Ms Mani was sold into slavery at the age of 12 and repeatedly raped by her master. Her appalling story is familiar in a country where the ownership of slaves, many from a hereditary slave caste, has been commonplace, particularly in remote rural areas. Beatings were frequent and she and other slaves were forced to work unpaid and gruelling hours for Naroua and his four legitimate wives. When she tried to escape, she was punished.
In 2005, two years after Niger enacted a law forbidding slavery, she was presented with a 'liberation certificate'. This proved to be worthless, as she was immediately forced into a 'wahiya marriage', with the status of a concubine. When she fled and married another man, her master had her arrested and charged with bigamy. She was subsequently imprisoned for two months on remand. It is believed that if tomorrow's verdict goes in her favour, the bigamy charges will be dropped.
Speaking before the judgment, Ms Mani said: 'It was very difficult to challenge my former master and to speak out when people see you as nothing more than a slave. But I knew that this was the only way to protect my child from suffering the same fate. Nobody deserves to be enslaved. We are all equal and deserve to be treated the same as anyone else. I hope that all those who are in slavery today can find their freedom. No woman should suffer the way I did.'
The issue has become a deeply embarrassing one for the government of Niger. Despite introducing the anti-slavery legislation, it has failed to act on evidence of its continuing and widespread existence in rural areas. But international conventions and national laws count for little compared to the centuries old 'customary law' that holds sway in rural villages and towns. According to Anti-Slavery International, Niger's courts have frequently proved reluctant to enforce law over custom.
Campaigners hope a favourable ruling may herald a major cultural shift on the issue of descent-based slavery throughout the Sahel region. The court's judgment will be binding in Niger and will be applicable in other countries in the Ecowas community where descent-based slavery exists, including Mali.
What can you say but hope that the Ecowas judges find in Hadijatou's favour and that Niger and other countries where this practice still occurs pay more than lip service to their own laws.