CHADIANS MAKE NIGERIA THEIR PROMISED LAND
Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians risk their lives to find their way into Europe and America every year. Indeed, many of them die in the process of staking their lives in bushes, waters and deserts to leave the nation for better habitations.
But as they run away, because Nigeria has become a land that consumes the inhabitants, some others from neighbouring nations take equal risk to make sure they cross over into Nigeria to make a living either in begging or in menial jobs. A life of ironies, you would say, as you hear their accounts of the length they go to come to Nigeria in this moving story.
It has been discovered that some Nigerians from the northern part of the country are raking in huge incomes by bringing Chadian citizens into the country and giving them out as security guards (mai guard) or finding them motorcycles for commercial purposes and other sundry menial jobs. As they labour, they make returns to the bosses.
The reason the racketeers find good 'slaves' in these Chadian, according to sources, is that they are thought to be more reliable than their Nigerian counterparts. The calculations of the operators of the deal is that since their native country has worse biting economic conditions, their demands would not be so much and every little handout they get excites them. Moreover, before they could gain some boldness to challenge their masters as illegal aliens, the masters must have got some handsome deal using them.
Saturday Sun uncovers the operation mechanism of these people that run the illegal immigration racket. These Nigerians latch on to the economic crunch in Chad and devise ways of making fortunes from its citizens who are eager to escape their country for greener pastures. They are told that the streets of Nigeria are paved with gold and if they get there unparallel opportunities of making money abound. The youth would equally swallow such lies and decide to dare it not minding the work they would do to be in Nigeria. After recruiting them, they would be ferried into Gamboru Ngala, a town in Borno State that borders Chad and some others around there. After crossing over into Nigeria, the immigrants allege that Nigerian Immigration Services officials, at various posts, are bribed for easy passage.
Investigation revealed that when they come to Borno State, the head slave drivers would wait for trailers that haul goods to Borno from Lagos and would likely be returning Lagos empty for onward dispatch into the hinterland cities of Nigeria. They are brought into Lagos through this process almost at no cost. As they arrive Lagos, they are moved to the base of the recruitment agents in Apapa, Alaba Rago in Ojo, and Mile 12, Ketu and such other stronghold locations of northern Nigerians in Lagos.
Contrary to what they were told in Chad, on their arrival in Nigeria, they realize that life here is survival of the fittest and that there are no easy or quick ways of making money. Some of them, who could not return, get trapped and get involved in criminal activities.
One of the Chadian migrants in Lagos is Jubril Ramadan, who left Chad about two years ago to Nigeria. He was arrested, after being found in the custody of a stolen wristwatch and bangle. The items, as Saturday Sun found out, were stolen by a gang of robbers who attacked a family at Festac Town, Lagos. Ramadan was traced to a driving school at Ajegunle, Lagos through his phone, which was found at the scene of the crime. He admitted to buying the watch from his brother, Adam, who is currently at large while the bangle was a gift to him from Adam.
Narrating his journey to Nigeria, Jubril, who hails from Manjanen, Chad told Saturday Sun that life in his village had been hard; so when the Nigerian recruitment team came and told them how life was so easy in Nigeria he and others latched onto the opportunity to better their lives. 'Sometime in 2007, one of my cousins, who was recruited by the same team came back with a lot of money. He told me that life was better in Nigeria than here. When I asked him what he does for a living, he told me that he is a beggar and that was the source of the money he made. Coming from a family of 15, the custom of our family is that once you get to the age of 15, you must be independent. So the Nigerians came for the recruitment coupled with what Ahmed told as a way out of the hard way of living in my village, I did not hesitate to take the offer.'
Jubril sought to know what it took to travel down to Nigeria and was informed by his cousin that he was to pay some money to be linked with the agents that would facilitate his movement. 'Before we traveled, I was introduced to the Nigerian by another agent from our place who collected some money from us. We were told that on getting to Maiduguri, we are to pay N2000 to the man who will ensure that we get settled in Nigeria.'
On getting to Nigeria, the immigrants from Chad who were about 50 were handed over to one man who collected from N2000 each and arranged with trailer drivers to transport them to Lagos.
'The man ensured that they boarded a trailer loaded with of onions coming to Lagos. Because of language barrier, we were directed to live with one Aminu, who had earlier been recruited by the Nigerian agents and lives on Badagry Road, Apapa. Aminu accommodated us in his room at Apapa where he is a gateman. He took us with the promise to pay him for his services. The agreement was that he is to settle us and we are to remit whatever we make at the end of the week till he decided to free us to live on our own.
The stern warning was that if we fail to comply we will be arrested.'
On arrival, Aminu got him a job where he assisted one of his town's folk to roast suya (beef berbecue). 'I stayed there for months before Aminu bought me a motorcycle while I went training for some days. The business has been good as I only had to pay N20,000 to own the bike before I was arrested for robbery.'
Asked what he was doing at the driving school, Jubril said that Lagos State had instructed that they should get a driving school clearance or would be arrested.
Aminu, who had lived in Lagos close to 15 years, told Saturday Sun that his decision to accommodate the new comers was on sympathy reasons and not necessarily to make money through them.
'They are my brothers and since they are in a foreign land I decided to help them establish themselves. The money I had saved is what I bought the motorcycles with for commercial use to assist them find means of livelihood. When they arrive I would teach them how to ride the okada around Lagos. They make money and pay me back and when they have fully repaid, the bikes become theirs. It is a hire purchase arrangement.' He also said that those who do show interest in okada business are made to do their businesses.
'Other who do not show interest in driving would be made to do cobbler and shoe mending works, which involves them going around the streets looking for people who need their services,' he said. Others menial jobs available to the Chadians include garbage disposals and daily labour engagements.
Irrespective of the job any of them does, a certain amount must be remitted to their master, Aminu, at the end of the week. 'No matter the type of job they do, I always tell them the amount of money they are to give me at the end of the week. The money that I collect is in their own interest because it is from there that I settle the police and assist them when they are in trouble,' he said.
When asked if he was aware that some of them get involved in criminal activities, Aminu remarked: 'Anyone under my custody can never be involved in such act because I always monitor them with a stern warning of the consequences of deportation if they misbehave. Those who misbehaved in the past I deported immediately, but because they have known the town they always find their way back. Some of them may be recruited by Nigerian armed robbers. They know the consequence, so if any of them is involved in such act, he will be left to face the wrath of the law.'
Sani, another Chadian, has lived in Nigeria for 20 years. He has a kiosk where he operates a mini provisions shop and that serves as a meeting point for Chadians who arrive Nigeria and want to operate within the Ikeja axis.
According to Sani, who boasts of having built a house in his country with the money he made from his countrymen that came to stay with him in Nigeria, when he was brought to Nigeria, he started as a shoemaker before he took over from his master who is now dead. 'It was Usman that brought me to Lagos from Chad to better my life. I obeyed and graduated to be the owner of this kiosk, which I inherited from him. Normally, when my people are brought to Nigeria, we agree on a particular amount they will be paying me when I help to establish them. I am highly connected; that is why some landlords contact me for the services of my people as security men or night guards. All we do is to agree on the amount they would be paid, I will collect my percentage from the monthly salary of anyone I connect.'
Sani boasted: 'Anybody from my country who came to Nigeria through me will never involve himself in robbery because I monitor them. Those that were arrested are naturally stubborn, as they refused to stay under anybody. Life in Nigeria is better, so long as you are ready to work. There are jobs in security, waste disposal, mechanics, shoe mending, scrap buying business and hawking. I have built a house in my village with what I made from Nigeria.'
Akeem's story is not far from the others. He sneaked into Nigeria on a camel. 'When I got to Adamawa, I was told by the cattle herdsmen that the only place I could make it was in Lagos. So I trekked with them for months through the bush till we got to Kogi State, it was there that I boarded a bus to Lagos. At Mile Two, I saw a lot of my people who assisted me with odd jobs till I was introduced to Mallam Sani who got me connected. He bought this okada and referred me to a driving school.'
Other places they settle in large numbers are, Alaba Rago, Ojo and Mile 12 and Badagry, in Lagos.
Speaking to Saturday Sun in his office at Moshood Olugbani Street, Victoria Island, Vice-Consul General, Repulique Du Tchad, Brahim Galmaye, said the consulate is aware of the presence of many of its nationals in Nigeria and that they would only give account of those who have papers. However, in other to track all the Chadian in Nigeria, he said that the embassy is going to carry out sensitisation that will give them accurate figure of the citizens, so that wherever they are their welfare, which is paramount to their country, would be protected. In this vein, he reiterated that the Consul will only come to the rescue of any of its citizens that gets into trouble if he has papers and if the problem is not criminal in nature. If it is a criminal issue, he said, the law of the land will take it full course on such person.
He said because of the relationship between the two countries there is no visa requirement for a citizen of either country to enter into the other. He said that the consulate has been helping Nigerians going to do business in Chad. He however, regretted that some Nigerians have gone to Chad to dupe the people. He said that there is a case at the EFCC office involving a Nigerian who went to Chad and collected hundreds of millions naira to supply cement to the people and went underground and never supplied the cement.