‘Nigerian mafia’: the phrase is strong enough to convey the point of view of the Italian Council of Ministers’ current president, far-right leader Giorgia Meloni. This week, her country is certainly proud to have landed a kick in the pants of an international prostitution ring linked to Nigeria.
Omoruyi Charity, a 48-year-old former Nigerian prostitute who was tried in absentia in Italy and sentenced to 13 years in prison, is accused of being one of the leaders of a vast network between West Africa and Italy’s ‘Big Boot’.
Arrested in Nigeria nine months ago, the woman known as ‘Mommy’ or ‘Jeff Joy’ has just been extradited by Abuja under a recent treaty that came into force in 2020. The first extradition had to be confirmed by the Federal High Court of Abuja and the Nigerian political authorities before Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and Italian ambassador Stefano De Leo made the expulsion – the first of its kind – official on 10 February.
‘Jeff Joy’ landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport in handcuffs on 8 March. This is a very symbolic date, as women’s rights, which are celebrated on this day, are largely flouted in these prostitution networks. The latter can more often be described as ‘real’ trafficking as opposed to a voluntary charm trade.
Fake promises, threats
Baited by plane tickets and promises of employment, the destitute women in the care of the arrested madam were forced to prostitute themselves, sometimes under duress, in Italy, Spain or the Netherlands.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), eight out of 10 Nigerian women who enter Europe illegally could be victims of sexual exploitation.
These real Nigerian criminal organisations – such as the Black Axe Confraternity or the Supreme Eiye Confraternity – reign over European prostitution from West Africa, probably with the approval of Italian criminal organisations.
Caught up in a spiral of debts to be repaid, and often underage, all that the migrant women have left are tears and what remains of their bodies.
To the recalcitrant women who have lost their naïveté and are full of remorse, the traffickers brandish the prospect of reprisals to be suffered by their relatives back in Nigeria, whether in the form of violent forms of vengeance – including alleged murder – or through acts of witchcraft.
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