In a bid to check rampant cases of human trafficking in Nigeria, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), has rescued 71 victims and apprehended three suspected human traffickers in Kano State as well as a lady suspected to be running a fake orphanage in Abuja for profit through the sale of children.
Officials of the agency made the information known in Kano and Abuja on Friday.
The Zonal Commander in-charge of Kano zone, Shehu Umar told newsmen in Kano that the NAPTIP Joint Board Task Force received intelligence on the movement of the victims and suspects.
“On receiving information, the agency conducted three operations between July 15 and July 19, which led to the arrest of the suspects and rescue of the victims.
“We apprehended three suspects comprising one Nigerian and two Cameroonians who are between the age bracket of 21 and 36,” travelling with their victims to Algeria, Morocco and Libya, Umar said.
He said the victims included 18 Cameroonians, 14 males and four females, and 19 Nigerians from Kano State, made up of 11 males and eight females and aged between 15 and 28 years.
Umar said NAPTIP on July 19 received on transfer from Katsina State Command of Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), 34 victims of human trafficking.
He said the Cameroonians would be handed over to NIS for further investigations and repatriation.
“The victims think they can move out of the country freely without documents, without clear understanding of what they are going to do outside the country.
“The traffickers promised greener pasture to deceive the victims,” he said, and cautioned Nigerians against embarking on journeys abroad without specific reasons.
Meanwhile in Abuja, the agency arrested a 45-year-old woman for allegedly operating a fake orphanage which she used in human trafficking.
The Director-General of NAPTIP, Mrs Julie Okah-Donli, said the suspect, Paulina Okere, from Nagazi village in Adavi Local Government Area of Kogi State, was using her facility, “Divine Hands of Hope’’ at Chukuku, Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to engage in human trafficking.
The director-general, represented by the Director of Research and Programme Development, Mr Godwin Morka, said the suspect was arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) on July 6, following a petition from members of Kuje communities and handed over to NAPTIP on July 10.
She said the “ suspect is alleged to have collected 74 children while claiming to foster the concerned children at her orphanage known as “Divine Hands of Hope’’ located at Chukuku, Kuje Area Council of the FCT.
“Further investigation has shown that 25 of the children are in Suleja, Niger State, 24 in FCT, five in Enugu, 10 in Owerri, six in Lagos, two in Kaduna and two in Anambra State.
“She claimed that the children were orphans but some of the parents have debunked this claim; the suspect carries out these activities with the collaboration of some of her workers who are now on the run.’’
The director-General said 11 of the children had been recovered during preliminary investigations but that the agency was worried about the safety of the remaining whose whereabouts were yet unknown.
She said that members of the Kuje communities were still coming forward with names of children said to have gone missing within the neighbourhood.
The director-general said that the agency had commenced serious manhunt for the fleeing persons while efforts were being made to locate the remaining children and rescue them.
She said the agency had opened discussion with sister law enforcement agencies’ in the location with the view of providing the necessary operational assistance that would lead to the rescue of the remaining children.
She warned parents to desist from giving out their children under any guise in order to ensure their safety and thanked all stakeholders who assisted in the arrest of the suspect.
However, the suspect said a social welfare officer in Kuje approached her and brought some children to her under the guise that “their parents were attacked by Fulani herdsmen in their various villages.’’
Okere also claimed that she signed an agreement with the social welfare officer who handed over the children to her.
When asked if she registered her orphanage with the FCT Social Welfare Department, she answered in the affirmative, adding that she had even collected some of the documents from the department to that effect.
“I also registered with my area council before the lockdown, I have over 80 children in my custody, my intention is for them to receive good education, I can give account of all of them,’’ she said.
Some of the parents and guardians who came to NAPTIP to protest over their missing children, including Mrs Laraba Haske, Mr Haruna Akawu, Mr Yakubu Luka and , Mr Irimiya Tnada from Kuje and Yebu in Kwali Area Council of FCT, told newsmen that they handed over their children to the accused under the guise for her to help educate them.
Additional Report By Chukwudi Ekezie