Catholic priest, monarch, 18 others in SSS net over child trafficking

From Mike Etim, Uyo

A Catholic Priest, Joseph Okon; a traditional ruler in Akwa, Anambra state, Chief Uchenna Cannice Joel Onyekaozuru; a blind man, Oseloka Okoye were among 20 suspects paraded by the State Security Service (SSS) Akwa Ibom state over child trafficking.

Briefing journalists at the SSS office, along Nsikak Edouk Avenue Uyo yesterday, the Deputy Director, Operations SSS, Mr. Fubara Duke said the suspects were apprehended within Akwa Ibom and some parts of the Eastern states.

According to the Deputy Director, the operatives have recovered 8 children from the suspects and that the children are being reunited with their families. He said that the Command commenced investigation on child-trafficking, when it noted that a syndicate which resorted to child-trafficking had started operating in Akwa Ibom state after security agencies in the state had successfully kept kidnapping and other violent crimes at bay.

Speaking further, he said: “syndicate operates under a cartel with their kingpin, abductors and facilitators who are mostly operators of motherless baby homes, social and women affairs officers and agents.

“Our investigation into this trade has led to the unmasking of a major syndicate, suspects who are actually involved in the buying and selling of these children”.

Based on the operative investigation, Fubara said an average of 50 children were stolen and sold in the illicit trade in the last 8 months in Akwa Ibom State, a development he said had necessitated the command to direct its security arsenal to the illicit trade on the last few months.

One of the suspects, a 61 years old blind man Oseloka Okoye, who was interviewed by our correspondent, said he had been involved in child theft and selling for over 15 years. He narrated that he was not new to security operatives as he had been arrested on many occasions.

He however lamented that he failed to heed the advice of his children to drop the trade.

The Catholic priest, Joseph Okon, who said he was ordained as a priest in 1990 and a priest with St. Peter Parish, in Anambra state, in his narration said “I am regretting; I am full of tears. I will pray seriously because of this sin. I will do like David in the Bible. I will repent to God and make my confession to my Bishop.

Okon was arrested on accounts of trading off two children brought to him and collecting the sum of N25, 000. He confessed to People Daily that he was unaware that the children brought to him were stolen children.

On this part, another suspect, Chief Onyekaozuru pointed out that he has been on the trade since 2012 and that he has benefited nothing from it even as he has admitted that he had bought and sold over 12 children since he join the trade.

Narrating her ordeal, another suspect Mercy Okon Etim said she was working in a bakery when she was approached by another suspect Collins Monday Edet Okpo to join him in child trafficking.

She said Collins laughed at her for working in the bakery and started pestering her until she agreed to join the trade.

She said before her arrest, she has stolen five children, which she sold to Chief Onyekaozuru in Onitsha, adding that Collins negotiated the deal in which she got the sum of N100.000 as her share, saying that she did not know how much the children were sold.

Peoples Daily gathered that a child sells for amount ranging from 450,000 to as much as N700.000 in the trade.

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