What would make a mother sell her children? Hunger, greed or frustration? This is the question agitating the minds of parents who had gone through the pangs of chilbirth as the police paraded a 25-year-old woman, Blessing Stephen, who is being alleged to have sold her three children for N500,000.
Stephen was a member of a child trafficking syndicate recently smashed by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team.
Other arrested members of the syndicate are a self-acclaimed doctor, Una Godwin 58; Blessing John 27; Israel Ariyo 33; Itoro Anthony; 40 and Mforbong Ntoro, 48.
Stephen, a native of Nsitayi, Akwa Ibom State, said she had sold three children of hers to Ntoro, who in turn resold them.
She said: “I once lived in Ikota, Ajah. I dated one Julius Abang and he impregnated me. I had a boy named Emmanuel for him in 2010 and the following year, we broke up. My mother was taking care of me and the boy but when life became unbearable, I sought advice from Mrs Ntoro, who is from my village.
“She advised me to sell the child and tell his father that he is dead. I sold him for N150,000. In 2012, my mother died and I travelled to Akwa Ibom for her burial. I dated another man, a truck driver, and he impregnated me. After some time, he abandoned me and I sold the child I had for him for N100,000.
“In 2013, I met another lover who is a motorcycle rider. Within six months, he impregnated me but he was so poor that he could not even feed me or pay rent. The engine of the motorcycle packed up and he became jobless. We sold the baby for N250,000 and Mrs Ntoro collected N20,000. Later Mrs Ntoro called from the village that she needed another baby boy. I told Blessing (John) but unfortunately we ran into trouble.”
Trouble started for the sydincate when operatives launched a manhunt for one of the suspects, John, who abandoned a four-year-old boy in a church in the Ketu area of Lagos State.
John was said to have abducted the boy, Ojo, at Ikota Housing Estate in Ajah sometime July 2019 and sold him in Akwa Ibom State to Ntoro for N350,000.
It was gathered that Ntoro’s neighbours were alarmed by Ojo’s incessant cries and became suspicious, which forced the woman to return the child to John, asking her to get a baby as replacement.
John reportedly brought Ojo back to Lagos and abandoned him inside the church located along the road on the pretext that she wanted to pick some loads on the other side of the road.
It was learnt that the church reported the incident at the Ketu Police Station and the boy was later reunited with his parents.
Consequently, a petition was addressed to the IRT to fish out the suspect.
The team tracked down John a few weeks ago in Ibadan, Oyo State, and she led them to arrest her accomplices, Stephen and Ntoro.
She told the police that it was hardship that made her to engage in child trafficking, adding that she needed money to treat an ailment she was battling with.
John said: “I did an abortion which backfired. I had a surgery and needed money to continue treatment. I contacted my friend, Blessing Stephen, and she told me I could raise money by stealing a child. I abducted the boy and took him to Ibadan, Oyo State, where Blessing lived with her husband (Israel Ariyo).
“The boy spent three days with them before we took him to Akwa Ibom where we sold him to Mrs Ntoro for N350,000.”
It was gathered that Ntoro, while being interrogated by the police, disclosed that she worked with Anthony and Godwin.
Anthony said Godwin, who was the husband of her late friend, contracted her to look for buyers for children, adding that he received about N300,000 proceeds from two babies they sold.
Godwin said he helped women to sell their babies because they were desperately in need of money.
He said: “A woman told me that her husband was doing illegal oil bunkering and was killed in the process. She said life was tough for her and that she wanted to sell one of her five children to survive the hardship. I told Mrs Anthony to look for a buyer. She sold the baby N450,000 and I gave the mother N350,000 and I collected only N100,000.”
The police said Ntoro and Godwin were being investigated to track those they sold the children to.