… We suspect an agreement with a cartel
By Ike Uchechukwu Calabar
The Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, Marine Patrol team in Cross River has rescued a three-week-old baby suspected of being the victim of child trafficking on the high seas.
NIS Cross River Comptroller, Mr. Okay Ezugwu, who spoke about the incident in Calabar, said that the alleged child trafficker, Ms. Maureen Awokara, was arrested on December 19, 2020 on the high seas.
Ezugwu said the suspect was arrested by naval officers on patrol following her inability to provide a full explanation of the baby’s true property.
He said: “A few days ago, our marine patrol officers on the international waterways intercepted a Maureen Awokara, who claimed to be a native of Imo State with a three-week-old child.
“During the arrest, he came up with all the stories that didn’t add up. Initially he said the boy belongs to his sister, however we have done some preliminary investigation and all the lines he gave us to get to the sister, one that Chioma Iweh is not connecting.
“At this point, we are going to turn it over to NAPTIP for further investigation. The preliminary investigation gives us every reason to believe that the child has been a victim of trafficking.
“The suspect claimed that he will go to Cameroon, Gabon and wherever. We suspect a cartel agreement because over time, we have had a lot of surveillance and serious controls at our border base and at the airport, making it impossible for any of them to use these routes.
“We are facing a situation where they have now devised a means to use the waterways, using small boats to carry these young children,” he said.
She further explained that the command’s effort to contact other family members to determine if family members agreed that she should take the baby was aborted because the suspect was unwilling to give them useful information on the matter. .
Ezugwu revealed that the NIS marine patrol team will continue to monitor the waterways with a view to ensuring that all forms of child trafficking and other criminal acts are suppressed.
He urged parents to always watch over their children with love and care and avoid any way of allowing their children to be trafficked for monetary purposes.
For her part, Maureen Awokara, 40, said the baby belongs to her younger sister, who could not afford to care for her after the delivery on December 2, 2020.
He said the younger sister decided to give him the child because she has been married for 18 years without a child.
“She gave me the baby in the state of Imo; Since I was brought here, I have tried to contact her, but her number does not connect.
“The only time his number passed, I only heard a man’s voice, which was not his,” he revealed.
Sho further said that the boy’s father also agreed with her (Maureen) taking the baby, Awokara said that the boy’s father denied the pregnancy even before the delivery.
“My younger sister is in her 20s. This is not the first time she has given birth; But we don’t know where the first child is as we speak, ”he said.