Asaba — Luck ran out for a child trafficking syndicate under the watch of a retired Director of Child Services in Delta State Ministry of Women Affairs, Asaba, Delta State, Mr. Collins Ogbor, on Wednesday, as the state police command apprehended the gang for stealing and selling a boy, one of twins, for N850,000 to a couple in Benin City, Edo State.
Ironically, Mr. Ogbor's duty before retirement, among others, was to enforce and protect the rights of children.
The four-man gang includes the Matron of Deliverance Orphanage, Ozoro, Madam Christiana and her two daughters, one of who was running an illegal home, God's Will Orphanage, Ekpan, Warri. Five children found at the orphanage have been moved to Word of Life Orphanage, also in Warri.
Their nemesis, an anti-child trafficking crusader, Mr. Joshua Omorere of Nigerian Child Welfare, Warri, who spoke exclusively to The Guardian on Friday, gave nerve-wracking details of the gang's method, and how they fell for the trap he laid for the deadly foursome, vowing that, "The baby thief, Juliet Phillip, Mr. Ogba, her mother, Christiana and her elder sister whose account the money was paid into, will have Inspector Benjamin Akhagbemeh, the IPO from Area Command office, Warri, to contend with as he has been saddled with the responsibility of sorting the puzzle."
According to Mr. Omorere, "The story is about a lady who runs an illegal orphanage called God's Will Orphanage at Ekpan that I arrested with her husband for stealing three children from a vulnerable woman about two years ago. It was also the quick intervention of the police then that led to the recovery of the children. I then asked the police to charge the case to court, but they granted her bail and she disappeared into thin air. I have been on her trail for two years before nemesis caught up with her, as she stole another child."
Omorere said Mrs. Philips' targets are vulnerable and helpless women with children. He said her modus operandi involves making her way into the hearts of the downtrodden mothers by passing through where her targets reside or where they regularly ask for alms and making sure she gets herself familiar with such mothers. She does this thrice daily, offering money to the unsuspecting mothers to take care of their children and then finally striking.
Omorere said she does the visitations with a young girl of about 11 years old she had recruited for the crime. When she gets well acquainted with her unsuspecting victims, she will then take the young girl to the spot to become more familiar with her victims' children. That endears the unsuspecting children to the girl as they innocently get used to her.
This continues until she strikes and steals the children, through the young girl, who will put on the same school uniform as the victim's school uniform. And because the children are already familiar with her, she boldly takes them into a waiting vehicle which drives off to where the children are sold out.
"I have been trailing Juliet to enable the police complete their investigation and charge her to court, before she stole another child on November 28, 2018 from another vulnerable woman," Omorere said. "The woman is a beggar that comes from Eruemukokwarie village to Effurun market everyday, to beg to feed her children. When she was waiting for a commercial vehicle to take her to Effurun market for alms, Mrs. Philips accosted her with another woman, now at large, and interrogated her.
"Thereafter, they cunningly offered her a job at Igbudu market to enable her take good care of the twin children. Then they took her to Usiefrun town in Ughelli South LGA and from there to Igbudu market where the three years old male twin was forcefully taken away from her, leaving the twin girl for the lady, who started crying. She then went back to Usiefrun town, where they earlier took her and her children. A lady she narrated her ordeal to took pity on her and directed her to the woman's shop.
"When she got there and met her husband and narrated her ordeal in the hands of his wife, the man chased her away, calling her a mad woman and got some Mobile Policemen to flog her and further drove her away. Not deterred, she went back to Effurun market and complained to some people who had always assisted her, and someone among them called me into the case. I reported to the police at Area Command, Warri, through a petition. I went to her shop and someone took me to her house. It was during the arrest I got to know that she is the same woman I have been looking for.
"From our way investigation, we discovered that she took the child to her mother's Deliverance Orphanage, Ozoro, who link her up with a retired director from Ministry of Women Affairs at Asaba, Mr. Ogbor. The retired director then got a buyer for the child in Benin City who paid N850,000 for the child. The money was paid into the account of the elder sister of Juliet, who stole the baby."
As at Friday the baby thief, her mother, her elder sister and Mr. Ogbor were in police net, helping the police with useful information to track the buyer.
The whole issue has thrown the family into severe pain and agony, as the couples, who are respected members of Redeemed Christian Church of God in Benin City, Edo State, where the child was taken, said they went through adoption process but was given a stolen child.
They claimed to have insisted on following due process and requested for a document to sign, but Ogbor assured them there was no problem and that they should go with the child while he processed the documents.
For Omorere, "It is a very sad scenario, as the other children in the home were crying when we were taking the child away. Every mood changed, but the child needs to go to his poor parents."