By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
“And in that day, seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, ‘we will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach’,” so says the Bible in Isaiah 4:1.
But while the Bible speaks about seven women and one man, the Holy Book didn’t talk about seven women fighting over one child.
That, however, was what played out recently in Abuja.
It was an emotional scene at the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) office recently.
Seven women from different parts of the country, whose sons were snatched by suspected child traffickers, stormed the IRT office in Abuja, fighting over the ownership of a five-year-old boy that was recovered.
Sometime in January 2020, the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mbah, a Commissioner of Police announced that detectives attached to IRT busted a syndicate that specializes 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, who posed as a couple, were indicted in several cases of theft and sales of children.
According to the report which was also published by Saturday Sun, 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.
One of the parents, who identified himself as Thomas, said that his daughter was snatched by a couple that just moved into their compound. He claimed that the wife requested that she wanted to buy something outside and opted to take his daughter who loves playing with her. He granted her permission and she took the child and disappeared.
The pair, who were later discovered not to be married, were trailed to Asaba, Delta State, where they were arrested. It was discovered that they had sold the child and had rented another apartment at Asaba.
Thomas identified them as the ones who ran away with the daughter. Police operatives were able to trace the child to Aba and the child was recovered from the buyer.
From all indications, the operatives discovered that the two were professionals in their act and decided to probe further. The police did further investigations and were able to rescue about five other children. Most of their accomplices identified as Blessing Nwankwo, Chioma Nike, Onyinye Benjamin, Ngozi Okoli, Nwokocha Okoli, Ndiya Kalu and Esther Ihiediwa were arrested.
Desperate parents drag recovered children
According to a source at IRT, after the parade, desperate parents from all over the country trooped to the office of the IRT seeking that the children which were seen on TV and pages of newspapers were theirs.
“All the parents, who were more than 30, claimed that their children were stolen by unknown persons. Out of the six children, three were successfully reunited with their parents
So many others left when they discovered that the children were not their own. They were assured that the police would leave no stone unturned until their missing children are found and reunited with them.
“Unfortunately the only boy among them had seven parents who insisted that he was their missing son.
One woman based in Abuja was the first to arrive and she claimed that the boy was snatched from her by a man and a woman along Wuse area.
“We were preparing to hand over the child to her when another woman who came to the police premises during the handover grabbed the boy. She hugged him and said that this is her sister’s lost son. She said that her nephew was stolen from Emene in Enugu
“The boy who is five years and could barely talk just stared at the drama displayed by both women and failed to recognize any of them. We invited her in and decided to use medical means to identify the real mother of the child. This was necessary because the suspects had told the police that the boy was picked from Enugu.
We were making arrangements for a DNA test when another woman from Okigwe in Imo State arrived and threatened to drag the matter to the IGP if her missing son was not handed over to her. She brought pictures and mysteriously there was a resemblance.
The next day two others came from Port Harcourt in Rivers State and Enugu. Another came from Lagos with photo proof. Meanwhile, the first three women had been sent to a laboratory in Asokoro, Abuja where a DNA test was conducted.
While we were waiting for the result, one of the women went to EndSARS panel Abuja and complained that someone snatched her son. When she saw her son on TV, she came and we refused to give her the boy. She claimed that the boy identified her and greeted her properly.
Luckily the DNA result came out and it showed that the woman from Emene, Enugu is the mother. She had more than 90percent relationship with the boy.
The Abuja woman still insisted and the panel went ahead with investigation and the doctor was invited. He testified at the panel and backed it up with documents. The panel said they would do the test for only her. If you see the photograph, all the women had a striking resemblance with the boy,” police source explained.
The National Human Rights Commission attested to the incident in a letter signed by Hilary Ogbonna, secretary , IIP SARS and seen by Saturday Sun, entitled Elijah Tanko vs. SP Desmond Abella and two others (2020/IIP-SARS/ABJ/66). IIPSARS is known as Independent Investigative Panel but commonly referred to as EndSARS panel
“At the last sitting of the panel held on Monday October 18, 2021, the panel ordered that an independent DNA test be conducted with respect to the petition. In view of the order we hereby request that you direct the investigating police officer on the matter to make available the child on a date to be communicated to you in due course at the National Human Rights Commission. This is to enable us proceed timely to the diagnostic centre for the collection of samples for the DNA examination,” the letter reads in part.
Meanwhile Saturday Sun learnt that the operatives are still on the trail of other traffickers after recovering another three children that were snatched by their parents.
“There are so many children that were stolen, judging by the number of parents that flooded this office after six children were recovered. We have made so much progress and some children have been recovered.”
Boy stolen from Enugu-suspect
One of the suspects, Ifeoma Ebony is a 32-year-old native of Ogbulafor, Enugu State, and a widow with two children. She had 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 was caught and jailed for six months. Back home she couldn’t resist the temptation when a customer (Onwa) in the restaurant that she was working at told her he had contacts of people who could buy children aged one to three.
“At that time I had already gotten a boyfriend, Emmanuel Onyekwere. Onwa contacted me three months later 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,” Ifeoma said.
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. They also stole a boy from Emene and sold him for N350,000 because, as she claimed, boy children were in high demand.
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 then relocated to Gwagwalada.
“We stayed for two weeks and I stole a one-year-old baby, who we sold to Chioma for N300, 000.”
They fled Abuja for Edo State and took up residence somewhere at Ipoba Hill area where several children were also stolen by the two.
The suspects would soon be prosecuted, the police source told the reporter.