Canada Port Strike Enters Fifth Day With Talks Deadlocked, Threatening Economy - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Canadian dockworkers and their employers remained deadlocked as a strike crippling West Coast trade entered its fifth day, threatening the country’s economy.
Negotiations broke down Monday when the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association walked away from the bargaining table, accusing the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada of trying expand its jurisdiction over maintenance activities at ports, said Rob Ashton, president of the union. Talks remained paused Wednesday morning pending discussions with federal mediators, the BCMEA said.
A total of 51 ships were either berthed or at anchor near Vancouver, port data show, including at the Port of Vancouver. Two of seven terminals at Prince Rupert have been affected, the Prince Rupert Port Authority said. Almost 20% of Canada’s traded goods flow through both ports, the country’s first and third largest, representing more than C$800 million ($604 million) worth of cargoes a day, according to BMO Capital Markets Corp.
More than 120 business associations sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging the government to safeguard the supply chain and pass back-to-work legislation. Canadian Pacific Kansas City Ltd. and Canadian National Railway Co., the country’s two rail companies, said they reduced movement of rail cars to West Coast ports.
In April C$4.9 billion of goods were exported from British Columbia, including more than C$1 billion of coal, Statistics Canada data show. Imports totaled C$5.8 billion and included gas liquefaction equipment, vehicles, airplane parts and biodiesel. Grain shipments have continued as required by the labor code.
China Sees Suicide Rise Among Young Facing School Pressure - BLOOMBERG
BY Bloomberg News,
(Bloomberg) -- China has seen an increase in suicides among young people in recent years, prompting researchers to call for a special program to help them deal with academic pressure.
The number of children aged five to 14 that died by suicide jumped nearly 10% annually from 2010 to 2021, according to a recent study from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The figure for people aged 15 to 24 fell 7% through 2017 then posted a nearly 20% increase the next four years.
The increase is small in absolute numbers yet it contrasts with a decline of 5.3% annually in the 2010-2021 period among all age groups in the country, a drop the researchers said was due to a nationwide mental health program.
They said that children and adolescents have faced severe mental disorders and elevated suicide risks from intense competition to do well at school. Half of people suffering from depressive disorder in China are students, according to a 2022 national survey.
The researchers called on the government to prioritize developing programs targeting children and adolescents that adopt best practices from abroad and allow for the early identification of suicidal behavior.
Young people in China have long engaged in fierce competition to get ahead in school and get good jobs upon graduation. Three years of the Covid-19 pandemic — which in China meant snap lockdowns, including many imposed on college campuses — and record youth unemployment have also piled pressure on youth.
Earlier this year, the apparent suicide of a boarding school student named Hu Xinyu gained widespread attention in China, both because the 15-year-old boy had expressed concern beforehand about his grades and how the police handled their investigation.
Also, many people took to Chinese social media Thursday to express sadness over the death of Hong Kong-born singer and songwriter Coco Lee. The 48-year-old had been suffering from depression for several years, her sisters said in a statement posted on Facebook.
One person wrote on Weibo that “Coco’s passing is also a wake-up call for us to take our mental health seriously.”
Read: Why China Is Cracking Down on After-School Tutoring: QuickTake
In 2021, Beijing unveiled a sweeping overhaul of its education tech sector, banning companies that teach the school curriculum from making profits. Many parents complained that pressure to engage private tutors caused excessive anxiety at home.
The researchers at the Center for Disease Control & Prevention also warned that the widespread belief among parents and teachers that getting good scores trumps anything else risks obscuring mental health issues plaguing children.
(Updates with more detail. An earlier version of this story corrected the percent figure in the third paragraph.)
London Gatwick Airport Seeks Second Runway as Air Travel Booms - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- London’s Gatwick Airport Ltd. is seeking planning permission to bring its second runway into full-time use, potentially raising capacity by tens of millions of passengers annually as air travel rebounds post-pandemic.
The UK’s second-largest airport wants to open the strip, currently used as a taxiway or as an emergency measure when the main runway is out of service, for regular operations. It would handle departures only, with the existing runway facilitating landings.
The move would create about 14,000 jobs and inject £1 billion ($1.3 billion) into the local economy each year because of the tourism and business opportunities it would generate, Gatwick said in a statement. It has submitted an application to the UK’s planning inspectorate.
Gatwick is attempting to resurrect plans to expand its emergency runway even after the UK in 2016 endorsed larger Heathrow airport, which has long planned to build a third runway, as the best candidate for growth. So far, Heathrow hasn’t yet started construction amid legal challenges. Gatwick said it could begin upgrades on the so-called Northern Runway project in 2025 and complete it by 2030.
The airport handled about 33 million travelers last year, though that was below pre-pandemic levels. Airports are seeing more passengers rush through their doors this summer season as demand for air travel booms following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The northern runway would offer new international connections to increase competition in London’s airport market, as well as helping Gatwick meet passenger demand in the future and boost its resilience, Gatwick Chief Executive Officer Stewart Wingate said in the statement.
Nigeria is safe for foreign investors – Akpabio - VANGUARD
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- THE President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio has assured foreign investors of the safety of their investments in Nigeria.
Senator Akpabio who spoke yesterday in Abuja when he received in his office, the JAMPUR INTERNATIONAL GROUP FZE, led by the CEO, Mohanmed Shafiq, said, ” I welcome you on behalf of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nigeria is very safe and ready for investors. I am aware you are already investing in Nigeria in the area of mining, power and trading. Thank you for employing Nigerians in your companies”.
In a statement from his Media Office, yesterday night, Akpabio noted that the decision of the Federal Government to put in place a single rate for foreign exchange was a deliberate attempt by the government to further assure foreign investors of the safety of their investments anywhere in the country.
The President of the Senate said, “The current administration has been able to normalize our foreign exchange rate by having only one window. Investing in Nigeria is worth the while because of the returns in investments based on our population of over 200 million and the land mass.
“The President is ready to ensure that people get value for their investments, himself being a strong businessman. He has a track record of achievements in Lagos State when he was the governor. Lagos today, has become one of the largest economy in Africa because of the foundation he laid.”
Akpabio assured his visitors of the safety of their investments through legislations, saying ” I assure you that the Federal Government will do everything humanly possible to protect your investments by putting in place enabling laws on investments and security for its citizens and foreign investors. “
Earlier in his speech, Muhammed Shafiq said he was in the Senate to formally congratulate the President of the Senate on his emergence as the Chairman of the National Assembly and to wish him well in office.
” We are here to congratulate you on your election as the President of the Senate and to intimate your on our readiness to continue to partner with the government in the area of mining, agriculture and power.”
Netherlands Can Cut Schiphol Airport Capacity, Dutch Court Rules - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Air France-KLM said it may be forced to adjust operations after the Dutch government won permission to curtail capacity at Amsterdam Schiphol, the main airport for the KLM subsidiary.
The number of flights at Schiphol airport can be scaled back between the end of the year and October 2024, an appeals court ruled Friday, revoking an earlier decision by a local court. The state has outlined plans to eventually cut Schiphol Airport’s annual flight capacity to 440,000 flights by 2024, equal to a 12% reduction.
The verdict is a loss for airlines including KLM, Delta Air Lines Inc, EasyJet Plc and the International Air Transport Association lobbying group, which has dubbed the Amsterdam airport the worst in the world because of what it sees as a disconnect between low performance and high fees.
Almost 53 million passengers flew through Schiphol last year. It has the most direct flight connections of any airport in Europe, according to data from Airports Council International Europe, beating out Istanbul and London Heathrow.
“Air France-KLM Group will have no choice but to adjust its strategy to maintain its European market share within a global industry,” should the Dutch government enforced this reduction, according to a statement by the airline group. The Dutch Cabin Crew Association also voiced concern about possible job cuts as airlines might move capacity elsewhere.
The ruling comes three months after a court concluded that the government’s attempts to minimize noise by cutting the number of flights that can go in and out of Schiphol airport did not follow the correct procedures.
In its ruling, the court said that any fear by airlines of suffering serious damage as a result of the proposed measures was no reason to arrive at a different outcome.
The court ruled that the government’s proposed measures aren’t in conflict with the rules of national and European law, nor are they against “the general principles of good administration,” according to a statement. It said that European rules of the balanced approach, which is a process that outlines best practices for implementing airport capacity restrictions for purposes of noise control, don’t apply to the government’s proposal.
Airlines and lobby groups maintain the reduction plan violates international regulations and inconveniences travelers. As a first step, the government proposed a temporary regulation to cap the number of flights from November this year at 460,000 — down from the current limit of 500,000.
Schiphol airport said it expected the Dutch government to provide further clarity about the number of flights within two months, which will be needed for it to determine the capacity declaration for the 2024 summer season. It plans to continue plans for a night closure, banning of private jets and the noisiest aircraft announced in April.
Lobby group IATA had recently dubbed Schiphol airport the “worst airport in the world,” with reference to a recent landing fee increase.
“The disruption is terrible, performance is dreadful and at the same time they want to increase charges,” IATA’s Willie Walsh said in June at the group’s annual meeting in Istanbul.
(Updates story with comments from Air France-KLM)
Relief for Lagos motorists as FG re-opens Eko bridge - BUSINESSDAY
Sanwo-Olu issues quit notice to traders, squatters to prevent future damage to flyover
The long wait for the re-opening of Eko Bridge in Lagos State has ended. The flyover is now open for vehicular traffic, 15 months after it was closed by the Federal Government for a major repair.
The bridge was severely damaged at Apogbon section during a fire caused by illegal trading under it. The intensity of the inferno was said to have weakened major components and supporting pillars of the bridge, prompting its closure for extensive repair on the entire stretch.
Eko Bridge is one of the three bridges linking the mainland to the Island of Lagos.
The bridge’s reopening brought huge relief for motorists and commuters, who endured months of pain transiting in and out of Lagos Island.
Scores of excited commuters, on Saturday evening, received Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Federal Comptroller of Works, Olukorede Keisha, at a drive through ceremony for the reopening of the flyover.
Sanwo-Olu said the repair at the Apogbon axis had been completed, but disclosed that maintenance work would continue on the infrastructure, which would lead to intermittent closures in the coming months.
The Governor conveyed the Federal Government’s apology to Lagos residents for the delay in getting the bridge back to use, stressing that it would be risky to reopen the bridge without proper reconstruction of the damaged section.
Sanwo-Olu said: “It is with great delight to announce that we have carried out comprehensive tests with the contractor from the Federal Ministry of Works and we believe that Apogbon section of the Eko Bridge can now be opened for motorists. But the maintenance work on the entire bridge has not completed. There are lots of bearings that still need to be reinforced along the entire stretch of the infrastructure.
“In future, there will be more intermittent closures at different sections of the bridge but the period may not be longer than one or two weeks. This is necessary for us to jerk up the bridge and complete the maintenance work. We are reopening the bridge to bring relief to road users, who have endured hardship due to the repair work.”
The Governor said the contractor handling the work would also be reconstructing ancillary roads along the corridor to prevent further misuse of the bridge.
Sanwo-Olu said continuous trading activities under the bridge would no longer be permitted to prevent further damage to the flyover.
The Governor issued a seven-day ultimatum to all traders and illegal squatters to remove their belongings and vacate the space under the Eko Bridge. He directed the Lagos State Environment and Special Offences Enforcement Unit (Taskforce) to clear any illegal structure found under the bridge after the ultimatum.
He said: “We are using this medium to warn those trading under the bridge that we will not tolerate any form of illegal activities under this bridge and other bridges in the State. The bridges are important assets to the State and we cannot fold our arms and allow a few people to destroy them.
“We have seen the effect which the destruction on Eko Bridge caused the entire city. We cannot afford to have these bridges shut down again because of illegal activities. We will clear all squatters from Ijora Olopa to Costain and there will be zero tolerance for market activity under the bridge.”
Keisha thanked Lagos State Government for collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Works to hasten up the repair work on the bridge, noting that the reopening of the bridge was made possible because of the intervention of the State Government.
She said comprehensive maintenance work had already started on Eko Bridge before the fire incident happened, which made the contractor to abandon the work to focus on the damaged sections. Having repaired the parts damaged by the fire, Keisha said the contractor would continue the maintenance work to reinforce the bridge for public safety.
She said: “The reopening of the bridge would not have been possible if the Lagos State Government had not come to our rescue. If not for the intervention of the State Government, what is happening here would not be achieve. We appreciate this collaboration and timely support. Having considered the hardship on motorists, Governor Sanwo-Olu brought the machinery of the State to the assistance of the Federal Government and get the work done.”
EasyJet Cancels 1,700 Flights Over Air Traffic Control Chaos - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- EasyJet Plc canceled almost 2,000 flights this summer from its London Gatwick hub citing air traffic control disruptions, an indicator that airlines are preemptively scrapping flights to limit travel chaos.
Europe’s second largest budget carrier scrapped 1,700 flights that were due to operate in July, August and September, which will affect around 180,000 passengers. That amounts to less than a day’s worth of flying, with more than 90,000 flights due to operate during the peak summer months, an EasyJet spokesperson said.
Customers who’ve had flights canceled will be rebooked onto alternative flights or can receive a refund.
The flight adjustments will help to reduce the challenges presented by congested air space due to the war in Ukraine and air traffic control delays, the spokesperson said. EasyJet isn’t the only airline which has had to pare its summer schedule. Ryanair Holdings Plc, Air France-KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa AG have all canceled flights citing strikes by air traffic controllers and disruption.
Aviation is surging as it rebounds from the lows of the pandemic. July 6 was the busiest day ever for commercial aviation globally with 134,386 flights, aviation tracking website FlightRadar24 said last week.
Eurocontrol, which manages air space in Europe, last week warned of more disruptions this summer as some destinations could become overloaded with air traffic. Industrial action has also hit the aviation industry hard this year as many air traffic controllers across Europe walk out over working conditions.
A union representing Eurocontrol staff in the operations center threatened to strike over a period of six months. The USB union, representing the workers, said it was currently in negotiations with Eurocontrol’s Director General but hadn’t “received written assurances or agreements yet”.
Lagos airport runway light stolen, seven suspended - PUNCH
Unknown persons have allegedly carted away the recently reinstalled airfield lighting systems at the domestic runway 18/36L of Murtala Muhammad Airport.
The PUNCH gathered that the disappearance of the approach lighting systems had raised security concerns in Nigeria’s busiest airports.
According to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, those who carted away the lighting systems took advantage of the closure of the runway for over three months.
The source alleged that some FAAN workers connived with outsiders to steal the airport lighting equipment.
“The criminal took advantage of the closure to commit the crime. I cannot give the actual worth of the theft, but almost all the lighting was removed. The permanent secretary came around to see for himself the huge damage done. A lot of FAAN officials have been suspended,” the source confirmed.
The PUNCH also gathered that some heads of relevant departments at FAAN have been suspended over the missing lighting equipment on the directives of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, Dr Emmanuel Meribole.
The source also disclosed that investigations had since commenced to unravel those responsible for the missing safety equipment.
According to the source, the regular incursion and stealing of safety components at the airports are carried out by a syndicate, consisting of some workers of the agencies, who have access to the restricted areas and accomplices from outside.
A top official with FAAN, who did not want his name in print, said the agency’s Managing Director, Mr Kabir Yusuf, was displeased with the development.
He stated that FAAN MD had also ordered the suspension of security personnel who were in charge of guarding critical airport facilities.
Reacting to the latest development, a former Military Commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), said, “This is not new at MMA. I wish the FAAN management could go back to 1990 when similar things happened in the airport. I was convinced that it was an ‘insiders threats’. What did I do? I positioned soldiers on the runways and ensured that no FAAN maintenance staff went near the runways for anything without my approval; otherwise, it was shoot at first sight. It stopped completely. Runway lightings were being stolen and my conclusion then was that runway lightings can only be useful for runways and not roads or houses.
“Those stolen were being sold to FAAN by the same workers. That is why I am not in support of the unions carrying the picketing of their employers to the airport’s security controlled areas.”
The Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, FAAN, Mr Yakubu Funtua, told The PUNCH stated that investigations had been launched and that the agency would do all within its powers to avoid a reoccurrence.
He said, “FAAN is doing all it can to get to the bottom of this. You are very aware that there are many agencies within the airport, including the different ones that are supposed to be taking care of security there. So, it would be unfair to put this (the theft) on our (members of) staff and I don’t think there is any FAAN (member of) staff that wants the agency to crash.
“Note that most of our revenue comes from Lagos. So, what kind of staff will ‘kill the goose that lays the egg?’ However, we can’t say exactly who did it, but we are doing all that we can to recover what is lost. We are going to recover it because we are going to find out those people who did it and then block all those loopholes.”
For 15 years, the Lagos Airport domestic runway 18L was shut down to night operations due to the absence of airfield lighting.
Domestic airlines were forced to use runway 19 at the international airport, which consumes more aviation fuel because of the longer distance.
The equipment, which aids aircraft to take off and land at the domestic airport at night, was installed on the 2.7 kilometres long runway last November.
Why Airfares On Nigerian Routes Are Higher – Mshelia - INDEPENDENT
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Westlink Airlines, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia, has shed more insights on why airfares on the Nigerian routes are more expensive than its other African countries, especially in the West African.
Speaking with our correspondent on phone over the weekend, Mshelia said that apart from the foreign exchange (forex) unification policy of the Federal Government, which eradicated the black-market rates and increased the value of dollars against the naira, the operating environment and charges on the Nigerian routes also contributed to the high airfares on the country’s routes.
According to Mshelia, the handling rates and other levies, including navigation charges in Nigeria are higher than other countries in the West Coast, saying that this further pushes the cost of air tickets up on the Nigerian routes.
He said: “Air tickets are higher because to come into our airspace and get out, costs the airlines more than it do elsewhere. There was a time I computed what it costs British Airways to fly a Boeing 777 aircraft from London to Accra and then from London to Abuja, flying the same aircraft.
“I tried to look at air navigation, the handling charges and some other things to rotate the aircraft from the airspace of Ghana and exit at the same point back to London, the difference between that and when it enters from Kano end to Abuja and exit our airspace back to London again.
The difference between the charges of that airspace and the one of Ghana is about $200 difference and the distance from the borders of Ghana to Accra and the border of Nigeria to Abuja, Nigeria’s own is shorter by about 110 miles or thereabout.
“Also, the handling; to rotate a B777 out of Accra, the handling company in Accra is charging about $1,000 and in Nigeria here, it is close to about $3,000. So, if you look at it by and large, the operators have to recoup their investments with some profits. Therefore, tickets out of Nigeria have to be commensurate with what they spend. That is why Nigeria has to pay more, but who is punishing who? We are punishing ourselves.
“Nigerians should not pay much, but we are struggling to run our aviation the way others run it. It was like this when I came in. I came into the industry and I have now clocked about 40 years in it and it is still like this. I am sure if we do not do anything on it, it will remain like this.”
Also, Mrs. Susan Akpoariaye, the President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agency (NANTA), said that with the forex unification, air travellers, particularly those travelling on the international routes should expect fluctuating airfares based on the exchange rate between the Nigerian naira and the US dollar.
Akpoariaye, however, said that the forex unification was good for the Nigerian economy and would make the repatriation of ticket sales funds easy and possible.
She, however, clarified that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) does not have the power to fix foreign exchange for airlines as claimed in some quarters.
“So, that policy they brought was to unify the rates so that we will have only one rate, and that one rate will be determined by the I&E window, and anyone that understands this, will know that there will be a lot of fluctuations in the rates,” she said.
She explained that airfares are denominated in dollars and converted to naira at the prevailing exchange rate at the time of booking or payment.
Therefore, if the naira depreciates against the dollar, airfares would increase accordingly. Conversely, if the naira appreciates against the
‘I knew it was a risk’: A Nigerian migrant sex worker in Ghana - ALJAZEERA
How one woman made a desperate cross-border sacrifice to build a better life for her family and get them out of poverty.
This article is part of a series on intra-Africa migration.
Accra, Ghana – Diamond’s childhood dream was to become a famous hair stylist and make enough money to travel around the world, connecting with other businesswomen and empowering vulnerable girls.
She never imagined then that at age 32, circumstances would leave her closer to the women she wanted to help than the ones doing the helping.
The second of seven children, nicknamed Diamond (real name withheld to protect her privacy), was born into a poor family in Nigeria’s Delta State but dreamt of a better life.
“I love styling hair so I decided to learn it as a profession and to become popular across the world,” she smiled, reminiscing to Al Jazeera. But her excitement dims when she recalls that due to a lack of funds, “unfortunately, I couldn’t see my training through … There was nobody to help me.”
At 16, she became pregnant with a man from Benin City. A second baby arrived three years later. But he left them for another woman, kicking Diamond out of the house.
Then in 2010, tragedy struck when the 20-year-old’s father died, and circumstances that were difficult became unbearable.
Diamond’s brother, the eldest sibling, squandered the little savings their father bequeathed them, leaving her the sole breadwinner. Desperate to provide for her mother, siblings, and children, she took on low-paying or menial jobs, depending on handouts from the neighbours to get by.
But it was not enough.
Her mother’s health was deteriorating and medical bills to help her weakening heart were piling up. None of the younger siblings had work, and Diamond’s two growing children needed money for school fees, food, and clothes.
She became desperate. So, in November 2019, she made a difficult choice.
“My family was battling financial problems, and someone suggested I come to Ghana to do kpokpor [prostitution],” Diamond said.
Her best friend told her about a Nigerian acquaintance in Ghana looking for call girls and suggested it could be the solution to Diamond’s financial problems.
Although initially hesitant, she says life’s pressures, like going to bed on an empty stomach, forced her to accept sex work as the light at the end of the dark tunnel her life had become.
“I knew it was a risk,” she shrugged. “But isn’t taking risks all that life is about?”
Choices and regrets
A week after the conversation with her best friend, Diamond made a call to Auntie Angela, the madam in Ghana, to accept her offer to be a call girl. The terms of the deal were for Diamond to work for three months, earning an estimated 600,000 Nigerian naira (8,900 Ghanaian cedi or $780) for Angela. After that, Diamond would be free to leave and work independently.
“She promised to give me accommodation in Ghana, transportation to and from work, clothing and any other necessities that may arise while I was doing the sex business,” said Diamond, her short hair dyed blonde and flanked by two sets of matching earrings.
So she borrowed money for the Ghana trip.
Three days after calling Angela, she embarked on the road journey with 10 other Nigerian women, all headed through Benin and Togo towards Ghana’s capital Accra where they would begin working as migrant sex workers.
“We had no travelling documents and experience,” Diamond shared. “I was scared we could be arrested and returned to Nigeria anytime we got to the checkpoints.”
“The French language was a problem for us. They [officials] wanted to know our mission in Ghana. We lied that we are traders. They took money from us in Benin and Togo before allowing us to continue to Ghana,” Diamond added, sharing that because they had no form of identification, they bribed border officials to cross.
In Accra, they were received at the bustling Tudu truck station near the Central Business District by a man who took them to their madam in Kasoa, a peri-urban town of about 120,000 inhabitants, 33km (20.5-mile) drive from the capital. A hub for trade and commerce, Kasoa is home to people from several Ghanaian ethnicities as well as foreigners from Nigeria, Liberia, Togo, and Ivory Coast.
A booming trade
Prostitution is a thriving business in West Africa, especially in Liberia, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, whose economies were ravaged by civil wars that all ended in the late 2000s.
A January 2023 study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), estimated that there are 2.5 million female sex workers aged 15 to 49 in sub-Saharan Africa.
Although commercial sex work is illegal in Ghana, it is a booming business in areas like Lapaz, Cantonments, Osu, East Legon, and Kasoa where select local pubs are often inundated with young girls in revealing clothes seeking potential clients.
At their residence in Kasoa, Diamond and her 10 friends shared a single room containing just five thin mattresses without bedsheets on the floor. It felt like a prison – no TV or radio set or chair. The paint on the wall had faded with marks of dirty human hands. The room was poorly ventilated with a rusted, noisy ceiling fan. The only window had a net meant to prevent mosquitoes and other insects from entering but that was torn.
“I was promised heaven but I came to meet hell. I was very disappointed when I was ushered into the room,” Diamond said, shaking her head and sipping her energy drink. “My madam lied to me. She was only interested in exploiting us and the money.”
Despite the disappointment, Diamond hit the ground running – to make money for her children’s education back in Nigeria. But after a week of working, she realised her madam was not fulfilling her side of the bargain.
“She was taking all the daily sales. She was not providing us with food as promised. She gave us as little as 10 cedi [$0.87] a day as transport [cost] – that can take us to the pubs, but not back. Meanwhile, she doesn’t want us to touch the daily sales. We survived on tips from clients.”
Did it not cross Diamond’s mind to flee, far beyond her madam’s reach?
“Well, I could have, but remember I was only an alien resident, one without any resources or legal documents for that matter. It wasn’t like I had any options,” she said.
By February 2020, Diamond – a lover of music and movies – had finished serving her three months, and had managed to scrape together some savings to send back home.
“It was quite the ordeal,” Diamond paused, trying to hold back painful memories. After scrolling through her phone messages and cutting off some incoming calls, she regains her composure and continues. “But I still tried my best to pay her [the madam] money, handing her every pesewa I made. By the time I was done, I was exhausted, and, frankly, fed up with the work.”
“Sleeping with men for a fee — ranging from 200 cedi [$18] to 300 cedi [$26] per session, and double that for the occasional threesome — wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. Now free of my madam’s tentacles, my debt fully paid, I quit the profession and tried to figure out what to do next for myself.”
But then more bad news arrived: the sudden death of her 61-year-old mother on March 3, 2020.
“She woke up one morning to go about her regular chores, I was told, only to collapse in the bathroom and … and that was it,” Diamond said.
That ruined any dreams of a blissful homecoming but Diamond’s consolation was that her mother never knew what her eldest daughter did for a living.
Only Diamond’s younger sister, who now takes care of her children, knows about her real profession. The others, including her two children, think she works as an attendant at a big supermarket in Accra.
“All [my mother] wanted was to have me back as soon as I was done with my endeavours in Ghana,” Diamond said. “That I couldn’t fulfil that earnest desire of hers is the only regret I have in that sense.”
When news of her mother’s death came, Diamond briefly resumed her call-girl work to help fund her trip back home – and got help from some friends.
In Nigeria, she initially decided not to return to Ghana, preferring to take care of her children and siblings in her mom’s absence.
But when the harsh financial reality at home deepened, the lure of Ghana returned so she went to her former madam, Angela.
“She promised me free lodgings, and all I’d ever have to pay her back was the cost of transportation to Ghana,” she said.
Once again, the madam reneged on her pledge after Diamond returned to Ghana. That led to a falling-out. Diamond eventually moved out to live on her own, surviving on what had, by now, become her life: prostitution.
These days she lives in a single-room apartment a few metres away that she rents for 200 cedi a month. In it, she has a single bed, a second-hand sofa and a modest home theatre system to enjoy her music and movies.
No longer being at Angela’s beck and call helps her take certain liberties, such as not working when she is not physically or psychologically inclined to. She no longer works the streets at night and clients have to call her to book in advance. She does not entertain customers at her place, preferring hotels or brothels operating in disguise as private movie houses.
On average, Diamond makes $500 a month – that is 13 times Accra’s minimum wage of $39.
But her earnings are not fixed and fluctuate when business is slow or if she falls sick. Still, she always sends something home. “Every month, I remit between $150 and $200 back home to take care of rent, utility bills, school fees, and the children’s upkeep and some of my siblings. I wish I can do enough to cater to their needs,” she said.
Sex workers in Ghana are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and cannot report to the police because they have little legal recourse. There is also the real risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, which Diamond counters by insisting on the use of condoms.
These days, she only engages clients she is already acquainted with and new ones recommended by friends and fellow call girls. But things are not easy.
“There are times when a john would pay for two rounds of sex, only to ask for a third at the end of his second, and will sometimes make you fine by giving you more. Not all would do so politely, with some even resorting to aggression or outright violence,” Diamond said. “Then there are those men who have no intention at all of sleeping with you; all they want to do, instead, is rob you of your valuables, and I’ve fallen prey to such ones at least once.”
A million-naira dream
Diamond does not keep a number but estimates that since 2019 she has slept with about 50 men – mostly regular customers. It is a number she does not intend to add to if she has her way. After almost four years, she wants to do something else.
“I’m tired,” she said, banging her right hand on the table, holding her energy drink.
“This is not a life worth living. It only helps keep body and soul together, barely leaving enough to send remittances to my dependents. And that’s why I’m now trying to find a way to return to Nigeria, as quite a number of my peers have done. Also, I miss my family.”
Would she miss Ghana, though?
“I will just miss going to the beach — which, along with watching movies and listening to music, I do for relaxation — and also some good people I have met here.”
“And oh,” she laughed, “I will miss Ghana jollof [rice] too — which I think is as good as the Nigerian version, by the way.”
Diamond currently has $200 in savings. Her aim is to raise 1,000,000 naira ($1,307) to return to Nigeria to operate a pub or clothing business.
“Alternatively, if I get someone to rent a house for me in Ghana, I will bring my kids and start my business here.”
“Someone?” Al Jazeera asked.
“Yes,” she responded, “and that could be anyone, but, specifically a destiny helper.”
The concept of “destiny helper” is one that has surfaced only recently in Christianity, particularly in Africa, referring generally to a person an individual believes God has sent to help fulfil their purpose in life. That help could come in the form of influence, money among other things.
Not long ago, it appeared she had found that person, but it was a mirage.
“I met somebody, a Ghanaian, who promised to give me money for business before he travelled to the United Kingdom. Ever since his departure, though, I have not heard from him … so I just decided to leave him alone. I can only keep praying, hoping that one day God will bring the right person that will change my story,” she said.
Diamond’s optimism, as she speaks about her faith as a Christian and her future, is only matched by the passion with which she speaks about her faith in the future of her children – a 16-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.
“I would like my daughter to become a doctor and my son to join the military,” she said, a ray of hope flashing across her face in the form of a broad smile. “And, yes, I wouldn’t mind if there is a genuine chance to settle down with a man who loves me. I do believe in love.”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA