Tackling the Menace of Child Trafficking in Ebonyi

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Benjamin Nworie writes on the giant strides by the Ebonyi State
Commissioner of Police, CP Peace Ibekwe Abdallah, in stemming the tide of child trafficking in the state

For many years, Ebonyi State has been victim of child trafficking. The children are usually recruited for sexual exploitation. Some are for hard labour while many still think that some of the children are used for rituals, some few are for adoption, in cases of barrenness. The children are mainly within the ages of two and five. Some poor parents and guardians have equally remained willing tools in the hands of traffickers.

The culprits come in the form of offering help to cushion the burden of poverty and for sponsoring the child. Illiteracy and poverty are critically factors that often push parents into such hasty negotiations. Parents are fond of giving their children’s hands in marriage, most times, to unknown suitors. Parents are not inquisitive to knowing the whereabouts of their children; to know the type of business these people are doing. Many parents rear children as many as possible with the idea that as soon as they grow up, they will go to the “city” and hustle for themselves.
While some girls elope with any man who merely hisses at them, provided they can get help from them, at least to feed.

These self inflicted pains of unwanted pregnancy have pushed many mothers to give out their children at their early ages to friends and relations, who may be agents or syndicates of child traffickers. But because of the risk involved in men’s participation in the crime, the common practice is to recruit young girls with the mandate of child bearing for the smooth running of the business.

This practice has given rise to baby factories where traffickers easily come to buy children like other products in the market. Few cases of baby factories have been traced to states like Abia, Imo, Anambra and others.
Ebonyi girls remain the employees. Because of the functional security network in Ebonyi State, it may be difficult for such factories to exist. In Anambra state, for instance, acclaimed registered orphanage homes are pseudo-baby factories, where people register children for the same purpose of trafficking.

Barren couples have equally fallen prey to the agents and gangs of the operators of these orphanage homes. If not the recent case of child trafficking traced to one World Peace Orphanage Home in Anambra State, one could not have known that such places where vulnerable children and destitute are ready markets for child traffickers.

Some handicapped traffickers steal children to meet up with his or her obligation. Reports from the Ministry of Women Affairs in the state have it that over 50 children were victims of the dastardly act since May 2015. This figure however, may have been underestimated in view of the fact that some cases in the hinterlands are not reported.

With the incessant rise in the cases of child trafficking in Ebonyi, the Commissioner of Police, CP Peace Ibekwe Abdallah has taken frontal lead in the fight against the menace. However, despite the outstanding breakthroughs, the command has made in stemming the wave of crime in the state, efforts are still in top gear to recover some of the stolen children.

In the recent breakthrough and recovery, six children have been handed over to their families in Abakaliki. It was a day of reckoning for the victims’ families. At last, their children were lost but found. The beloved children have once again been reunited with their families. It was a joyous and miraculous return of a journey that may have
terminated the lives of the innocent children. The children also understood what it meant to reunite with their families as they clung so strongly to their mothers, even making it difficult for the CP to perform her official function of handover. Staring strangely at the children were the suspects with their “criminal” faces so terrible to be glanced at twice.

People are still startled on the intelligence fireworks that led to the recovery but CP Abdallah has stamped her feet so strongly to stem out crime no matter how it’s secretly committed. Although the CP is a no-nonsense personality who does her professional duties no matter whose ox is gored.

Through the effort of her leadership, one Kingsley Nwafor, aged 3, who was stolen from the mother, Ndidiamaka Nwafor was recovered at Umuawulu Awka South, Anambra State where the child was sold by one Chizoba Nicholas ‘f’ and syndicate to one Okpalaugo Chinwendu acclaimed Head of Department in the Anambra State Ministry of Women of
Affairs.

The young Nwafor was stolen at Ezza Akpuoga in Enugu State. He was sold following a formal application to the Chinwendu’s led Women Ministry in Anambra for adoption of a child by Okpala Benedict.
Benedict said she had been married for 15 years without a child and decided to apply to the ministry for proper adoption. It baffles onlookers why state government should register some of these orphanages where child trafficking is being promoted. Anyway, some people intuited that child trafficking is common among homes managed by
individuals, who may not have the interest, sympathy and welfare of the downtrodden at heart.

“I’m a petty businesswoman. I am have been married for 15 years now without a child. I wanted to adopt a child. I approached the Ministry of Women Affairs in Anambra State where I met the HOD in-charge of child adoption, one Okpalaugo Chinwendu. She said I will buy form of N30, 000. I went to my account and withdrew the amount and bought the form before I was told to bring other credentials which I did.

“When I finished all the requirements, the same Chinwendu told me to pay N720, 000. All these payment were paid directly to Chinwendu and handed over Kingsley Nwafor to me. I did not know that he was a stolen child. She told me that there was no child now that I should wait. Later, she called me that one Chizoba Nicholas has brought a child,” Benedict narrated.

Benedict explained that she fulfilled all the legal requirements and procedures by applying directly to the ministry but unknown to her that the HOD was a syndicate for child traffickers. The HOD took the opportunity and received the sum of N750, 000 and handed over Kingsley Nwafor to her.

Also, in Anambra State, Onwe Ifeoma was traced to World Peace Motherless home at Nkpor Uno. The victim and his sister, Blessing in the ages of four and eight respectively were stolen at Ezzamgbo in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State on July 6, 2016.

According to the police, the owner of the home is still at large while two of the workers: Ezinne Chinenye and Nwasuike Success were arrested. Another child was recovered at Power lines Aba, Abia State by the Ebonyi state Police Command. The command said one Chinonso Aja ‘f’ still at large conspired with another and stole the child of her junior sister, Chika Aja while she was asleep. The child, Chidalu Aja was less than one year.

Another giant stride was the arrest of the serial child trafficker, Chizoba Nicholas. The CP explained that on June 6, 2016, one Raphael Kamwe, Uju Uzoma and Nicholas and others conspired and deceived Esther Agbowo and her parents at Nkalagu Ishileu in Ebonyi State that Raphael want to marry her. They took her and her two children-Miracle Agbowo ‘f’ three years and Arinze Agbowo, who is less than two years, to Asaba Delta State where they took the children away from her and abandoned her.

Esther Agbowo said she was taken to a hotel. After that her children were taken from her that they want to be enrolled in school. She kept on asking of her children but the husband assured that they are safe but she will not see them now. “When I was not comfortable I called my brother in Onitsha who reported the matter.” The syndicates later arrived Uburu in Ebonyi State for another arrangement of child trafficking and were arrested and brought to Police headquarters where the victim identified them. The two children were recovered.

However, the CP continues to advice parent to avoid giving out under age children to unknown guardians as this constitutes the rise in child trafficking in society.