Solomon Ayado, Lafia
The dust raised by the story of 15-years-old Nguemo Mercy Agidi who, along with her peers, was rescued by the police in Nasarawa State from a suspected human trafficker is yet to settle.
A Senior Secondary School One (SSS1) student of Best Brains Academy, located at Gaadi community of Makurdi, the Benue State capital, she originally hailed from Tombo in Buruku LGA of Benue but lives with her parents in Makurdi. The last child of six children comprising three girls and three boys, her parents are core agrarians.
But Tuesday, Septermber 29, 2020 is a day she will never forget. It was the day that she was rescued from the hands of a woman who allegedly wanted to sell her and her friends into sex slavery.
How the victim met suspect
The girl had, without informing her parents, left their home, situated beside Airborne Hotel, at Fiidi community, opposite the Nigerian Airforce (NAF) Base, Makurdi, to squat with her friends in the Northbank area of the town. Saturday Sun later traced the Agidis to their Makurdi residence.
The girl whose parents reportedly never knew her whereabouts after she left home explained that she decided to leave the house since her school was on indefinite vacation owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to her, her three friends had rented an apartment in the Northbank area where they stayed on their own, and she went to live with them. She said her friends were not schooling or engaged in any trade.
According to her, it was while she was there that one of their boyfriends informed them of a woman who needed young female assistants. “I went to my friends’ house in Northbank and two boys came to inform us that there is a woman in their house that is from Lagos and that she needs salesgirls to assist her in the work she is doing,” she recalled.
How the victim was deceived, hypnotized
She and her friends initially refused to give the idea a thought, she said. But they later succumbed when the boys continued to pester them. The girl insists in her chat with Saturday Sun that they were deceived and hypnotised. She also strongly believes that the woman in question used magical powers to convince them into traveling to Lagos with her.
Her account: “One of the boys who informed us about the journey said he knew the woman from Ebonyi State. The boy is Tiv and the woman used to sleep in his house in Northbank whenever she came to Makurdi. They were two boys – Benjamin Amini and Moses Zam. Benjamin is a boyfriend to my friend and he is a conductor while Moses said he knew the woman.
“They told us that even if we don’t want to go, we should just go and explain to the woman so she can know that they have made efforts but could not only find people for her. That’s how we went to meet her. She told us that she operates a beer canteen where she sells beer, indomie and sharwama and would want us to help her with the job.
“At first, we refused. But the woman called us again that we should come so that she can explain things to us. When we got there the second time, all of us became confused. We don’t know the magic she used on us but she did something that made us accept to go to Lagos with her. On Monday, we came back home and packed all our clothes and went to meet her. We spent the night with her.”
A commutter exposes suspect
Nguemo said it was the grace of God that saved her. She said it was a particular woman who was journeying to Akwanga whom she did not know, but with whom they boarded the same vehicle, that raised alarm over the true motive of the woman to security operatives.
She narrated: “On Tuesday, September 29, we left Makurdi for Abuja. While we were travelling, around 5pm, another woman in the vehicle who was with children asked the driver to stop so that her children can urinate. She was a Tiv woman going to Akwanga.
“When the vehicle stopped, she claimed she wants to see FRSC officials who manned a checkpoint to collect something. She said one of the officers was her husband. That was how she told them that she suspected our Madam trafficked us and was conveying us to Abuja. Quickly, the Road Safety men intercepted our vehicle, asked us who was our Madam and where we were going and we told them.
“After that, they took us to a police station in Nasarawa Eggon and we spent the night there. The following day they transferred us to CID (Criminal Investigation Department) in Lafia. There the police said they want to see our parents because our parents did not know we traveled.”
The arrest, rescue by police
CP Bola Longe, Commissioner of Police in Nasarawa State, said in a statement that the police operatives acted on a tip-off. He did not however named the informant. He identified the suspected trafficker as Rita Oti, 40, from Ebonyi State while the driver, Godwin Yaasa, 35, is an indigene of Benue State.
The Commissioner confirmed that the woman had lured the victims on the pretext of securing lucrative jobs in Lagos before they were arrested in Nasarawa Eggon area of the state. He stated that the six victims are aged between 16 and 24 years. Also, he disclosed that the intercepted vehicle in which the suspect and victims were being conveyed is a Volkswagen Sharon mini bus.
According to a Police statement: “On 29/09/2020, at about 1430hrs, police personnel attached to Nasarawa Eggon division, acting on credible information, intercepted a Volkswagen Sharon vehicle driven by one Godwin Yaasa ‘m’ aged 35 years of Benue State conveying one Rita Oti and six other occupants whose age ranges from 15 to 24 years on transit to Lagos State.
“Upon interrogation, it was discovered that Rita Oti a.k.a Mama Gee ‘f’ aged 40 years from Ebonyi State, on the pretext of helping the victims to secure lucrative jobs, criminally lured Blessing Williams ‘f’ aged 16 years, Mercy Agidi ‘f’ aged 15 years, Jennifer Shimaver ‘f’ aged 24 years, Catherine Moses ‘f’ aged 23 years, Moses Zam ‘m’ aged 19 years, and Benjamin Amini ‘m’ aged 21 years all of Northbank, Benue State, without the consent of their parents and was conveying them to Alagbado area of Lagos State before she was arrested at Nasarawa Eggon LGA of Nasarawa State.
“Police investigation was extended to the address given by the suspect in Lagos State. It was discovered that their destination was a business premises that has been abandoned for several years.”
Victim’s sister expresses shock, gratitude
Explaining how the family got to know about the incident, the elder sister of the victim, Ruth Agidi, revealed to Saturday Sun that it was an online post by The Sun newspaper’s correspondent that made it possible for the family to know what happeed to Rita.She said that her parents, on learning about the sad development quickly moved to Lafia to secure release of her younger sister.
“The media is indeed powerful; it entertains and as well informs,” she said. “How would I have possibly known that my sister was a victim of human trafficking here in Makurdi? A woman was caught with some boys and girls, my sister inclusive, at Nasarawa Eggon as they were travelling to Lagos before the information got to us.
“The story is very long. Despite all odds, and to the glory of God, my sister was brought home unharmed and the woman failed in her mission. Almost all parents of the victims brought their children back home. All thanks to Solomon Ayado for posting it,” Ruth announced on her facebook page.
Victim accuses police of releasing suspect
Meanwhile, the victim has accused the police of compromise, by releasing the suspect. She alleged that she was released after some money exchanged hands, a charge vehemently denied by the police.
“I learnt that the woman gave some money to police before she was released,” she said. Reacting to the allegation, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Ramham Nansel (ASP)said: “I just confirmed from our legal department that the woman is still in our custody. She has been arraigned and the court advised that she should be handed over to NAPTIP since it is a case of human trafficking.”