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5-month-old-boy, teenage nursing mother rescued from traffickers

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By Ikegbunam Peter Chierike

Police operatives from the Agboju Police Division of Lagos State Police command, on Monday rescued a five-month-old baby boy, Chukwumuanya and her teenage mother, Onyinyechi from suspected human traffickers.

Orient Weekend gathered that the mother of the infant, who hailed from Omor in Ayamelum local government area of Anambra state, was tricked into a fake marriage by an unknown man and two ladies who claimed to be his sisters.

The child trafficking gang of two women and a man, all of whom claimed to be relatives, this paper learnt, had successfully deceived Onyinyechi’s mother that their brother (the man they presented as suitor) wanted to marry the unmarried teenage mother. Without proper background checks on the claims by the man and his two self-acclaimed sisters, Onyinye’s unsuspecting parents, gave her out in marriage to the strangers who moved the girl and her child from Omor to Nnewi, the supposed husband’s hometown, from where they travelled to Lagos.

Orient Weekend gathered that things took a dramatic turn soon after when the unsuspecting traffickers snatched the baby away from the so-called newly married nursing mother under suspicious circumstances.

Onyinyechi recalled the dramatic moment when she became suspicious of the suspects.

“It was in Lagos that things began to change. When we reached Lagos, I was weak, after the long journey.” She said they gave me a bottle of malt to drink, ostensibly to regain her strength but that she fell asleep after the drink.

“I fell asleep. By the time I woke up in the hotel where they put me, I could not find my son. It was then that I became suspicious. So, I waited to see Aunty to tell me what happened to my son.”

According to the victim, shortly after their arrival in Lagos, they had been taken to a hotel room and lodged on the pretence that her husband had only recently relocated to Lagos and had not yet got an apartment to move into. She was told that her husband was a dealer in electronics and had a business partner in Abuja who had called for business. When she demanded the whereabouts of her baby, they started taking her from one hotel to another.

“So, when she (Aunty) came to change my hotel, I asked for my son, Chukwumuanya, but she told me he took ill and was taken to Mama for care. I became uncomfortable and worried for not seeing my child as the days passed by.

Onyinye further disclosed that she became stranded when the woman coordinating the scheme took her SIM card and her phone on the pretext that another one would be provided her, a ploy to prevent her from reaching her relatives.

“I stayed for like two to three days in each hotel they took me to. I have not seen the man that acted as my husband before my parents. They told me that he got a call to attend to his combine business in Abuja and that he would get back to me. That was all. Till now I have not seen the man. Thoughts filled my mind. I did not know what to do and a week had passed. I waited patiently for the promised phone,” Onyinyechi added.

According to the victim, the plot began to crumble when she managed to get access to a phone and called her parents. She told them all that had transpired since they left Omor. Onyinye’s parents then called their relatives in Lagos who, in conjunction with members of the Omor Town Union, Lagos branch, initiated a search for Onyinyechi and her baby.

This paper saw a video clip which captured the dramatic moment one of the suspect women and Onyinye were being interrogated by a mob in front of the hotel. The woman claimed that the child was taken to Port Harcourt in Rivers state because Onyinye had health challenges.

The suspect simply identified by the victim as ‘Aunty’ had claimed that Onyinye was married to their brother. “We paid the girl’s dowry and hospital bill for the birth of Chukwumuanya. They charged us N100,000 and we paid the money cash for her dowry and the child’s hospital bill. I have the video evidence of the ceremony here in my phone,” she claimed in the video footage.

She further claimed that the child was taken to their elder sister, who lived in Port Harcourt, following a consensus reached among Onyinyechi, her ‘husband,’ and herself.

According to the suspect, “Onyinyechi earlier complained that she had blood pressure and shortage of blood issue. This made her husband, my brother, to ask her to stop breast-feeding the child and take him to our elder sister to enable her save her energy. So, she gave her consent before we took the child to Port Harcourt,” the woman claimed.

Following her unsatisfactory explanations, police operatives were quickly contacted and they were taken to the Agboju police division where the suspect eventually opened up and confessed that they had sold the child for N1.2 million.

This paper further gathered that the police traced and later recovered the child unharmed through the husband of another female suspect who the child was handed to as a collateral to get his wife released from the police custody.

While reacting to the event, the chairman Omor Town Union, Lagos state branch, Mr Pius C. Obodeze, condemned the manner the teenage mother was married off. He praised Lagos state police command and members of the Lagos branch of the Omor Town Union for their prompt response to the situation.

“I will make bold to state here that I don’t like the manner in which this lady was married off. This would have been the end of her life and that of the child, if not for God. I can’t thank the police DPO of Agboju police division and his team enough for this. So, also, my people here in Lagos. We rose up to the pathetic situation immediately and that is how we were able to register this success.

“From the (suspect) woman’s presentation and analysis, she knows our town very well and this is not her first time in this business. It is possible that many may have suffered this same fate in her hand. If they had succeeded in taking the child, the next thing might have been to kill the mother in order to cover up their crime,” he said.

He also added that the Omor Town Union executive in Lagos would follow the matter to a judicious conclusion as they intensify effort to reunite the lady and her son to their family, once again.

Obodoeze pointed out the divine intervention in the rescue of mother and child, alluding to the baby’s name which literally means that “my God is awake.” He added that, but for the baby’s God’s intervention, the gang might have succeeded in their plot.

Meanwhile, the culprits have been remanded in police custody as further investigation continues.

Efforts to speak with the police public relations officer in Lagos state were unsuccessful as at the time of filing this report.

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