The Nigerian Immigration Service, Oyo State Command, on Saturday paraded a pastor, Olufemi Timothy, and four others accused of child trafficking in Ibadan. The command also paraded 12 boys and four girls allegedly being used by the accused persons in a slavery ring.
The Controller of the command, Innocent Akatu, said the accused persons were apprehended in various locations in Ibadan, adding that they would be handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons for legal actions.
Our correspondent, who was at the command when the culprits and their victims were handed over to NAPTIP officials from Lagos, observed that the children were not well fed and clothed. One of the children, who identified herself as Glory, said that she had been in Nigeria for three years without being paid. She could not recognise places where she had worked or whom she had worked for. She also said her mother was told by someone that she was coming to Nigeria to work and earn good money.
Akatu said, “Human trafficking is a serious crime that we are trying to end. We have very young children being taken away from their parents under the pretext that the traffickers would get jobs for them or give them a better standard of living. Many of them are brought into Nigeria from Benin Republic, Togo and other neighbouring countries. They are sold into slavery by those who brought them into the country.”
He made reference to a boy of nine years old, who was brought to Ibadan from Benue by his brother and sold into slavery, saying, “He does not know where he is. These children do not receive the wages paid for them. The money goes to the people who brought them. So it’s pure slavery. In the past, when we arrested children like these, we reconciled them with their parents. Even the foreigners would be taken to their countries. But we now felt that the method did not help to check the problem. That is why we are handing them over to NAPTIP for appropriate legal action,” Akatu said.
While explaining how Timothy and 12 of the victims were arrested in Iwo Road area of Ibadan, the controller said the pastor was arrested with another man who brought the children from Benin Republic.
In an attempt to exonerate himself, Timothy said he had only come from his farm to help a labourer when he was apprehended.
He said, “I am a pastor and a farmer. There is a labourer in my farm who called me from Ibadan. He said he was stranded in the city. I ran down quickly to help him out at Iwo Road. He had 12 children with him from Benin Republic but I never knew he had such people in his company.
He was travelling to Ikire with them but my farm is in Ajoda Farm Settlement. I cannot deny knowing him but all I was trying to do was to help him, not knowing that he was trafficking children to Nigeria. I have foreigners in my farm but I don’t know how they entered into Nigeria. They were already here before I employed them.”