The State Security Service, Akwa Ibom State Command, on Tuesday paraded a Catholic priest with St. Peters Parish, Anambra State, Rev Fr. Joseph Okono; a traditional ruler, Chief Uchenna Onyekaozuru; and 18 others over child theft.
Deputy Director, Operations, Mr. Fubara Duke, told newsmen during a press conference in Uyo that eight children had been rescued from the suspects.
He stated that the state security service was working on the process of reuniting the children with their families.
He explained that it was regrettable that criminals have resorted to child trafficking after security agencies had successfully kept kidnapping and other violence crimes at bay.
He said an average of 50 innocent children have been stolen and sold in the last eight months in Akwa Ibom State. He added that the development had necessitated the command to direct its security operations to the illicit trade in the last few months.
He stated that recent Investigation by the command, had led to the arrest and the unmasking of a major syndicate involving suspects who are actually involved in buying and selling of children.
He said, “Our Investigation into this trade has led to the unmasking of a major syndicate, suspects who are actually involved in the buying and selling of these children.”
According to him, the syndicate operates under a cartel with their kingpin, abductors and facilitators who are mostly operators of motherless babies homes, social and women affairs officers and agents.
It is learnt that a child sells for N450,000 to N700,000 in the trade.
Okon in an interview with our correspondent, stated that most of those who come to him for prayers for babies, are childless mothers.
“When they come to me, I direct them to motherless babies homes and they will come back and give me a gift ranging from N20,000 to N25,000. That was how I was arrested,” he said.
Speaking with Onyekaozuru in an interview, he told our correspondent that he has been in the trade since 2012 and that he has benefited nothing from it. He admitted that he had bought and sold over 12 children since he joined the trade
He said, “I have benefited nothing from this thing apart from disgrace and shamefulness, I regret it.
“I started this business in 2012 and I have been involved in the selling and buying of 12 children. I was enticed to this business by women who had no children, my benevolence led me into this shameful act.”