The lowest servile repugnant media platform eever ......face book ...the owner and its employees are disgusting on a subhuman level ..........they have no class ......gutless employees ..........and have no cultural knowledge of any walk of life .......it's a bunch of weak donkey minded ............ hair dyed ......leftist ......kids who live in their parents basements ......and paid by a man who does not deserve to have a wife and kids pure and simple .............they should be fined fpr this stint ......disgusting this is a crime ..........
ADAGOM, Nigeria—When they arrived outside her home dressed in matching blue jeans and white T-shirts, Agnes*, 16, had no idea that these two men had come to destroy her life.
How could she? After all, her aunt was expecting them.
Their leather shoes were caked in mud from the narrow path that leads up behind the house. Agnes recalls the men, who both looked as though they were in their thirties, asked her if she was ready to go.
“Who are you people?” she replied. “And what are you talking about?”
Aunt Helen—who had looked after Agnes since the girl’s mother died in a car crash on Valentine’s Day 2015—smiled and explained that she had good news.
She had found Agnes a job that would mean she could finally return to school. Agnes had stopped going to class in the eighth grade when intense fighting between Cameroon’s government forces and local separatists broke out. Since then, they had been sharing a small hut in a refugee settlement just over the border in Nigeria. She dreamed of returning to school in Cameroon.
It took Agnes ten minutes to pack her belongings into a zip-up woven nylon bag. She climbed into a waiting Volkswagen Passat.
That was two years ago.
Agnes was not taken back to school. She was being smuggled into a hellish existence of rape and slavery.
But this story did not really begin in a cramped and under-resourced United Nations-funded refugee encampment in Sub-Saharan Africa. It began on Facebook.
Unbeknownst to her, a photograph of Agnes had been posted to the pages of the U.S. social media giant in December 2019 by an account in the name of Stan Wantama. He asked for people wishing to take Agnes and two other girls as maids to send him a private message.
“She’s young and 16. Want her as a house maid? Inbox me,” wrote the man calling himself Wantama, who included an email provided by the Russian company Yandex.
It is unclear if Stan Wantama is his real identity; the profile image was a drawing of a young man of African origin in black and white although people in Adagom who saw him in person told The Daily Beast he did not closely resemble the man in the picture. On the Facebook page, he claimed that he lived in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.
I came across Wantama’s Facebook posts on the afternoon of Dec. 29, 2019—at which point she was still for sale—and at 5 p.m. Nigerian time, I emailed the company's spokeswoman Sarah Pollack and policy director Andrea Saul to alert them to the posts that I suspected may be linked to people trafficking.
For about 29 hours, Facebook took no action.
We did not know it at the time, but according to internal Facebook documents shared by the whistleblower Frances Haugen last year, the company had just introduced new measures because its platform was rife with advertisements that may have enabled human trafficking. In the weeks before Agnes was allegedly put up for sale, leaked internal documents reveal that Facebook found and disabled nearly 130,000 pieces of content and over 1,000 accounts as part of a search for content that sought to trade and sell domestic servants in the Middle East and North Africa. The problem was so big that earlier that year they had already expanded their “Human Exploitation Policy” which was supposed to ban the recruitment, facilitation, or exploitation of domestic servitude on their platforms with improved technology to detect the messages.
None of these brand new policies did anything to prevent the post about Agnes.
It wasn’t as if the Wantama account was being subtle. Not only did the first post clearly introduce him as someone who could “help connect people to young house maids”—the girls he posted about were clearly young and vulnerable. He also started to negotiate with people right there in the open comment threads. “Check your inbox” he told one Facebook user who commented “I’m interested.”
The alleged trafficker was telling Facebook’s algorithms so much about his business and his intentions and yet the company—which changed its corporate name to Meta after last year’s whistleblower emerged—still couldn’t stop him in time.
Facebook finally responded to my email at 10:02 p.m.. Kezia Anim-Addo, head of communications for Facebook in Africa, said the company was “currently looking into this at the moment.”
Shortly after, Wantama’s account was suspended.
But it was too late. Someone had allegedly bought Agnes.
It took me 18 months to track her down.
The first hint that Agnes could have come from the refugee settlement where I would eventually find her family came via another of the girls being advertised on Facebook. With that tip-off, I set out for Adagom in December 2019 armed with downloaded photos of the girls.
The community is located in Ogoja in Cross River State, which is regarded as one of the most peaceful parts of a region where clashes are common. Thousands of people fleeing the conflict in Cameroon’s northwest and southwest Anglophone regions have flooded here.
The photos led to a carpenter, known as Clemwood, who said he was the father of one of the girls, Glory*, 13. He said Wantama had befriended him in a local carpentry workshop and offered to connect his daughters to families who would help them return to school.
“All he said was that he knew families who could assist my daughters complete their secondary education provided they work for them as house maids,” said Clemwood, who fled with his family from the southwestern Cameroonian town of Akwaya in early 2018 after soldiers stormed their compound and began to burn houses. “He never told me he was going to find a home for any of my children through Facebook and that he was going to get money from anyone willing to take any of my children.”
Having spoken to Clemwood, who maintained that his very young daughter was advertised on Facebook as a maid without the consent of the family, I went back to Facebook. They confirmed that Wantama’s post was “removed” and his account “permanently disabled” as a result of “various violations.”
Even though it had now been disabled, I posted another warning about the Wantama account on Facebook.
Then, on Jan. 11, 2020, I received an email from an account in the same name threatening to teach me a lesson. “You think you’re smart to report me for human trafficking,” wrote Wantama, claiming he had hacked into my phone and obtained personal information. “Let me warn you, we’ll deal with you and you’ll be silenced.”
He did not reply to follow-up emails about the whereabouts of Glory, Agnes, or any of the others.
Clemwood continued to call and call the numbers he had for Wantama and Glory with no response for a year. The trail had gone cold.
That was until July 2020, when Helen, Agnes’s aunt, happened to walk into Clemwood’s workshop to buy a kitchen stool. She overheard him talking to an elderly man about what had happened to his daughter. Helen recognized the story and soon came to believe that her niece had been taken by the same man. Again, no-one had heard from Agnes since.
Next time I was in Adagom, Clemwood took me to Helen, who he believed would be able to describe Wantama better than he could. “She has had a longer conversation with Wantama than me,” he said.
At Helen’s small two-room home, built with mud and covered with corrugated iron sheets, a photograph of Agnes lay on the head of a six-spring mattress. Helen, a devoted Christian, looks at the photograph closely every morning and says a prayer for her niece, believing that she’ll return home one day. But she is full of regret for letting her leave with someone she hardly knew.
“He [Wantama] said he had noticed my niece from afar and was convinced she was a brilliant girl and so he wanted to ensure that she worked for somebody who would make sure she completes her secondary education,” Helen said. “It now feels as if he deceived me and absconded with her.”
Helen has been Agnes’s guardian since she was 12. Her sister—Agnes’ mother—died in a car crash on Feb. 14, 2015. Agnes never met her father. The family says her mother was raped and impregnated by a man who fled. Agnes’ mother raised her daughter alone—often working as a domestic servant for families in Yaounde to be able to raise money to care for her only child.
“After her mother died, I went to Yaounde and brought her back to Akwaya to stay with me,” said Helen. “But the Anglophone war began a few years later and so we fled to Nigeria.”
The conflict erupted after Cameroon’s French-speaking government cracked down on English-speakers, who make up 20 percent of the population and were trying to safeguard their own enclave in the country’s northwest. Since a referendum in 1961, when Anglophone Cameroonians—then under British rule—voted to rejoin Francophone Cameroon, relations between the two groups have been difficult, especially as the central government pared back regional autonomy.
Security forces began a brutal crackdown on protesters in 2017, killing people and burning communities. A number of armed Anglophone groups began to retaliate, worsening the situation and contributing to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of English-speakers. More than 71,000 Cameroonians are now registered in Nigeria as refugees.
A report by the UNHCR (PDF) released the same year Wantama is alleged to have exploited the refugees, found that three in four Cameroonian refugee households do not have adequate access to food. Up to 82 percent of Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria are adopting what the UN refers to as “negative coping strategies” which include labor exploitation and survival sex. Many, especially teenagers, end up in the hands of persons with a history of exploiting vulnerable people.
A call came through to Helen totally out of the blue after almost a year and half of silence. It was Agnes, and she said she had just escaped from the home of the man Wantama handed her over to.
She said she was safe, and staying with an old school friend in Eyumojok in southwest Cameroon which was about 10 miles from the border town of Ekok, close to Nigeria. The story of what had happened to her there during that long period away from home was shocking.
Helen let me know that she had received word, and I set off to meet Agnes who wanted to tell the full story.
Ekok is a notorious town where all kinds of contraband pass through—smuggled oil, foreign rice, arms, and the trafficking of kids. The United States Embassy in Cameroon noted in a report this year that Nigerian traffickers increasingly bring children from the country “to major Cameroonian cities for forced labor.”
There is a lawless atmosphere in this region, partly because the authorities are more concerned about rebel groups. Following the Anglophone crisis, Cameroonian security agencies along the Nigerian border have been on the lookout for separatists and their sympathizers. You could be arrested for wearing an unshaved beard or dressing in tattered clothes, as officials will assume you’ve spent days in the bush fighting government forces. The smuggling, however, continues virtually unchecked.
When I arrived, Agnes emerged from the front door of a small two-room apartment on the outskirts of Eyumojok wearing a long gown that nearly covered her feet. She looked very different to the kid Wantama had advertised on Facebook. Her hair had grown out and was woven back, her face more mature than the one that appeared on Wantama’s Facebook feed. She greeted me with a huge smile.
The softly-spoken teenager said she was taken to Ekok on New Year's Day 2020 along with two other girls about her age after Wantama picked them up from the Nigerian border town of Ikom. On arrival in Cameroon, she said the girls were taken to a compound filled with single-room houses built by a local importer to shelter the drivers and store goods brought in from Nigeria. She said the three girls spent the night sleeping on the floor of an empty room with no bathroom and no mattress.
At this point, Agnes still believed they were on their way to meet their new employers who would allow the girls to return to school.
“Throughout the journey, and even when we got to Ekok, he spoke nicely to us and even apologized for keeping us in a very poor room,” Agnes said of Wantama, whom she believes to be in his forties. “But he often made comments about our bodies, telling us how cute our breasts appeared or how big our buttocks were.”
Agnes says Wantama disappeared and then returned to the compound the following morning with a “very huge man” known as Jimmy who drove a white Toyota Hilux pickup truck.
Agnes says Wantama came straight into the room and spoke directly into her ear, telling her that her new boss had arrived and she needed to get into the waiting vehicle immediately.
It was at this point that Agnes became alarmed.
“While I was heading to the vehicle, he held my wrist and whispered, ‘Jimmy likes you, so make sure you give him everything he wants or else he would be very angry,’” said Agnes, who says Jimmy was middle-aged. “I immediately began to think they wanted me for something else, not the housemaid job they initially claimed.”
As they drove off, Agnes said Jimmy told her she looked prettier in real life than in the photograph.
She had no idea what he was talking about.
“He said he saw the post on Facebook on his birthday on December 30, 2019 and quickly indicated interest,” said Agnes. Dec. 30 was the day after I had alerted Facebook to the post advertizing the teenager.
When she saw the photo she realized it had been taken without her knowledge when she was waiting with friends at the refugee settlement to receive sanitary pads from a group of humanitarian workers. “I was shocked because I never told anyone I wanted to become a maid, not to talk of giving anyone my photograph,” she said.
When Agnes arrived at Jimmy’s home in Ekok, “There was no work to do," she said. Jimmy's modest three-bed apartment already had a housemaid, who did the cooking and cleaning of the property, which also housed two of Jimmy's male cousins. On her first night in the house, Agnes says Jimmy called her into his room and began to touch her inappropriately. She says she told him she was uninterested and demanded that he stop but claims he said he was going to throw her out of the house if she didn't comply. She finally succumbed.
“He forced me to have sex for the first time in my life,” Agnes said. “I was scared he’d harm me if I didn’t do what he asked me to do.”
The next morning, Agnes said she woke up feeling terrible about the previous night. She told Jimmy, who is a Nigerian national, that she had become traumatized and wanted to return home. In response, he asked her to pack her belongings and move them into the vehicle so they could leave Ekok. But rather than return to Nigeria, Jimmy drove her straight to Mamfe, where she says he kept her in a one-room servants’ quarters, behind a three-bedroom apartment where he stayed. He also arranged for her to work as a waitress in a bar he owns in the city. She said Jimmy had told security men at the bar and at her makeshift home not to allow her to step out of either property.
At Jimmy’s bar, Agnes said she worked from 10 a.m. until past midnight everyday except Sundays. She says she wasn’t paid for her work, neither was she enrolled into secondary school as she was promised before leaving Nigeria. Instead, Jimmy kept introducing her to his friends who visited the bar and, on many occasions, insisted she follow one of them to where they stayed—often in hotels and guest houses—after the bar closes in the early hours of the morning.
“He would insist that I accompany one of his friends to his home because he was going to spend the night elsewhere and so he wouldn’t be able to drop me at home,” said Agnes. “I knew I couldn’t sleep in the bar because of the high crime rate in the area, so I had to do as Jimmy said.”
But Agnes says many of those nights were “terrible.” She explained that the men would often force her into having sex with them. On other occasions, she was cajoled into the act by friends of Jimmy who promised they were going to assist her get a decent job and support her return to secondary school. In the end, Agnes received no assistance from anyone.
“You hardly get to hear from these men again after they leave,” Agnes said. “They take your phone number and promise they’ll call you when they get to Nigeria but they never do.”
Mamfe has been a people trafficking hotspot for almost 100 years. The British linked Cameroon and Nigeria by road in the 1930s by creating the Ikom-Mamfe road. Soon after, the road became the main path used by traffickers to transport women and children to the Gold Coast (now part of Ghana), where a booming economy attracted people from across Central Africa. The trafficking of girls through Mamfe became so notorious that it was being publicly denounced by 1943.
After being exploited in Mamfe, Agnes began to look for ways to escape. She had been saving the little money she got from customers who left their change as a tip, but didn’t find the chance to run away for five months.
The opportunity eventually came one Sunday morning in early June 2021 when she accompanied Jimmy to Ekok to pick up drinks for the bar. When he went into a busy motorpark to pick up the beverages, the teenager jumped out of the vehicle and ran as far as she could. She spent the rest of the day hiding before returning to the transport hub that evening and heading to Eyumojok, where she knew her best friend from secondary school lives with her aunt.
“Leaving Jimmy feels like getting out of prison,” Agnes told The Daily Beast last summer. “I’m very happy I have my freedom again and can’t wait to return to school.”
With her dream so close, Agnes soon ran into another hurdle. She discovered that she had been impregnated by one of her attackers, which further delayed her enrollment in school particularly after the young child developed persistent respiratory problems.
“I don’t want to live my life worrying about who could be my child’s father,” Agnes said in October. “I just want to live freely.”
Agnes believes Facebook played a huge role in her ordeal.
If Facebook had acted more quickly in taking down Wantama’s posts and disabling his account, it is possible that Agnes’s nightmare could have been avoided. When asked if the company had learned lessons from Wantama’s posts or adapted new policies following his action, the company said that it has not found any other Facebook account in either Nigeria or Cameroon “acting in a similar way.”
"Any form of human trafficking—whether posts, pages, ads or groups—are not allowed on Meta’s platforms, and will continue to be removed when reported to us,” said Jeanne Moran, a policy communications manager at Meta, Facebook’s parent company.
Agnes has never had a Facebook account and is not about to sign up. The thought of the social media platform will always remind her of what is the “saddest moment” of her life.
“Many people talk about how Facebook helped them promote their businesses and connected them to new friends, but that isn't the same story for me,” said Agnes. “When I think about Facebook, I remember where I was put up for sale.”
Agnes eventually found freedom, but Clemwood is still searching for his missing daughter, Glory, who would soon be celebrating her 16th birthday, the last few years of her childhood snatched away.