The Cross River State Command of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has arrested a 62-year old woman who allegedly tricked a 16-year old girl, Oma Samuel, of her four-day-old baby girl for trafficking purposes.
The suspected trafficker, identified as Angela Nwaelechi, was caught at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar, on her way to Lagos with the baby. Also arrested was one Ifeanyi, a suspected accomplice, in his thirties.
Controller of Immigration in the State, Adeuyi Funke Cecelia, while handing over the matter to National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) yesterday in Calabar, said they were arrested on December 1, when the baby was still four days old.
“My officers on duty got alert when an elderly woman was in possession of an infant under the age of one week, asked to be allowed to get baby food from luggage she had already checked in. It became suspicious when they saw and elderly woman without the mother carrying the baby. She was invited to the immigration office in the airport, where it was realized she was trafficking the baby.
“I want to appeal to parents to be on the watch out for their children so they don’t fall in to the hands of conmen and women who may want to lure them. What has happened shows that the NIS and its personnel are really positioned to ensure that we crush human trafficking in all the different places we work. This shows diligence on the part of our personnel. They were vigilant and committed and were able to identify that they crime was being perpetrated. We would ensure that people who commit such crime are brought to book,” she said.
Nwaelechi, who said she lives in Lagos, denied that she was trafficking the baby.
According to her, she had a younger male relative who had been sick and wanted to help him get healed by bringing him to a church in Calabar and then getting a wife for him.
She said Ifeanyi brought the pregnant Oma who agreed to marry her relative. The elderly woman said when the baby was born the mother agreed that she could go ahead with the baby to Lagos, where she should would join them after.
“She delivered on the 27th of November. And I took care of the expenses. On the said day we boarded a cab to the airport and had to leave the mother in a restaurant to eat. We were leaving her behind as she said she did not want to come to Lagos immediately. It was at the airport that we got arrested when I tried to get food from luggage I already checked in. There was a one-hour delay for the flight so the food made for the baby finished and she needed food. So I went to the officer and told him the baby is hungry and her food already checked in, and he asked me whose baby it was, and he led me and fortunately the luggage was not in and they let me have the luggage and as I was trying to get the food, he went ahead to call the officers and started questioning me. They asked me to call the mother. So I called Ifeanyi and he brought the mother.”
Ifeanyi said he found the girl when she was six months pregnant and homeless, sleeping outside a church at Ambo Street. He said he decided to accommodate her even though he was living with his wife and children, until she gave birth.
“The girl stayed with me for over three months before she gave birth. That was before I met this woman who said she needed a wife for her relative and I suggested the girl. The girl said she would not go to Lagos. She gave birth in a church and I called the woman and when she arrived she did all the necessary things. I bought the girl and phone and gave her some money and them Mummy (Nwaelechi), who was on her way to Lagos with the baby, called me and said they were interrogating her at the airport. And I went there with the mother and they arrested us,” Ifeanyi said.
Although Oma Samuel admitted that Ifeanyi took her in when she was pregnant and had nowhere to stay, the teenage mother said she never agreed that her baby be taken from her.
She said she had no idea what was going on and was tricked out of her baby by the duo.
“What the woman and Ifeanyi said is false. I did not agree to give my baby to anyone to take to Lagos, where I would join them later. I was tricked. When I had this pregnancy I did not have a place to stay and I was sleeping outside the church. So one morning I saw this man, Ifeanyi, and he asked me what happened and I explained what happened and he told me to come and stay with him until I put to bed and after that I would take my baby home. I accepted and stayed with him. And he told me that a woman is looking for a wife to her and I said but I am pregnant already and he said no problem. Later on when I saw the man, who was an imbecile, I declined the offer. They told me the woman has another son that would marry me. But when I thought about it, I said no, that I don’t want to marry anybody again.
“I stayed with him until the day I gave birth and the woman came and I asked who she was and he said she was my mother in law. That same day she wanted to take my baby but I did not accept. Even the women where I gave birth did not accept. So after we stayed until Friday, we blessed the child and I told them I wanted to go back to my place and I packed my things and this woman collected the baby from and we got into a cab. I sat in front and two of them were behind. I noticed through the side mirror that he gave some money to Ifeanyi. I was watching them trying to understand what was happening. They started using their dialect, Igbo, to speak and I was wondering what was going on. When we got to where I was to stop and go down with my baby, they did not stop there. They drove me somewhere stopped and asked me to go down. I asked of my baby and they said I should wait for them that they want to buy something somewhere and come back with the baby. I went down and they left. They did not come back. I started crying. The next thing this man rushed and came back and I asked him where my baby was. He took to the market and bought me a phone and bag. He took me and dropped me off in one healing home and gave me N2000 to eat. I just dropped the money and was waiting for the sun to go down so I will go and report to the police with the money. I was still there when Ifeanyi rushed again to me, with his wife this time, and told me that my baby was going to Lagos with that woman who would take good care of her and when the baby grew to two years, I would go and visit her. This was not what we agreed. The man then told me that we should go to the airport and if they ask me anything I should say she is my mother in law. Initially I agreed but later on I said no, that she was not my mother in law. That is how we got here.”
Principal Officer of NAPTIP Odudukudu Victor, said they were taking over the matter.
“We would do our investigation and then send the file to legal and prosecution and the law will take its course,” Victor said.