•Alleged kingpin, six other Spain-bound suspects in immigration’s net
By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
It was harvest of arrest of suspected kidnappers and human traffickers in Edo State, last week, as the state Police Command, the State Security Services (SSS) and the Nigeria Immigration Service paraded suspects numbering 55. 48 suspected robbers, cultists and kidnappers were paraded by the police and the SSS while the Immigration Service paraded one 35- year old Queen Ogbomo, a human trafficking suspect based in Italy, and six female victims.
Among the suspected kidnappers paraded were those allegedly involved in the abduction of the father in-law of the deputy governor of Edo State, Chief Felix Okungbowa. The armed robbery suspects include the gang that carted away N7.7million after they attacked a warehouse at Ugbogui, Ovia South West Local Government Council of the state. The suspects were said to have been arrested with ammunitions including ten AK47 rifles, and seven cut to size single barrel guns.
The Director of the SSS in the state, Mr Bello Bakori, paraded 20 of the suspected kidnappers at the SSS office in Benin City, while the state police commissioner, Mr David Omojola, paraded 28 suspected armed robbers, kidnappers and cultists at the state police command. Omojola disclosed that some of the suspected kidnappers were arrested in Uromi after an exchange of gun fire with his men. On how they burst the robbery suspects who struck at the popular cocoa warehouse at Ugbogui, Omojola explained that the police, through covert intelligence, apprehended one Umukoro Ejime who confessed to the crime and named other members of the gang.
However, among all the suspects, the case of human trafficking is particularly not good news to the people of the state. Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who was worried about the reported cases of human trafficking in the state, had, immediately on his assumption of office, set up and a Youth Employment Scheme in the state, with a view to discouraging youths, particularly the female folks, from traveling abroad for prostitution. As a result, human trafficking reduced in the state until last week when the matter resurfaced again.
According to the comptroller of immigration in the state, Mr David Akwo, who paraded the victims, the girls were arrested when they came to procure international passports which they intended to use to travel to Spain. Narrating the incident, Akwo said: “We have one Ogbomo Osas Queen, a suspected trafficker in persons, and six victims who are on the verge of being trafficked to Europe. About two weeks ago, Queen came to our office in company of the mother, brother and two girls.
Their mission was to acquire passports for the boy and the two girls. Three days later, Queen came back with three other girls for the purpose of acquiring passport. One week later, she came again with another set of two girls for the same purpose. “This time, the officers they met became suspicious and decided to find out whether the girls were related to her. She claimed that some of them were her cousins going abroad for a visit.
But the officer was not convinced, so he requested to see the parents of these girls. After that request, she (Queen) suddenly refused to come to the office and even to pick her calls. Meanwhile, these girls started calling our officer asking him when their passports will be ready. And they had not started the process or procedure of even acquiring the passports. Now, on Sunday, 12 June, the officer called Queen and she picked the call. Apparently she felt that, that day was not a working day, so she picked the call.
The officer now told her that the passports were ready, and that she should come with the girls to sign and collect them. “Queen and the girls eventually showed up here on Monday morning. It was at that point that Queen, the suspect, and, of course, the six girls were handed over to our police and the anti-human trafficking unit for interrogation.
In the course of our interrogation, Queen claimed that her brother, one Mr Osas Aikaro, lives in Spain and that he is the financier of the project. He sponsors girls to come abroad, he buys tickets for them. He pays N180,000 for each ticket and also procures visas with the sum of one million Naira.
And when they get to Spain, he will find employment for them. Well, we do not know the nature of the employment but that, while they are working, they will work to refund the N180,000 plus the one million used in procuring visas and the flight tickets. “So they are here with us now and we know that Edo of course is one of the states where human traffic is endemic and we all know the danger in this modern day slavery. We know that human trafficking these days is not just people being trafficked from Lagos to abroad, now we have cases of organ transplant. So we are happy that our officers have been able to thwart the efforts of these suspected traffickers”.
By the time we conclude our investigations, we are going to hand them over to NAPTIP which has the statutory responsibility to handle cases of human trafficking. But the unfortunate thing is that some of these girls have confirmed that their parents are not aware of what is going on. Some of them may have been linked up with Queen by their aunties. They are only thinking that these girls are going for greener pastures but they did not know that most of them are going for prostitution”.
While interacting with the victims, Sunday Vanguard observed that the victims may have taken oath not to divulge any secret if arrested as none of the suspects was ready to talk. Four of the girls whose ages range from 18-25 claimed to be hair dressers while two said they were students of the College of Education Ekiadolor. However, Queen, the suspected kingpin, declared that she has not committed any crime. She confessed that her elder brother in Spain is the sponsor of the project and narrated that the bargain was that the girls will refund the expenses after they must have started working when they get to Spain. The Immigration comptroller disclosed that the victims and the suspect would be taken to NAPTIP for further investigations.