Pulse Opinion: Let's be honest, most of us at some point have been slave masters

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Nigerian house-helps are treated very badly and no one is doing anything about it

Millions of Nigerians have house-helps and this makes them more or less slave masters.

The world is shocked by the fact that illegal migrants are sold as slaves in Libya.

The images of Africans sold as property has rightfully shocked the world. Nigerian and foreign celebs are speaking up about the modern slave trade business. The world is finally focused on the migration crisis in Africa that has been going for decades.

Hashtags, Twitter threads and Instagram photos are being used to incite action. While this is commendable, we cannot overlook that many Nigerians are slave masters too.


Hip-Hop legend eLDee rightfully pointed out this on Twitter on Wednesday, November 29, 2017. "I hope we also find time to reflect on the slavery & human trafficking in many of our African homes as well. Those”house-helps” from Benin/Togo whose masters get paid 10k every month to do chores from dusk till dawn. #Slavery" tweeted the respected veteran.


His Twitter thread highlights the hypocrisy of Nigerians who are railing against slavery in Libya but have house-helps at home.


In Nigeria there is a strong culture of having house-helps. These house helps are mostly teenage girls or young women who are employed to take assist with domestic chores in the house.

Back in the 90s, almost every Nigerian household had at least one house help. This arrangement still happens until today. An 'agent' hooks a family with a house help mainly from the neighbouring countries of Benin/Togo.

ALSO READ: How Nigerians are starved, beaten to death in Libya

The family pays the agent a monthly fee for the house help. It should be stressed that the house help does not directly receive payment for her services. The agent usually gives the house help a small percentage of the monthly fee for upkeep. In some cases, the family of the house help receives part of the payment too.

Most of these house-helps are school dropouts, only a few of them have a secondary school education. Due to poverty in their homes, these girls and young women are sold as domestic servants.

It's popular in mainstream Nigeria for a family to have a house-help. Yet, despite its popularity, there is no welfare body that looks out for these house-helps. No one checks on their personal welfare and if they are being abused physically, mentally or sexually.


And let's not pretend we don't know about house-helps whose lives are hell. A lot of these girls and women are treated like second-class citizens in homes where they serve. They are given shabby clothes to wear, and leftovers to eat.

If they are extremely unlucky, they would get beaten often by the man and madam of the house. Mental abuse is also part of the mix. We can't gloss over the fact that many of house-helps are sexually abused too. What is a Nollywood formula to us, is the reality for a lot of maids in many households. They are sexually molested and harassed in the homes they serve. We can't also rule out rape.


Look at what happens to these house-helps, (pimped by an agent, physical abuse, sexual abuse and mental abuse) and tell me that they are not slaves? Tell me that they are not treated like second-class human beings?

ALSO READ: How we treat our house helps like slaves

Firstly, there are females below 18 years of age who are house helps and this is wrong. It should be criminal. The priority of the girl child is to have a good education. This should be paramount and non-negotiable.

Hiring underage house-helps is slavery glossed as helping out a poor family. How many of these girls come out of poverty at the end of the day? How many of them get degrees and have meaningful jobs later on in life? Even the ones who are of age are stuck in a rot of poverty.


If the humanitarian basis of hiring house helps is to help these economically disenfranchised women, then Nigeria is running a system of domestic slavery.

What we have now as a house-help industry does not empower these women and does not set them up to have a better future. At best, many of these girls and women would move from home to home and still be in abject poverty.

The Bible says we should remove the plank in our eye before we remove the speck in our brother's eye. We can do better in how we employ and treat househelps. These women are slaves. They might not be in chains but the fact remains that they are slaves.


They earn below minimum wage and are vulnerable to abuse from their masters. There is no way to sugar coat this, these women are slaves and we are slave masters.

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