BY AGNES NWORIE, ABAKALIKI
A Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, has ordered the remand of a woman and a native doctor in the Nigeria Correctional Centre for alleged child stealing and human trafficking.
The suspects, 43-year-old woman, Onwe Mercy and 40-year-old native doctor, Friday Ode, in the suit marked MAB/258c/2023, were accused of conspiracy, child stealing and deceiving four girls into human trafficking act.
It was gathered that Mercy had loitered around an Ascension Church, Ishieke, in Ebonyi Local Government Area of the state till the Sunday service was over before stealing a year old boy from his sibling.
The mother of the abducted child, Mrs. Ruth Ajaogeh, explained that Mercy accosted her 12-year-old son who was going home after the church service with his toddler brother and that the suspect had given the boy money to buy biscuits and water after collecting the child from him.
The suspect was said to have disappeared with the one-year-old baby before his older brother could return from the deceitful errand.
She said, “On that day, the children session of Ascension Church Ishieke had dismissed before the adults. So, I gave my 12-year-old son our house key to go home with the younger one, aged one year, so that they wouldhave lunch before I returned. Little did I know that there was a human trafficker around the church.
“My son said that when they got to Ishieke junction, the woman (Mercy) stopped them and told them she was going the same way with them and gave him money to buy biscuits and water from a nearby provision shop. He said the woman carried the baby from him. Unfortunately, when he came back, the woman and the baby were nowhere to be found.
“So, in the course of the investigation, my son identified her as the person who collected my baby from him. The woman was arrested alongside her native doctor and other children they stole were also recovered from them but my child has not yet been seen since January 2023.”
When the duo were arraigned by the Police, the prosecutor, Inspector Osaro Wisdom, informed the court that the suspects conspired, stole the child and also deceived some females into human trafficking.
The charge read, “That you Onwe Mercy and Friday Ode and others now at large, on the 29th day of January, 2023, at Ishieke in Ebonyi Local Government Area of the state, in the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did conspire amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit: child stealing and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 516A(a) of the Criminal Code Cap 33 Volume 1 Laws of Ebonyi State of Nigeria 2009.
“That you (defendants) and others now at large in the same place and on the same date did unlawfully make away with one Chidiebube Ajaoge, male, aged one year, without the consent of his parents and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 33(3) of Ebonyi State Child’s Rights Law and Related Matter Law 2010.
“That you on the 5th day of April 2023 at 135 Ezzamgbo Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State in the jurisdiction of this honourable court did by means of deceit, induce one Ode Ebere, Igwe Ukamaka, Gloria Itumo and Eze Onyedikachi, all females, with pretence of getting a job for them in Burkina Faso, a representation you knew to be false and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 19(b) of the Trafficking in person (Prohibition Enforcement and Administration) Act 2003 (As amended) as applicable to Ebonyi State of Nigeria.”
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the offences. Their counsel, Solomon Eguji, made an application for their bail on the ground that they were all presumed innocent until otherwise proven by a competent court of law.
However, the prosecutor opposed the application and argued that the defendants would jump bail if granted.
The presiding Magistrate, Lynda Ogodo, refused the defendants bail and ordered that they be remanded at the Correctional Centre.