By Ifeanyi Okolie
Operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team, IRT, have smashed a child trafficking syndicate, which specialized in abducting little children from their homes and selling them to waiting buyers. 12 of the suspects were arrested while so far, six of the abducted children have been recovered by the IRT operatives.
Members of the syndicate operating in several states in the country including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, were in several groups, one of which involved a couple, Ifeoma Ebony and Emmanuel Onyekwere, who goes around the country stealing the children and sell to middle-men, who then sell to people in dire need of children.
It was learned that Ebony, a mother of two and her boyfriend Onyekere, abducted several children from their homes in Abia, Enugu and Edo State, which they sold to their buyers identified as Blessing Nwankwo, Chioma Nike and one Onwa, whose real name were yet unknown, and sold the children between N250,000 and N450,000, each.
They were said to have ran into trouble after they stole two little children from their parents at Tunga Maji and Gwagwa areas of Abuja respectively and sold them to Nike at the rate N300,000, each. But the father of the stolen child at Gwagwa area of Abuja identified simply as Olobo, reported the abduction of his child to the police. The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, then directed his operatives at the IRT, headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari to investigate.
The operatives from the Abuja office debriefed Mr Olobo, who disclosed to them that Ebony and her husband Onyekwere rented an apartment in the compound where he resided with his family and they became close to his wife who had a one-year-old baby.
He said one week after staying with them, Ebony who pretended to be fond of assisting his wife carry her child, deceived her that she wanted to go and plait her hair and before they knew what was happening Ebony and her husband had absconded with their daughter.
A source who spoke to vanguard disclosed that based on the information Mr Olobo provided about the suspects, the operatives launched a man-hunt for them and trailed them to Asaba, Delta State, where they were arrested. Their confession assisted the operatives in arresting the receivers, Nwakwor and Nike, who sold the abducted children to people who needed them. The source also identified other suspects arrested as Onyinye Benjami, Ngozi Okoli, Nwokocha Okoli, Ndiya Kalu and Esther Ihiediwa.
When Vanguard interviewed 32-year-old Ifeoma Ebony, a native of Ogbolafor area of Enugu State, she blamed her involvement in child abduction and trafficking on her inability to get a proper education.
She said; “I didn’t attend secondary school, because my father married two wives and he couldn’t send me to school as he had so many children he couldn’t cater for.
“I was married off to an old man at a very young age and the old man died two years into our marriage leaving me with two children. When things became difficult for me and my children after the death of my husband, I took my children to my mother in the village and I travelled to Abuja to engage in prostitution.
“I spent seven years as a prostitute in Abuja, before one of my friends advised me to relocate to Oba town in Anambra State that I would make more money doing prostitution in that town.
“I took the advice and relocated but after one year, a girl known as Ogula from Benue state told me that a nurse asked her to look for someone to get pregnant and when she delivered, the child would be taken from her and she would be paid.
“I told her that I could not do such because I have two children and I was not ready to get pregnant again. She then took me to her village where stole a female child and handed over to me. But while I was leaving with the child I was arrested by some security men and taken to prison where I spent six months.
“This incident was in 2017 and while in prison, I met one Ada who had finished serving her term who then gave me her number while she was leaving.
“I called her when I was released and she gave me a job at her shop in Umuahia, Abia state where she sold drinks. One of her customers known as Onwa approached me and said he had contacts of people who could buy children between the ages of one and three.
“I informed one Chibuzor who is Ada’s brother who stole a child and we gave it to Onwa. He took away the child but refused to pay us our money.
“At that time, I already had a boyfriend known as Emanuel Onyekwere. Onwa then contacted me three months later, pleaded for forgiveness and said he would pay me N500,000 for any child between the ages of one and two.
“My boyfriend, Onyewkere, then went to his village, stole his sister’s two-year-old child and we contacted Onwa, but this time we followed him down to Enugu State where the child was sold to an old woman driving a Toyota Camry and she paid us the sum of N250,000.
“Onwa warned us to only steal children on the road because if we were caught we would be burnt. He advised that we should move regularly to new areas, rent an apartment and after stealing a child we should leave the area and move to another place.
“So, we went to Akuke area of Enugu where we rented an apartment and we succeeded in stealing two children who were between the ages of two and four years from a man known as Onyeka, who maltreated me while I worked as a prostitute in Abuja.
“Onyeka was a very rough guy when I knew him in Abuja, it was the police that chased him out of Abuja. Unfortunately, I ran into him in Enugu and he was happy and he introduced me to his wife and we became friends.
“I visited them regularly in their house and I became familiar with their children, Ada and Chinonso. I studied their area for three months and when I discovered that the coast was clear,
“I made away with the children and sold them to Onwa for 450,000 each. Emmanuel and I then relocated to Abuja and rented an apartment at Tungamaji area. We stole a woman’s child who was our neighbour.
“The woman left her child in my care while she went to the market. Myself and Emmanuel quickly packed our things and fled with the child who we sold to one Chioma, who we met through Onwa, for the sum of N300,000.
“We rented another apartment at Gwagwa area of Abuja, where we stayed for two weeks and I stole a one-year-old baby whom we sold to Chioma for N300,000. We then left Abuja and ran to Ipoba Hill area of Edo State and rented an apartment there.
“There, we stole a child belonging to a woman who was sick and could not take proper care of the child. The child used to come to our own compound to play, so I stole the child, took her to Chioma who paid us N300,000.
“We spent most of the money on food, clothes and other frivolities. Before we were arrested, my boyfriend and I had decided to quit, but there was this woman known as Blessing who contacted us and requested for five children between the ages of one and two years. I gave her a bill of N2million and she paid instantly.
“Since we had decided to quit, Emmanuel and I used the money to rent a two-bedroom flat, furnished it and we removed our sim cards, so Blessing couldn’t reach us anymore. My children are between 16 and 17 years old, if they are stolen I will not be happy”, she narrated
On his part, Emmanuel Oyekwere, 32, a native of Isialagwu North, Abia State, said his quest to build a house for his mother got him into the business; “I am a tailor, I am not yet married and I didn’t go to school. It was Ifeoma who I met where she was working as a prostitute that lured me into this business of stealing little children.
“Things weren’t good for me and my family had no house in the village and she assured me that the business would fetch me money to build a house for my mother.
“Then, I went to my village and stole my sister’s son Victor and we sold him to an old woman who accosted us at Holy Ghost Church in Enugu State. I pretended like I was praying when we got to the church and I didn’t let anyone notice what we were doing because the boy looked so much like me. I was paid N250, 000.
“People knew I was the last person seen with the child and they have been calling me to bring their child. They even threatened to kill me if I didn’t bring back the child. Onwa then took me to a native doctor who prepared fake charms for me that would make my people leave me alone and he took the N250,000, I was paid for the child. I then recruited one of my friends known as Aboy, and we moved to Enugu State where he stole three children, one from his village, two from Enugu and we sold them for N900,000.
“I stole a total number of eight children, I am crying because I can’t go to my village, all the money, I made I can not do anything with it. If not for this Ifeoma that got me into this business, I wouldn’t have been in this mess.”
Narrating her own story, Chioma Nike, 46-year-old, divorcee, said she lost her marriage of 22-years because she had no child with her estranged husband, and after she got pregnant for a man she met in Ghana, her husband rejected it and sent her packing.
She said she had a male child for the Ghanaian and when her son grew up, he started asking for a sister. She then approached the child welfare office in Umuhaia so she could adopt a female child.
She said she met a woman she identified as Mummy Ohabiam, who told her that she would link her to a syndicate that could help her get children and all they needed to do was to perfect adoption papers from the welfare office.
“She told me the cost and I couldn’t afford it, so I contacted one Mummy Idian Emeka, who had approached me earlier for two children.
“After I got the link, I got two children from Ifeoma and I sold them to Mummy Idian for N800, 000 and I got N200,000 as my share. Ifeoma also sold four other children to me, which I sold to several people.
“I have returned three and I am yet to get the last one. I sold two of the four children to one Mummy Onyiyechi, and they have been returned. I sold one other to Mummy Blessing and other one to one Monica.
“Please have mercy on me, I will not do it again. All my colleagues in this business have all ran away. Please have mercy on me”, she pleaded.
In her own confession, Blessing Nwankwo, a nurse and graduate of School of Health Technology Aba and a native of Beden area of Abia State, said “I have worked in several hospitals and I have a maternity home for which I have been trying to get approval and registration for a long time but I couldn’t get it.
“I went into buying and selling of babies through the wife of our Catechist who did not have a child for a long time and had been saving money for a child. I contacted Chioma, who brought a girl and the child that was one year old and we paid her the sum of N550,000, but I collected N800,000 from the Catechist’s wife and I made N300,000 as my profit.
“Later, Chioma brought Ifeoma to me that she owned a maternity home in Enugu State and if I see anyone who needed a child for adoption I should contact her.
“I then contacted some of my relations and friends who were looking for children and they paid me the sum of N2million for five children, with the promise that I would bring my relatives to Enugu to perfect the adoption documents for the children after the payment had been done but they disappeared when they got the money.
“Their phone lines were switched off and I didn’t even know that Ifeoma had links with the first child that was sold to me. It was when I was arrested that I knew that the children were stolen.”
Idian Kalu, 52, who hails from Abriba Abia State, in her confession said; “I have four children, I reside in Aba Town. I have a friend who was barren and was looking for a child.
“I told her that I would help her adopt a child at the welfare, then I linked her to Chioma, and she started coming to my house. She told me that there was an old woman who had a home where we could adopt children.
“I indicated my interest and she brought a child for me and I gave it to my sister who needed it and paid N550,000 though I collected N650,000 and I made N100,000 profits, that was in 2016.
“But in 2017, Chioma called again and said two female children were available for adoption, I contacted people who had told me that they needed them and I took the girls and paid Chioma the sum of N550,000 each”, she lamented.