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‘I used to be determined’: Younger job seekers scammed, abused in Nigeria | Unemployment

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Warning: This story comprises particulars of sexual assault.

Hearken to this story:

Uyo, Nigeria – When Blessing* boarded a bus early on a January morning in 2017 for the 60km (37 miles) journey from her house in Calabar, in Nigeria’s Cross River State, to a village in neighbouring Akwa Ibom State, she thought she was going to satisfy a company govt a few potential job provide.

The ten-hour ordeal that adopted nonetheless haunts her, years later.

It began with a job posting on Jiji, a web-based commerce platform, in December 2016.

On the time, Blessing was 24 years previous. She had simply completed a diploma course and was planning to start college the next yr. However first, she wanted to save cash for her charges and dwelling bills. And that meant discovering a job.

Like many different younger Nigerians searching for employment within the digital age, Blessing made a social media put up searching for job gives, leaving her contact info in order that potential employers may attain her.

A couple of weeks later, she received a name from a person who advised her there was a gap for an entry-level position at ExxonMobil, an American oil and gasoline firm with a drilling licence in Nigeria. He requested that she carry a tough copy of her ID to an handle within the neighbouring state to proceed the appliance course of.

She had doubts however hoped her weeks of job looking have been lastly about to repay.

“I advised [the man] that I wasn’t comfy [travelling so far to meet him], being that I don’t know him. However he insisted that I didn’t have a alternative. And I used to be desperately in want of a job at the moment,” Blessing, who’s now 30, recollects.

When she advised her mom in regards to the name, she too tried to influence the person that Blessing may merely scan her ID and e-mail him a duplicate of it, as a substitute of travelling throughout states. However the man insisted, so Blessing’s mom borrowed the cash for her bus fare.

‘Watch out for canine’

After 4 hours on the bus, Blessing arrived within the city of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State at 10am.

“Once I received there, I referred to as him. He despatched me the situation [an address in the village] through SMS. He advised me to take a taxi to Oron street, then I ought to take a [motorcycle taxi] and search for a home with [a] ‘watch out for canine’ [sign],” she says.

The street to the village of Nung Ikono Obio is untarred and lined by thick vegetation on each side. When she noticed the situation of the street, Blessing contemplated turning again however reasoned that she had already spent an excessive amount of on journey.

“I didn’t wish to go house with out suggestions [for my mother],” she recollects.

An illustration of a woman standing outside a building holding a file folder in her hand
[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

However when Blessing arrived on the home with the “watch out for canine” signal, she was shocked by what she noticed. It was the location of ongoing building; exterior, labourers have been shifting sand from a heap to combine concrete which they used for the inspiration.

The person she had been chatting with on the telephone additionally shocked her – he seemed too younger to be a company govt. It later turned out that he was simply 16.

Blessing says he requested her to take a seat on a bench and anticipate his father, who would focus on the job provide along with her. In the meantime, the labourers continued working round her.

“There have been individuals working so I didn’t suspect something,” she recollects. “At about 2 o’clock, I turned uncomfortable as a result of time was working quick and I used to be presupposed to be heading again to Calabar.”

The boy advised her to not fear, that they would go away as quickly as he had paid the labourers.

However at 5pm, when the labourers left, the boy locked the gate, and Blessing was left alone with him contained in the compound. When she protested, he threatened to kill her and demanded that she enter a close-by room.

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She describes what occurred subsequent. “He advised me to obey him and never hesitate, in any other case he would harm me and nobody would come to my rescue. The room was so darkish however there was a small mattress. He advised me to take a seat on it. He advised me to undress. That was once I began pleading.”

Blessing began crying. She advised him that she didn’t need the job any extra.

“He introduced out a knife tied with crimson cloths and [said] that if I didn’t undress, he would stab me.”

Then he raped her.

Rape and homicide

In August this yr, Uduak “Ezekiel” Akpan, now 22, was discovered responsible of raping and murdering Iniubong Umoren, a 26-year-old job seeker, in April 2021. After Umoren’s case began trending on social media, Blessing noticed posts and realised the attacker was the identical man who had raped her in 2017.

Like Blessing, Umoren had made an open name on social media for a job. “#AkwaIbomTwitter please. I’m actually in want of a job, one thing to do to maintain my thoughts and soul collectively whereas contributing dutifully to the group. My location is Uyo. I’m inventive, actually good at considering critically, and most significantly a quick learner. CV obtainable on request,” she tweeted on April 27, 2021.

As with Blessing, Akpan had then lured her to his house – the identical one, nonetheless beneath building all these years later – beneath the pretext of a job interview.

Whereas there, Umoren despatched a one-second WhatsApp audio message to her pal Uduak Obong. When Obong referred to as her again, she heard her pal’s screams. So she despatched a frantic tweet suggesting Umoren could be at risk. On-line, Nigerians started investigating. Inside just a few hours, they discovered Akpan’s Fb pages and dug up his digital footprint. A Twitter person received a leak of Akpan’s name log. With the decision logs, he geolocated the place Akpan was when he had final referred to as Umoren’s telephone.

The next day, Umoren’s physique was present in a shallow grave in the identical compound in Nung Ikono Obio the place Blessing had been raped years earlier.

After Akpan attacked Blessing, she was too traumatised to report it. She didn’t even inform her mom what had occurred. However she did go to the hospital to get examined for sexually transmitted illnesses.

Blessing got here ahead after Umoren’s demise, and prosecutors referred to as her to present proof towards Akpan at his trial. Though she didn’t find yourself testifying – she was advised her testimony was now not wanted – she sees her resolution as a primary try at searching for justice for what occurred to her.

Within the assertion Akpan gave to the police earlier than his trial commenced – a confession he later tried to recant, saying it was obtained beneath duress, though the choose dominated towards him – he admitted to having attacked six different ladies, together with Blessing. Umoren was the one one he killed.

An illustration of a prisoner behind bars
[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

A number of victims

Twenty-five-year-old Miriam Akpan (no relation to the perpetrator) was considered one of Akpan’s different victims. In December 2020, determined for a job, she posted on a Fb group referred to as Job Emptiness in Uyo, promoting her pursuits and {qualifications}.

“Please, something, I can do,” she wrote, mentioning that she had the equal of a highschool certificates and would take any job. Nobody supplied her one till Akpan stated he would pay her 35,000 Nigerian naira ($80) a month as a secretary in an “built-in farm”. Miriam was excited. For somebody with out a college diploma, a job that paid greater than the minimal month-to-month wage of 30,000 naira ($69) felt like a fantastic alternative.

She agreed to satisfy him to debate the small print of the job provide. However as a substitute of an interview, she was drugged and raped.

For greater than a yr Miriam had suppressed the reminiscence of what occurred to her. She stored it from her sister, the one fast household she has. However as individuals tried to find Umoren, she noticed Akpan’s image being shared on Twitter and all of the emotion she had tried to bury got here dashing again. “I didn’t even give it some thought, I simply commented [on Twitter] that this particular person robbed me final December,” she says.

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However her final title raised suspicions, and a few accused her of being associated to Uduak Akpan. Umoren’s kin didn’t instantly belief her when she suggested them to go to Akpan’s home that night time to seek for the lacking girl.

The next day, Miriam’s instructions led the police and Umoren’s kin to the compound the place they discovered her physique.

Miriam’s court docket testimony additionally helped convict Akpan.

He was subsequently sentenced to demise by hanging for the homicide of Umoren, and life imprisonment for her rape.

Hovering unemployment

However Akpan just isn’t the one particular person to have taken benefit of Nigeria’s employment disaster.

It is not uncommon for Nigerians to announce on social media that they’re searching for jobs. With a hovering unemployment price, many discover unconventional methods of discovering work. Graduates are typically seen holding placards at main bus stops and expressways pleading for jobs; others make on-line banners; and members of the Nationwide Youth Corps who end their service additionally put up their certificates on social media, saying that they’re prepared for employment.

Nigeria’s unemployment price stands at 33.3 p.c, in accordance with knowledge from the Nationwide Bureau of Statistics, which signifies that greater than 23 million individuals both don’t have any job or work for lower than 20 hours every week. Amongst these aged between 15 and 35, the unemployment price stood at 42.5 p.c in 2020.

An illustration of people with placards on the side of a road
[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

The excessive variety of unemployed individuals searching for jobs additionally makes Nigeria’s labour market a “breeding floor” for criminals who lure candidates in with job interviews, stated Taibat Hussain, a youth and gender equality advocate. “Criminals … lure candidates in with faux job interviews, after which rob, rape and, in excessive instances, kill them. This class of youth, after spending years with out employment alternatives, falls prey to the ways and is left with no different alternative than to present in,” she advised Al Jazeera.

As a part of reporting this story, Al Jazeera met a 26-year-old man arrested in Cross River State for the alleged rape of an 18-year-old girl to whom he had promised a job. We’re not naming him as he’s awaiting trial.

When Al Jazeera met him at Calabar Correctional Centre, he was carrying a blue shirt with its collar raised and a pair of too-small slippers. He had already been behind bars for greater than a yr. He advised Al Jazeera he had slept with the lady however denied raping her. “I used to be going to assist her get the job however she is offended as a result of the job didn’t come as quick as she wished,” he stated.

However in a press release the lady gave to the police detailing her expertise, she advised a unique story. She met the person whereas searching for work vacancies, she stated. He advised her there was a cleansing place open in his office – a producing firm in Calabar.

“He requested me to carry my software to his home in order that he may help me appropriate it and submit [it]. He checked out my software and stated it’s not appropriate. He wrote one other one and advised me to recopy it with my handwriting. After I completed copying it, I wished to go however he didn’t let me go. He began kissing me and touching my breast. He used his proper hand to carry my arms collectively and his left hand to cowl my mouth,” her assertion within the police report reads.

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Consultants say that almost all victims of doubtful employment scams are youthful ladies searching for low-skilled jobs, who make up a major variety of the unemployed inhabitants, in accordance with the Nationwide Bureau of Statistics.

Extorted by ‘jobs on the market’

Whereas predators like Akpan benefit from determined job seekers, there are registered firms that additionally extort these determined individuals in different methods.

Oladeinde Olawoyin, a Nigerian journalist who has investigated faux employment businesses, discovered 50 instances of candidates being extorted. These businesses get candidates to pay for a registration package deal – normally charging 5,000-10,000 naira ($11-23) – with the promise of discovering them a job, but most by no means do. A few of these firms are registered as consultancies to avoid the regulation that makes it unlawful for an individual to pay to realize employment, Olawoyin explains.

“Most of the businesses would not have jobs to present,” he says. “They cost candidates for registration types and don’t actually get them any job. There are just a few who may need [a] few jobs however they recruit extra individuals than the [number of] job[s] they’ve. In a pool of about 1,000, they could throw in possibly 20 jobs or much less.

“These businesses know that Nigeria is [a] free for all. In order that they … gamble with individuals’s life and extort them. Most frequently they modify their location when their notoriety spreads. They modify their title and site. So it’s doable {that a} job seeker may get scammed two, three, or 4 instances by the identical set of individuals with totally different names and addresses.”

John Nyamani, the director of employment and wages at Nigeria’s Ministry of Labour, advised Al Jazeera that “desperation”, social media and job seekers wanting a fast repair have been in charge for individuals being preyed upon.

“We don’t wish to comply with the foundations as a result of we’re in a rush to get employment,” he stated.

Nyamani suggested job seekers to be circumspect of alternatives marketed on social media that can’t be traced to a longtime organisation. “They’re deceived with jobs and it’s due to the scenario of issues. The federal government can solely attempt its finest by means of the safety businesses to teach individuals on find out how to watch out. Not each advert you see on social media [is one] that you simply reply to. If it’s a must to reply to it, make clarifications, and ask the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry of Labour has a superb, useful web site,” he added, referring to the Nationwide Employment Digital Labour Alternate (NELEX).

The web site has a pool of vacancies and an inventory of authorized organisations the place Nigerians searching for employment can perform background checks on their potential employers, Nyamani stated.

Nonetheless, advocate Hussain, who has seemed into the federal government’s youth unemployment discount scheme, says such initiatives solely present “short-term reduction”, and that there’s a want for everlasting and sustainable connections between the labour market and authorities initiatives that hope to assist younger individuals.

For a lot of, Umoren’s demise highlighted how dire the unemployment scenario is in Nigeria, and the dangers younger persons are prepared to take to discover a job.

Miriam has gone again to highschool the place she is studying to change into a knowledge scientist. She stated dealing with Akpan once more was one of many hardest issues she has ever carried out however, after the incident, she determined to relocate to Lagos to begin afresh.

“I’ve left Uyo and the whole lot else behind me,” she says. “I can now construct a future that I would like. I purchased a laptop computer. I’m going to begin studying find out how to code.”

For Blessing, it has been tougher. She’s going to solely really feel that there was justice when Akpan hangs, she says, including: “I don’t assume he’ll ever be killed.”

*Title modified to guard the sufferer’s privateness



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