabar that I understood that what I went to do was prostitution. She showed me a room and instructed me to ensure that I deliver enough money to her otherwise I would die of hunger. I felt bad and wondered what to do. After much thought, I remembered that I had no option than to obey her directive. So grudgingly, I started the job. I wanted to report to my mother and grandmother what I was going through, but due to lack of mobile phone, I could not. While doing the job, I used to deliver between N10, 000 and N20, 000 to my madam on daily basis. It was from the money that she feed me and pay for my room. Sad enough, I was not given any cash, even when I was the one who used my body to make the money.”Blessing eventually saved enough to sneak back home, but she was disappointed when her grandmother encouraged to continue with prostitution.
“When I reported to my grandmother that the lady she gave me to later introduced me to prostitution business, she was not bothered, rather, she advised me to try to cope, in order to survive the hard times. From her statement, I understood that it was a planned work. She even later gave me one of my sisters to join me in the business.”The teenager returned to the city and continued with sex work, but she would be among the group busted by a team of Police officers.
“I was in my room when some policemen came. When they saw me, they were surprised because of my age. So, they arrested me. the following day, my madam sent someone to bail me from the police detention. When I left the station, a woman I did not know took me to her house and was giving me food. I was really satisfied and comfortable than the place I was. At a time, her son started abusing and beating me for eating their food, without doing anything for them. As a result, I left the place and went home to inform my mother, instead of discouraging me, she also encouraged me probably due to the bag of rice and other items I gave to her. So, when I returned, I decided to leave my madam to be on my own. Thereafter, I started going from one hotel to the other and was making some money, but could not see what I did with it.”No long after, the abused child contracted HIV and would later meet some preachers who convinced her to join their church.
“While in the business, I contacted HIV from one of my boy friends. Even at that, I was still having sex with several men. But I do not know whether they also contacted HIV or not. At a stage, I began to get worried about my condition and a possible way out because I could save money to do any reasonable thing from what I was doing. So, one day, some church people who introduced themselves as members of The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministries in Calabar came to preach to us in our hotel. Their message centered on repentance. And as they preached to me, I was touched to heed their advice to leave the job and join them, but another mind told me not to go. But after much thought, I made up my mind to follow them to church.”
“Even when I joined The Lord’s Chosen, the demons in me were still at work. And, I was fighting with some members regularly, on little provocation. But the members advised me not to do such things in the church, yet I did not listen. One day, I prayed God to remove the demons in me and those in my siblings because we are known to be troublesome people in our community. Good enough, I was managing myself to attend the Church and they were really working hard to deliver me.”
“I was brought to The Lord’s Chosen Crusade in Lagos from Port Harcourt on Friday, June 10, 2016 by their members. They sent me to Port Harcourt branch from Calabar. Then from there, they brought me to Lagos for this programme. When the 2-day programme started on Saturday and prayers were offered, I felt relieved of the problems I used to have. I also noticed that the HIV has disappeared because I do not notice some of the symptoms I used to have. What is left is for me to be tested to be medically sure.”Blessing is yet to be tested to confirm her viral load, and it is not stated what steps the church took to ensure her medical safety. However, the most grueling part of this story is that she blames herself for the ordeal she was put through.
Here’s what she said:
“I want God to forgive me. I also want those I have wronged to forgive me also. I want to start a new life. I want to be a child of God and do not want to go into prostitution any longer. So, what I need now is a job and accommodation to enable me take care of my self.”It is unclear if the church members reported this shocking case of child abuse and slavery to the police, and to bring those involved to book.