By Esther Eugene, Warri
The Magistrate Court II sitting in Warri, Delta State has convicted as well as sent two female officials working with the Ministry of Women Affairs,Community and Social Development to one year six months each for child trafficking.
One of the suspect, Mrs. Ubido Blessing,50 years is a grade level 14 Social Welfare Officer and was in charge of Warri South Local Government Office.
The other,Christy Urhuemu age 46 is a grade level 12 Social Worker.
The duo were caught and dragged before the Court by Delta State Task Force on Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration led by the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr. Peter Mrakpor.
They were specifically dragged before the Court on two count charges bordering on attempted child trafficking and attempt to sell a six months old baby “f” , Lucky Tony at the sum of N200,000.
The prosecution counsel who doubles as the Director, Child’s Right/Sexual Offences, Mrs. Uche Akamagwuna had said the offence is punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code, Cap C21, Volume 1 Laws of Delta State of Nigeria, 2006 and Section 509 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap C21, Volume 1, Laws of delta State, 2006.
The two officials in their statements however denied any wrongdoing and the two count charges alleging that they were trump up charges to frame them up.
They also told the Court that they were innocent of the two count charges just as they prayed the court to quash the charges proffered against them for lack of sufficient evidence linking them to the offence.
The Court presided over by a Chief Magistrate, Geraldine Uche Ofulue (Mrs) found them guilty on the two count charges.
Mrakpor had earlier taken over the prosecution of the case and deployed the Director, Child’s Right/Sexual Offence, Mrs. Uche Akamagwuna to oversee the prosecution.
Prosecution led by Uche Akamagwuna had told the court that on the 23rd day of November, 2016 information was received that some group of persons working under the Warri Area Social Welfare Office, Ministry of Women Affairs were conniving with unknown persons to sell a six month old child with the consent of the biological parents of the said child.
Based on the information, Police immediately swung into action that led to the arrest of the two defendants and the said baby was recovered from them and was subsequently handed over to the Matron of Little Saint Orphanage home, Ekpan by Police detectives.
The court was further informed that during investigation, it was revealed that the defendants made contact with the parents of the child and convinced them to sell the baby in question to a willing buyer in Lagos whom the defendants had made arrangements with to buy the six months old child in the sum of five hundred thousand naira.
However, the Social Welfare Officers only offered the parents of the child the sum of two hundred thousand before the Police burst the bubble and were arrested.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the State Task Force on Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration, Mr. Peter Mrakpor has hailed the Court judgement pointing out that the Delta State Government’s zero tolerance for crime and criminality including human trafficking was non-negotiable.
Mr.Mrakpor warned human traffickers and their agents to stay off the State just as he reiterated the Delta State Government’s avowed commitment to continue to promote and respect the rights of her citizenry which he said, the Governor has sworn to protect and preserve.
While saying that there was no going back in the enforcement of the child right laws that protects the child against abuse, exploit, sales and all forms of inhuman treatment,Mr. Mrakpor said,”anyone caught that is directly or indirectly connected to the crime of human trafficking in the State must face the full wrath of the law irrespective of who was involved.”