By Evelyn Usman
The Lagos State Police Command has uncovered an apartment in Ejigbo area of Lagos, suspected to be used as transit camp for child trafficking and sale.
Six children, aged between three and 10, were found in the one-room apartment. The custodian of the children, one Comfort Awanaesan, was also apprehended in the process.
Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, Imohimi Edgal, stormed the apartment, Tuesday evening, in the company of some senior police officers and officials of the Gender Unit of the command and others from the Ministry of Youths and Social Services.
The invasion, according to Edgal, followed complaints by residents that children were being kept by a woman, who is not their biological mother, in a poorly-ventilated one-room apartment.
Edgal said: “We are concerned about the children’s welfare, because we must first ascertain what happened to them while here: were they abused, sold into slavery or sold as domestic help?
“This is not an orphanage or day care centre. We want to know where she got the children from because we are concerned generally about child abuse.”
However, when the said custodian was interrogated on how the children got to her custody, she claimed that they were her nephews and nieces.
Comfort, who hails from Akwa Ibom State, said: “Two of them are my immediate elder sister’s children, three are my eldest sister’s children, whose father was a policeman, while one of them is my child.
“My eldest sister’s place of work is far, so she leaves them in my care and checks on them occasionally.
“I am a contract staff at a beverage company and from my salary I buy food stuff in bulk for them. I also feed them with other allocations from the office. I rented this apartment but there are plans of moving into a two-bedroom apartment soon.”
Asked why the children were not in their parents’ houses and how she manages to care for them while working at the same time, she said: “I run shift. Their fathers are all dead, but their mothers are still alive. Besides, they are all schooling here.”
Children ignorant of their surnames
However, when the children were interrogated, they could not state their surnames. Some of them could also not state their mothers’ names.
The eldest of them, who gave his name simply as Lawrence, aged 10, said: “I don’t know my father’s name. My mother brought me here and comes occasionally to check on me.”
Also, asked what his mother does for a living, he could not say.
A second child, Michael, aged nine, also could not state his surname. He said that his mother was a food vendor at Mile 12. Like Michael, he stated that his mother comes occasionally to visit him, but that he did not know where she lives.
On his part, Fabian (eight), could not mention either of his parents’ name, while Felicia (seven), who said she had been in that apartment for long, also stated that she does not know where her mother lives, neither does she know her name.
A neighbour’s observation
Meanwhile, it was discovered that one of the children, a boy of about three, had an injury, while another, a girl of same age, was discovered to be sick.
On inquiry, she was discovered to have been given injection by a lady who Comfort claimed was an auxiliary nurse.
Mr. Opalowo Gbadamosi, a neighbour, who spoke with Vanguard, expressed happiness over the invasion, noting “we have been looking forward to such arrest for long. This is because the lady in question has never given a reasonable response whenever asked who the children are.
“They are usually kept indoors and monitored whenever they were going to ease themselves. At times, strange faces, mainly women, visited the apartment.”
Children transferred to home
Edgal attributed the arrest to one of the benefits of community policing in Lagos State.
He equally directed policemen at the Gender Unit of the Command to work with officials of the Ministry of Youths and Social Development at ensuring that the children were taken to a home where they would remain until investigations are completed into the matter.
He also directed the boss of Area Command ‘D’, Mushin, Mr. Akinbayo Olasoji, to carry out discreet investigation into Comfort’s claims.