The Federal High Court Makurdi Division in Benue State on Friday convicted five men of human trafficking-related offences and sentenced them to various jail terms.
The convicts – Adejo Ogiri, Michael Ezekiel Uzochukwu, Afonne Edward Nwokocha, Ndukwe Henry, and Obuito Joseph Onyema were found guilty under section 13(2)(a), 21 and 27 of TIPPEA ACT, 2015 in case: FRN Vs Adejo Ogiri & 4 Others filed by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
Adejo Ogiri was sentenced to two years on count 1 and five years’ imprisonment on count 2. The fourth and fifth accused persons were sentenced to five years imprisonment, each, while the second and third accused persons, who jumped bail in the course of the trial, will be sentenced when caught.
They were arrested by officers of the Department of State Services, for the abduction and attempted sale of a four years old boy, and handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
The first accused, Adejo Ogiri, abducted his neighbour’s four years old son from Otukpo and took him to Umuahia, Abia State, where he handed him over to the second accused, Michael Uzochukwu. Mr. Michael took the child to the third convict, Edward, who had a client, Augustina, who is still at large,
whom they intended to sell the child to. While waiting for the client to pick up the child, they kept him with the fourth accused person, who is a relative of client’s. Edward was arrested by the DSS as he went to the bank to withdraw the money earlier sent by the client.
The DSS thereafter, rescued the child, arrested and handed the suspects over to NAPTIP for further investigation and prosecution.
Under sections 13(2), 21, and 27 of the Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration (TIPPEA) Act, 2015, it is a crime to abduct, transport, receive, or harbour a victim of human trafficking.
The law also prohibits the purchase, sale, hiring, or taking possession of any person with intent, knowing it to be likely or having reasons to know that such a person will be subjected to exploitation, as well as any conspiracy to commit any offence under the Act.
In the course of the trial which lasted between September 2016 and May 2018, the presiding Judge found the acts committed by the accused persons despicable, and, based on the evidences tendered by the prosecution.
The Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, reacting to the news of the conviction, lauded the collaborative efforts of the DSS in the arrests and course of the trial.
She emphasised the importance of partnership, which is one of the five-pronged approaches which NAPTIP employs in combating human trafficking, as she believes the fight against human trafficking will be more impactful when law enforcement agencies work together.
The NAPTIP boss condemned the abduction of children, as she could not imagine the pains that parents whose children were abducted could be going through.
She used the opportunity to caution Nigerians against illegal adoption, and advised anyone who wishes to adopt a child to go through the legal processes, in order to avoid falling foul of the law, or causing another parent severe emotional and mental pain, by buying a child abducted from his or her parents.
Dame Julie Okah-Donli also cautioned Nigerians to be careful and mindful of their environment, especially as the year draws to an end, with its accompanying increase in criminal activities.