BY EVELYN USMAN
LAGOS — Emotion ran high, yesterday, at the Oduduwa office of the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Ikeja, after an indigent woman revealed how she was raped by members of a non existing Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, which promised to help treat her two-and-half year-old daughter of cancer.
The woman, identified as Victoria Anakor, told newsmen that members of the non-existing NGO approached her in her home in Okija, Anambra State last August, assuring that they could raise money with which to carry out a surgery on her baby in Lagos.
She reportedly followed them, with the consent of her husband, to Aba. However, the true mission of the men, numbering seven, according to her, became clearer as they reportedly started soliciting alms on the streets with the child.
According to her, “from Aba, we moved to Uyo, then Umuahia and Calabar. We left Calabar and went to Abakaliki and then Lagos.
“They would ask me to stand on the road with my child. People are usually moved with pity on seeing my baby with a swollen face.
“On several occasions, I have asked them to give me the money realised in order to carry out surgical operation on my baby. She has eye and mouth cancer, but they kept assuring me that they would do that at the right time.”
On daily basis, it was gathered that the syndicate realised a minimum of N30,000, but gave N1,000 to the mother and child for feeding.
In the course of the illicit business, the woman claimed that one of the men forcefully had carnal knowledge of her, in the aftermath of which she got pregnant. She disclosed that she had to terminate the pregnancy with her money.
Several attempts to convince her husband to allow her go back home failed as her husband, according to her, always encouraged her to stay.
Unknown to her, member s of the syndicate had bought him a motorbike and remitted N10,000 into his account every month.
I abandoned cart pushing for this lucrative business —Suspect
One of the arrested suspects, Chukwuka Eze, said he abandoned his cart pushing business for alms begging with children.
Describing the business as very lucrative, Eze said: “I used to be a cart pusher. I abandoned it when I met my master, Samuel Ekpendu.
“He told me we could make a lot of money by using children with ailments such as cancer, epilepsy, burns and growths in any part of the body to beg.
“We use children with health conditions that will move people with emotion. We do not use blind children because people do not respond to them.
“We started by going into remote villages in the east to search for poor parents with ailing children. We came across two-year-old Chinasa, who has eye and mouth cancer. We convinced the parents that we were working for a Non-Governmental Organisation which cares for the sick and the girl’s father allowed the child and mother to go with us.
“We took them to Onitsha where we lodged in hotels. We made so much money but before people would start suspecting us, we moved to Imo State from where we moved to other places such as Uyo, Calabar, Abakaliki down to Lagos before we were arrested.
“We made an average of N30,000 a day and paid N20,000 into our director’s account. The business is lucrative because we paid N6,000 each day for hotel accommodation and gave the child’s mother N1,000 everyday for feeding.”
However, N35,000 was recovered from the suspects, yesterday.
Lagos State police spokesperson, Ngozi Braide, who paraded the suspects before newsmen, said they were arrested by policemen attached to Area ‘E’ Command following a complaint from the National Coordinator of a Non Governmental Organisation, The Hands that Care Foundation, Jacinta Okorie, that she suspected the syndicate.
“What they do is to convince parents of these babies by giving them promises of medical aid in the city. When they eventually bring the babies to the cities, they use them to beg for money on the streets just to enrich themselves and they will never render the medical aid as promised. The woman here and her child are victims. Her baby was diagnosed of cancer of the eye.
“They brought them from Okija, Anambra State promising to take them to the hospital since last August. They have been using this two-year-old baby to make money without taking her to the hospital as promised.
“They put the mother of the baby in a hotel and they would carry the baby to the market place begging for alms from unsuspecting Nigerians.”
The suspect, she said, would be charged to court for child trafficking, contemporary slavery and other related charges, adding that effort was on to arrest a fleeing member.