Daily Trust (Abuja)

24 April 2014

Nigeria: How We Use Sick Children to Make Money - Suspect

Lagos — Police detectives attached to the Area E Command, Lagos, have arrested six members of a gang that specializes in using children suffering from various ailments to solicit funds from members of the public.

Though, leaders of the gang are presently on the run, the operatives rescued a two-year-old girl suffering from cancer of the eyes from the gang. The kingpin of the gang identified as Samuel Ependun has been declared wanted by the police in Lagos. In his confessional statement, one of the suspects, Chukwuka Eze, said he abandoned his cart pushing business for the 'lucrative alms begging business.'

"I was making small amount of money from cart pushing until I met my master, Samuel Ekpendu, who told me we could make a lot of money by using children suffering from ailments such as cancer, epilepsy etc to solicit for alms from members of the public. We don't use blind kids because people don't respond to blind persons. We go to remote villages in the East to search for children with serious diseases that can move people. We were lucky to get two-year-old Chinasa, who has cancer of the eyes and mouth. We found her at Okija in Anambra State and we convinced the parents that we were working for a Non-Governmental-Organisation which cares for the sick and the girl's father allowed the child and mother to go with us. We took them to Onitsha, where we lodged in hotels. We made so much money but before people could start suspecting us, we moved to Imo State and from there, we moved to other places such as Uyo, Calabar, Abakaliki down to Lagos," he said.

He added: "We were making an average of N30,000 everyday and we were paying the money into our director's account. There is a lot of money in the business because we were paying N6,000 daily as hotel accommodation and we were giving the child's mother N1,000 everyday for feeding. Our director also bought a motorcycle for our victim's father and sends him monthly stipend. I am very sorry for joining the gang; if I am set free, I will not go back to the business."

Lagos State police spokesperson, Ngozi Braide, who paraded the suspects said police arrested the suspects following a complaint from the national coordinator of a Non Governmental Organisation, The Hands that Care Foundation, Jacinta Okorie.

Braide said the gang specialised in going to remote villages ton search for children with serious ailments.

"What they do is that they convince the parents of these children, making fake promises and pledging to give them medical aid in the city. When they eventually bring the children to the cities, they use them to beg for money on the streets and enrich themselves. They do not render the medical aid as promised. The woman here and her child are victims. Her baby was diagnosed of cancer of the eye," she said.

She said the suspects would be charged for child trafficking, contemporary slavery among others.

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