The Nigeria Navy says it has rescued 50 prostitutes and arrested three suspected sex traffickers during a major raid on two brothels in Port Harcourt.
Richard Iginla, Base Information Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, paraded the suspects and rescued victims before newsmen in Port Harcourt on Sunday.
Mr Iginla, a lieutenant-commander, said the operation was carried out in collaboration with the Nigeria Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.
According to him, the 50 prostitutes, mainly teenage girls were rescued in the early hours of Saturday after a tip-off from NAPTIP. He said some were as young as 14 years.
“We got the intelligence from NAPTIP, who had been tracking the brothels that camped juveniles with some of them as young as 14 years of age.
“So, after NAPTIP shared intelligence with us, a joint team was set up and we immediately went into action to rescue the victims.
“No fewer than 50 young girls forced into prostitution were rescued while three recruiters and operators of the brothels were arrested,” he said.
Mr Iginla said the brothels; Royal Brothel and Cool Breeze Brothel both located on Azikiwe Road in Diobu area of Port Harcourt had been shut down.
He said that efforts were ongoing to trail and arrest the leaders of the sex trafficking ring, who recruits children from villages into prostitution.
“Children are gifts from God, and we must do everything humanly possible to protect them from all forms of abuse and exploitation.
“The Nigeria Navy will continue to collaborate with relevant agencies to bring to justice criminal elements that traffic persons either on land or through the waterways.
“On conclusion of our investigation, the suspects and victims will be handed over to NAPTIP for further investigation and possible prosecution,” he added.
Speaking, the head of NAPTIP in Rivers, Nwa-amaka Ikediashi, said the agency would immediately rehabilitate the victims with focus to reintegrating them back into the society.
According to her, the victims, mainly under-aged girls, would also partake in different phases of counselling, to ensure they don’t continue prostitution.
“NAPTIP, as the focal agency mandated to fight all forms of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, will conduct proper investigation, to ensure justice is served,” she promised.
One of the rescued minors, an Anambra indigene, told the News Agency of Nigeria that she was trafficked from her village to work as a house help.
The victims said on her arrival to Port Harcourt in company of one of her kinswoman that she was forced into prostitution.
“One of my village women (trafficker) brought me and two other girls from our village with the impression that we are coming to serve in a hotel.
“Shortly after we arrived at the hotel, she (trafficker) went outside and collected money from one woman (brothel operator). That was the last time I saw her (trafficker).
“Later, the woman, simply known as madam, put us in a room and told us that we would work as Ashawo (prostitute),” she said.
She said she immediately refused to work as a prostitute but that after the operator threatened her with torture and starvation, she gave in.
“In a day I sleep with more than 10 men, and whatever money I make, I give it to my madam.
“We hustle by wearing pants to seduce the men. After admiring what they see, they (men) take us into the room; have sex with us and give us money.
“We do a daily account of any money we collect to our madam’s sister, who calculates and gives us our cut,” she added.