By Ebele Boniface
- Syndicate sells stolen children for between N250,000 and N450,000 each .
- ‘Why we joined gang — Suspects
- ‘We didn’t know the babies we adopted were stolen’
The operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT) have smashed a child trafficking syndicate, which specialised in abducting little children from their homes and selling them off.
According to authoritative sources, 12 of the suspects have been arrested and six of the abducted children rescued by the IRT operatives. The Nation gathered that members of the syndicate in several states of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, operated in several groups, one of which involved a couple, Ifeoma Ebony and Emmanuel Onyekwere, who went around the country stealing children and middlemen, who would buy the stolen children from the couple and in turn sell to people in dire need of children.
It was also disclosed that Ebony, a mother of two, and her hubby, Onyekere, allegedly abducted several children from their homes in Abia, Enugu and Edo states who and sold them to their buyers some of whom were identified as Blessing Nwankwo, Chioma Nike and one Onwa, whose real names are yet unknown. Each of the stolen children, we learnt, was sold for between N250, 000 and 450,000.
They were said to have run into trouble after they allegedly stole two children from their parents at Tunga Maji and Gwagwa areas of Abuja respectively and sold them to Nike for N300,000 each. The suspect’s day of reckoning began when the father of the child stolen at Gwagwa area of Abuja, identified simply as Olobo, reported the abduction of his child to the police and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, directed his operatives at the IRT, headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, to go after the Abductors.
A crack team of IRT operatives from the Abuja office were then detailed to crack the syndicate. The operatives set to work by first debriefing Olobo, who disclosed to them that Ebony and her husband, Onyekwere, rented an apartment in the compound where he(Olobo resides with his family. The couple, according to him, soon 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 assisting his wife, carried her(his wife’s) child, deceived her that he wanted to go and plait her hair and before they knew what was happening, Ebony and her husband had absconded with their daughter. Another source disclosed that based on the information which Olobo provided about the suspects, the IRT operatives launched a man-hunt for the suspects whom they trailed to Asaba, Delta State. They were promptly arrested. On being interrogated, they confessed to the crime and aided the operatives to arrest their alleged receivers, namely Nwakwor and Nike, who normally sold the abducted children to people who needed them. The source also identified other suspects arrested as Onyinye Benjami, Ngozi Okoli, Nwokocha OkoliNdiya Kalu and Esther Ihiediwa.
When confronted, 32-year-old Ifeoma Ebony, who hails Ogbolafor area of Enugu State, 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 because he has so many children he couldn’t take care of.
“I was married off to an old man at a very young age but the old man died two years into our marriage. We had two children together. With time, 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 travelled to Abuja and went into prostitution.
“I spent seven years as a prostitute in Abuja. One of my friends then advised me to relocate to Oba town in Anambra State, deceiving me that I would make more money doing prostitution in that town.
I took the advice and relocated but one year into my stay, a girl known as Ogula from Benue State told me that a nurse told her to look for someone to get her pregnant and whenever she put to bed, that the child would be taken from her and she would be paid.
“I told her I can’t do such a despicable thing because I too have two children and I was not ready to get pregnant again. She then asked me to follow her to her village and when we got there, the girl then stole a girl child and gave her to me. While I was leaving with the child, I was arrested by some security men and I was taken to prison where I spent six months. This incident was in 2017. While in prison, I met one Ada, who had finished serving her term and she 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 sells 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 then informed one Chibuzor, who is a brother to Ada, who stole a child and we gave it to Onwa.He took the child away and refused to pay us our money. At that time, I had already gotten a boyfriend known as Emanuel Onyekwere. Onwa then contacted me three months later .
“He 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 and 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 against stealing children on the road because whenever we were caught, we would be burnt. He advised that we should move regularly to new areas, rent an apartment and when we see a child, we should steal the child and leave the area. So, we went to Akuke area of Enugu and we rented an apartment; we succeeded in stealing two children between the ages of two and four from a guy known as Oyenka, who maltreated me while I worked as a prostitute in Abuja.
“Onyeka was a very rough guy when I knew him in Abuja and it was the police who chased him out of Abuja. Unfortunately, I ran into him in Enugu. He was happy and introduced me to his wife and we became friends.
“I visit them regularly in their house and I became familiar with their children, Ada and Chinonso. I studied their terrain for three months and when I discovered that the coast was clear, I made away with the children and sold them to Onwa for N450,000 each.
“Then, Emmanuel and I relocated to Abuja and we rented an apartment at Tungamaji area of the city. We stole a woman’s child who was our neighbour. The woman left her child in my care while she went to the market and I and Emmanuel quickly packed our things and fled with the child. We then sold the child to one Chioma, who we met through Onwa, for the sum of N300,000. We then rented another apartment at Gwagwa area of Abuja. We stayed for two weeks and I stole a one year-old baby and sold the baby to Chioma for N300,000. We then left Abuja and ran to Ipoba Hill area of Edo State and rented an apartment. There, we stole a child belonging to a sick woman, who could not pay proper attention to her child. The child used to come to our own compound to play. So, I stole the child, took her to Chioma, who paid us the sum of N300,000. “We spent much of this 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 17 and 16. If they are stolen I will not be happy,” she narrated, regretting her actions.
On his part, Emmauel Oyekweer, 32, a native of Isialagwu North, Abia State, said his quest to build a house for his mother prompted him to go into the business. “ I am a tailor”, he started. “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, who lured me into this business of stealing and selling off children. Things weren’t good for me and my family has no house in the village but 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 I was praying when we got to the church; I didn’t want anyone to 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 have even threatened to kill me if I don’t bring back the child. Onwa then took me to a native doctor, who prepared fake charms for me that would make my people and he took the N250,000 I was paid for the child. I then recruited one of my friends known as Aboy when we moved to Enugu State and he stole three children from his village and two from Enugu and we sold them for N900,000. I stole a total number of eight children and I am crying because I can’t go to my village and all the money I made I can not to 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 Nick, 46-year-old divorcee, said she lost her marriage of 22 years because she had no child for her estranged husband. She got pregnant for a man she met in Ghana but her livid husband rejected it and sent her parking. She said she got a male child from her Ghanaian lover and when her son grew up, he started asking for a sister. Then she approached the child welfare office in Umuhaia so she could adopt a girl 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 from a different source 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, then I contacted one Mummy Idian Emeka, who had approached me earlier for two children. She said: “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 to Mummy Onyiyechi, and they have been returned. I sold one other to Mummy Blessing and other one was sold to one Monica. Please, have mercy on me. I will not do it again. All my colleagues in this business have all run away. Please have mercy on me, ” she pleaded.
Blessing Nwankwo, a native of Beden area of Abia State, a nurse, who studied at the School of Health Technology, Aba, in her story, said: “I have worked in several hospitals and I have a maternity home. I have been trying to get approval and registration for my maternity home for a long time but I couldn’t get it.” “I went into buying and selling of babies through the wife of our catcheist, who had no child for a long time and she 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 took N800,000 from the catcheist’s wife and I made N300,000 as my profit. Later on, Chioma brought Ifeoma to me and told me she (Ifeoma) owned a home in Enugu State and if I knew 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 will bring my relatives to Enugu to perfect 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 now confession said: “ I have four child children and I reside in Aba town. I have a friend who is barren and she was looking for a child and I promised to help adopt a child for her at the welfare. Then, I linked her to Chioma, and she started coming to my house. She told me there was an old woman who had a home where we can adopt children. I indicated interest and she brought a child for me and I gave the child to my sister who needed him and the sum of N550,000 was paid for the child, though I took N650,000 and I made N100,000 profit. That was in 2016. But in 2017, Chioma called again and said two children, both girls, 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.