By Uju Mbanusi
IT is longer news that those recently paraded as members of a child trafficking syndicate at the Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja, were arraigned at the Apapa Family court on Thursday, May 30, 2013.
It is also no more news that three of the defendants, Benedette Ogbonna, Chibueze Mba, and Adaeze Mba who were alleged to be directly involved in the stealing and selling of children, pleaded not guilty to the eight-count charge brought against them while the fourth defendant, Patricia Anibogu, the 61-year- old who allegedly bought one of the children from Benedette Ogbogu, also pleaded not guilty to the five-count charge brought against her.
However, facts have emerged how the alleged act was perpetrated. A relation of the Amechis whose children were allegedly abducted by the syndicate last September in Imo State, identified as Chief Lazarus Akonobi told Vanguard Metro, VM, the engaging story: “The suspects involved in this case abducted two of my relative’s children from my brother’s house in our village, Awo-Idemmili-Osu local government, Imo State, on September 2012. They applied the same style used in stealing a four-year-old boy in Lagos. They rented a room in our compound in Awo-Idemmili and after about three months, they abducted the children and disappeared when nobody was around. From then, we started searching for them.
“The 23-year-old suspect identified as Adaeze Mba, is known as Adaobi Ojinnaka from Mbosi, Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State; the real name of the male suspect is Anyaehie Mba. Chibueze Mba is his brother’s name which he adopted as his own. When they came to rent a room at our family compound, the lady gave Florence as her name; she also said she is from Nnewi, while investigation revealed that she is from Mbosi.
“In the past four months we have been looking for them until we got the news that they have been caught by the Police at Ajangbadi police. That was when I took their pictures to the police and lodged the complaint. They immediately swung into action and went as far as Obosi in Anambra State where the buyers of the children were and they were arrested. I must confess here that the Police and the human rights section of the Ilemba Hausa Division of Ajangbadi Police station really did a wonderful job; they went as far as tracking their mobile phone numbers from the telecommunications companies.
“They amazed me. If they continue to work this way, there will be a drastic decline in criminal activities ; and the manner in which the chief suspect by the name Bernadette was apprehended was commendable”.
Oby Obodoefuna, younger sister to one of the defendants, Patricia Anibuogu, narrated her sister’s ordeal to Vanguard Metro. According to her, Patricia Anibogu had been married for 28 years but has no child. This resulted in her husband (now late) getting married to another woman who bore him children.
When Patricia could not bear the maltreatment in her husband’s home, she packed out and returned to her father’s house where she started selling food, meat and drinks to survive. In February after the burial of our mother, I returned to my base. My sister called me and told me that she just had a baby, I asked her why she did not mention it to me, so that I can stay back and help her with the post-natal care.
She said she actually adopted a four- year- old boy from one of the orphanages in Onitsha. When I asked her if she was sure of their authenticity, she said the woman who facilitated the adoption of the boy assured her that there will be no problem; also that she will bring her the adoption papers later.
She added that she had enrolled him in one of the Catholic schools in Onitsha. When I went back sometime in March, I saw the boy. The next thing she saw was the Police coming to arrest her. That was how she found herself here. I went with her pictures from one police station to the other, in search of her until I got information that she is at Ajangbadi Police station.
“It was later that she was told that if she had gone through the right processes of adopting a child, she would not have spent the N600,000 she gave to Bernadette. She is a victim, her childless situation exposed her to it. All she wanted was a child she could call her own. I believe that God will see us through in this case.”
Ignorance of law not excuse
Counsel to the defendant, Ada Amogu, told VM: “We appreciate the fact that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Howbeit, I made it known to the court that it was out of ignorance that she got entangled in this web. She adopted a child from an unauthorized home; it is not that she was responsible for the stealing or the adoption. She went to a home, where she assumed people can go and adopt children, but then unknown to her, it was not legalised.
I made this known to the
magistrate in my application. However, as a woman and also as a member of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, I must say this is an eye-opener for ignorant women who just go anywhere and pick a child all in the name of adoption.
I advise them to investigate, go through the right channels, there are social welfare departments in states, and they can go there to make inquiries, know the procedures; also come to the court with the orphanage managements so that everything will be binding. In this way, you will not encounter problems. It is not wrong for somebody to adopt a child, unless like in this case, it is done in an illegal manner.”
VM also gathered that even in custody, the chief suspect, Benedette Ogbonna, tried to con other suspects of some amount of money. The mother of four children, who said she is married to a retired military officer was heard telling other suspects that she could arrange a reliable lawyer for them, who will get them out of this case in good time, if they can pay her N150, 000 each, to enable her settle the said lawyer.