Two lovers, Ifeoma Ebony, 32, and Emmanuel Onyekwere, 32, have been arrested for stealing and trafficking children across Nigeria. According to the lovers, they steal the children from different parts of Nigeria and sell to waiting buyers. Two among the buyers, Blessing Nwankwo and Chioma Nick have been arrested, while police are still hunting for one Onwa and others now at large.
Prices for the children ranged from N250, 000, N300, 000 to N450, 000. Onyekwere without any qualms or second thought, organised, stole and sold his sister’s two-year-old son. Ebony, a mother of two, 16 and 17 years respectively, had previously spent six months in prison for child trafficking.
Ebony, after leaving prison, rather than turn a new leaf, returned to her old crime. When Onyekwere was asked why he went into such a crime, he replied that his quest to build a house for his mother pushed him into the business.
His words: “I met Ifeoma where she was working as a prostitute. She lured me into this business of stealing and selling children. Things weren’t good for me, and my family had no house in the village. Ifeoma assured me that stealing and trafficking children would fetch me money to build a house for my mother.
It was at that point that I went to my village and stole my sister’s twoyear- old son, Victor. Ifeoma and I sold him to an old woman, who waited for us at Holy Ghost Church in Enugu State. I pretended like I was praying in the church, while we waited for the woman.
My sister’s son looks so much like me. The old woman paid us N250,000.” He noted that when he took Victor, every noticed, but didn’t suspect he had a sinister motive. After selling the child, he started receiving calls from family members, asking him to return Victor home. He panicked.
“I received a series of call, asking me to return the child. They even threatened to kill me if I didn’t. A friend, Onwa, took me to a native doctor, who prepared charms for me that would make people not to ask for the child anymore. He then collected the N250, 000 that was paid to me for the sale of the child as his fee,” narrated Onyekwere.
The gang was busted by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT). At the last count, the operatives had arrested a total of 12 suspects connected with the crime. Also, six among the abducted children had been recovered by IRT. Trouble started for the lovers after they stole two children at Tunga Maji and Gwagwa areas of Abuja.
They sold each of the children to Nike at N300, 000. However, the frantic father of the baby girl stolen at Gwagwa area of Abuja, identified simply as Olobo, ran from pillar to post, searching for her. He finally reported the case to the IGP, Mohammed Adamu, who referred the case to the IRT Unit, headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Abba Kyari, for thorough investigation. Olobo, while briefing the operatives on everything he knew about his daughter’s disappearance, said: “Ebony and her husband, Onyekwere, rented an apartment in the compound where I reside with my family.
They became close to my wife, who had a one-year-old baby. A week after living in the compound, Ebony, pretended to be assisting my wife. She carried my baby and deceived my wife that she wanted to go and plait her hair. Before we knew what was happening, Ebony and her husband had disappeared with our daughter.”
Kyari and his men launched investigation and started tracking the lovers. They were tracked to Asaba, in Delta State. It was through the lovers that IRT operatives arrested other alleged buyers, Onyinye Benjami, Ngozi Okoli, Nwokocha Okoli, Ndiya Kalu and Esther Ihiediwa.
Ebony, from Enugu State, blamed her involvement in child abduction and trafficking on illiteracy. She said that her father married two wives, had too many children and couldn’t cater for his children, let alone to educate them. She recalled: “I was then married off to an old man at a very young age.
The old man died two years into our marriage, after we’ve had two children. After his death, life became difficult for my children and I. I had to take my children to my mother in the village. I then left to Abuja to do prostitution. I spent seven years as a prostitute in Abuja.
I later moved to Oba Town in Anambra State, after someone told me that I would make more money there as a prostitute. I relocated, but after a year in Anambra State, a girl, Ogula, from Benue State, told me that a nurse asked her to look for a man, that would impregnate her.
She said that after her delivery, the baby would be taken and she would be paid.” Ebony kicked against the idea of getting pregnant to later sell the baby after delivery. She said: “I told her that I couldn’t do such because I have two children.
I was not ready to get pregnant again. She then asked me to follow her to her village. When we got there, Ogula stole a girl child, which she gave to me. While I was leaving with the child, I was arrested by some security men. I was taken to prison where I spent six months.
This was in 2017.” In prison, Ebony met Ada, who had just finished serving her term and was about to leave. They exchanged phone numbers. After Ebony was released, she called Ada and they agreed to meet at the latter’s shop in Umuahia, Abia State, where she sells drinks.
Ada would later give Ebony a job as a waitress. One day when she was on duty, a man, Onwa, approached and asked her if she had contacts of people who would like to buy children, between ages one and three. Ebony noted: “I then informed Chibuzor, a brother to Ada. He stole a child and gave it to Onwa, who disappeared with the child and didn’t pay. By that time, I was already dating Onyewkere. Onwa then contacted me three months later, asking for forgiveness. He promised to pay N500, 000 for any child between ages one and two.
My boyfriend, Onyewkere, then went to his village and stole his sister’s two-year-old son. 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 car. She paid us N250,000.” Onwa, an expert on stealing and selling children, explained to the lovers that they shouldn’t make it a habit to be stealing children from a particular state or community. Ebony stated: “Onwa advised us not to steal children along roads.
He said that if we are caught, we’re likely going to be burnt alive. He said that we should rent apartment in a community and when we see a child, we should steal him or her, and then abandon the apartment and community.” Ebony said that it was based on Onwa’s advice that she and Onyekwere went to Akuke area of Enugu State to rent an apartment. She said: “We succeeded in stealing two children, between ages two and four. We stole them from a guy called Onyeka. He maltreated me when I worked as a prostitute in Abuja. Onyeka was a very rough guy when I knew him in Abuja.
It was the police that chased him out of Abuja. I ran into him in Enugu State and he seemed very happy to see me.
He introduced me to his wife and we became friends. I visited them regularly in their house until I became familiar with their children; Ada and Chinonso. I studied their terrain for three months until the coast was clear.
I stole and sold the children to Onwa for N450, 000 each. Emmanuel and I relocated to Abuja, where we rented an apartment at Tungamaji area of Abuja. We stole a woman’s child who is our neighbour. The woman left her child in my care while she went to the market.
Emmanuel and I quickly parked our things and fled with the child. We sold the child to Chioma for N300,000. We met Chioma through Onwa. We then rented another apartment at Gwagwa area of Abuja. We stayed there for two weeks and then I stole a baby and sold her to Chioma for N300, 000. We then left Abuja and ran to Ipoba Hill area of Edo State, where we rented an apartment. There we stole a child belonging to a woman, who was sick. She couldn’t pay proper attention to the child.
The child used to come to our own compound to play. I stole the child, took her to Chioma who paid us N300,000. We spent most of these monies on food, clothes and other frivolities.” The suspect said that she and Onyekwere had already decided to quit the children trafficking business be-fore police arrested them.
She narrated that while they were ruminating over quitting the business, Nwankwo contacted them, requesting for five children, who should be between ages one and two. The lovers bargained with her and arrived at N2million. Nwankwo quickly transferred the money to the couple’s account.
She recollected: “Since we had decided to quit, Emmanuel and I used the money to rent a two-bedroom flat. We furnished it and then removed our SIM cards, making it impossible for Blessing to reach us.” Onyekwere, who is from Abia State, said that he is a professional tailor, unmarried and uneducated. He said that after stealing and selling his sister’s son, he recruited a friend, Alboy, to join them.
When they got to Enugu State, Alboy stole three children and sold them for N900, 000. Onyekwere said: “I have stolen a total number of eight children and I’m crying because I can’t go to my village. I couldn’t do anything tangible with all the money I made. If not for this Ifeoma that got me into this business, I wouldn’t be in this mess.” Nick, 46, a divorcee, also has something to say.
She said that her 22-year-old marriage crashed because she couldn’t bear her husband a child. She had even tried to save the marriage by getting involved with a Ghanaian, who impregnated her. Unfortunately, her husband rejected the pregnancy. She had a baby boy.
At a point in her life, the boy told Nick that he would love to have a baby sister. Nick said that she went to the Child Welfare Office in Umuhaia, Abia State, in an attempt to adopt a baby girl, but the woman she met there, identified as Mummy Ohabiam, told her that she would rather link her to a syndicate. Ohabiam told her that the syndicate could get children and that all Chioma needed to do was to perfect the adoption papers from the welfare office.
Nick narrated: “Ohabiam told me the cost, but I couldn’t afford it. I contacted Mummy Idian Kalu, who had earlier approached me for two children. After I got the link, I got two children from Ebony and sold them to mummy Idian for N800, 000. I got N200, 000 as my share.
Ebony also sold four other children to me, which I sold to other people. I sold two of the four children to Mummy Onyiyechi, one to Mummy Blessing and the fourth to Monica.” Nwankwo, a nurse from Abia State, said that she graduated from the School of Heath Technology in Aba. Nwankwo had worked in many hospitals before setting up a maternity home. She, however, added that the maternity home had not been registered. She said: “I went into buying and selling of babies because of the wife of our catechist, who didn’t have a child and had been saving for ages to buy one.
I contacted Chioma, who brought a baby girl. The girl was just a year old and we paid N550,000 for her, but collected N800,000 from the catechist’s wife. Later, Chioma brought Ebony to me, explaining that she had an orphanage in Enugu State, that in case I knew anyone that needed a baby for adoption, I should contact Ebony. I got in touch with some of my relations and friends who couldn’t have children and wanted to adopt.
They paid me N2million for five children, which I forwarded to Ebony. She promised to perfect the adoption documents, but disappeared after collecting the money. She switched off her phone. I didn’t even know that the first child she gave me was stolen. It was after my arrest that I heard that the children were stolen.” Idian Kalu, 52, from Abriba Abia State, also a buyer, said that she has four children and that she resides in Aba Town, in Abia State. She recounted: “I have a friend who is barren. I promised to help her to adopt a child from welfare.
I linked her to Chioma. Chioma told us that there was an old woman who has a home where we can adopt. I indicated interest and she brought a child for me. I gave it to my friend who needed it. We paid N550,000 for the child, but I collected N650,000 from my friend. That was in 2016. In 2017, Chioma called again to say she had two girls available for adoption. I contacted people who had earlier told me that they needed children for adoption. I took the girls and paid Chioma N550, 000 for each of the girl.”