Detectives attached to the Inspector General of Police, Intelligence Response Team (IRT) recently busted a syndicate that specialized in child theft and trafficking. From their clutch were rescued six children kidnapped from different parts of the country including Abuja, Abia, Enugu and Edo states. The prime suspects, Ifeoma Ebony and Emmanuel Onyekwere are indicted in several cases of theft and sales of children.
The arrest came in the wake of their last operation in Abuja where they stole two children from their parents in Tungamaji and Gwagwalada areas of the Federal Capital Territory. A petition from the father of one of the children to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, culminated in a directive to operatives at the IRT, headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari to investigate.
The couple was trailed to Asaba, Delta State, where they were arrested and in turn led the police to arrest others identified as Blessing Nwankwo, Chioma Nike, Onyinye Benjamin, Ngozi Okoli, Nwokocha Okoli, Ndiya Kalu and Esther Ihiediwa.
During an interview with Saturday Sun, the prime suspects gave their motives for engaging in the racket.
Confession of a hard-hearted abductor
Ifeoma Ebony, the 32-year-old native of Ogbulafor, Enugu State, is a widow with two children who spent seven years as a prostitute in Abuja before relocating to Oba town in Anambra State to ply her trade. She claimed a lady from Benue called Ogula introduced her to the racket.
“She said a nurse told her to look for someone to get her pregnant and when she delivered, the child will be taken from her and she will be paid. I told her I couldn’t do such because I have two children and I was not ready to get pregnant again,” she narrated.
Nonetheless, she followed the lady to her village.
“When we got there, the girl stole a girl child and gave her to me, while I was leaving with the child I was arrested by some security men. I was taken to prison where I spent six months in 2017.”
While in prison, she met Ada. “I called her when I was released and she gave me a job at her shop in Umuahia, Abia State where she sells drinks,” she narrated.
Like a dog going back to its vomit, she couldn’t resist the temptation when a customer (Onwa) told her he had contacts of people who could buy children aged one to three.
“I informed Chibuzor who is a brother to Ada. He stole a child whom we gave to Onwa. He took the child away but refused to pay us our money. At that time I had already gotten a boyfriend, Emmanuel Onyekwere. Onwa contacted me three months later and pleaded for forgiveness and promised to pay me N500, 000 for any child between the ages of one and two. Onyekwere went to his village and stole his sister’s two-year-old child. 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. She paid us N250, 000.”
Onwa then gave them a template for the business. He warned them never to steal children on the road. “Because when we get caught we would get burnt,” she said. “He advised that we should move regularly to new areas, rent an apartment, steal a child and leave the area.”
Following his advice, the couple went to live in Akuke area of Enugu, rented an apartment and succeeded in stealing two children of a man called Onyeka.
Ebony stole Onyeka’s children, aged two and four, as a payback for the way he maltreated her while she was a prostitute in Abuja, she claimed.
“When I ran into him in Enugu, he was happy and he introduced me to his wife. 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 I discovered that the coast was clear, I made away with the children and sold them to Onwa for 450,000 each.”
Afterwards, she and her lover relocated to Abuja and continued the racket.
“We rented an apartment at Tungamaji area of Abuja and we stole a woman’s child who is our neighbour. The woman left her child in my care while she went to the market. We quickly packed our things and fled with the child whom we then sold to one Chioma, who we met through Onwa, for N300, 000.”
They relocated to Gwagwalada.
“We stayed for two weeks and I stole a one-year-old baby, sold to Chioma for N300, 000.”
They fled Abuja for Edo State and took up residence somewhere at Ipoba Hill area.
“There, we stole a child belonging to a woman who was sick and could not pay proper attention to her child. The child used to come to our compound to play. I took the child 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 old. I gave her a bill of N2million and she paid instantly. Since we have decided to quit, Emmanuel and I used the money to rent a two-bedroom flat, furnished it and we removed our SIM cards and Blessing couldn’t reach us anymore.”
From a prostitute’s customer to her partner in crime
Her partner in crime, Emmanuel Onyewkere, a native of Isiala-Ngwa North, Abia State used to be a tailor who became acquainted with Ifeoma whom he patronized at the time she was a prostitute.
Given his impoverished condition, he was easily lured into child trafficking once she assured him that the business would fetch big money.
“I went to my village and stole my sister’s son, Victor and we sold him to an old woman at Holy Ghost Church in Enugu State,” he confessed.
Justifying his heinous action he said: “My sister has money but she is stingy to me, that is why I stole her son. I pretended like I was praying when we got to the church and no one noticed what we were doing because the boy looks 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.”
Rather than repent, he sank deeper into the crime.
“Onwa took me to a native doctor who prepared charms for me so that my people would stop looking for me. I then recruited one of my friends, Aboy, when we moved to Enugu State. He stole three children, one from his village and two from Enugu. We sold them for N900,000.”
Chioma Nike, the third suspect claimed she discovered the business was lucrative when she tried to adopt a daughter.
The 46-year-old, a divorcee who lost her husband to infidelity after 22 years of fruitless marriage started her confession with her tragedy.
“After 22 years of barrenness, I decided to sleep with another man. I never knew that my husband couldn’t impregnate a woman. When I got pregnant, he knew that it didn’t belong to him and drove me away. I had my baby and wanted a second one. I went for adoption; the amount of money they requested was much. I was still begging them to reduce the price when a woman came and bought the child at a higher price. It was then I decided to go into the business.”
She became a broker. “I got two children from Ifeoma and sold them to Mummy Indian for N800, 000. I got N200, 000 as my share of the profit. Ifeoma also sold four other children to me, which I sold to several people. I have returned three, I am yet to get the last one. I sold two of the four children to one Mummy Onyinyechi. I sold one other to Mummy Blessing and another one to Monica.”
The fourth suspect, a registered nurse named Blessing Nwankwo, told Saturday Sun she dabbled in the business to raise money to establish a maternity home.
“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 because the money that I needed to pay was too much,” she said.
She confessed her sins: “The first person I sold a child to was the wife of our catechist who was childless. I contacted one Chioma, who brought a girl. I paid her N550, 000 then took the baby to the woman who paid me N800, 000.”
She went fully into the racket thereafter: “Later, Chioma brought Ifeoma to me and told me that Ifeoma owns a home in Enugu State, and in case I see anyone who needs a child for adoption, I should contact her. I then contacted some of my relations and friends who were trying to have children. They paid me N2 million for five children. It was when I was arrested that I knew that the children were stolen.”
Knowing the gravity of the crime, the couple became remorseful.
“My children are between 16 and 17; if they are stolen I will not be happy,” Ebony said.
“I stole a total number of eight children and I am crying because I can’t go to my village; all the money I made I cannot do anything with it,” Onyekwere lamented.