By Andrew Utulu
LAGOS – Operatives of the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) Led by DCP Abba Kyari have smashed a notorious human trafficking syndicate in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
According to the police, the syndicate operated from a church in Rumuolumili area of the state.
The IRT rescued three newborn babies, their mothers and three pregnant teenagers during the operation.
It was gathered that the church, Grate Mercy Deliverance Ministry, located at 3, Giwa Street in Rumuolumili area of Port Harcourt is owned by a couple, identified as Chidi Martins and Maureen Martins.
The couple was alleged to have been in the business of scouting across Rivers, Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Imo States for pregnant teenagers who couldn’t care for their pregnancies.
They allegedly deceive their victims with promises that they would provide accommodation, feeding and maternity care for them, in addition to sending them back to reunite with their families after their delivery.
However, after they have been delivered of their babies, the couple would sell the babies to waiting buyers.
Thereafter, they would tell the mother that their babies died at childbirth.
Investigations revealed that at least 20 babies had been sold by the couple to different families across the country.
Nemesis, however, caught up with them recently when operatives of the IRT headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, received information about their nefarious activities from one of their victims in Akwa Ibom State.
It was revealed that relatives of one of the victims, Patience Edet Okon, who was lured by the syndicate from Uruan area of Akwa Ibom State, reported the matter in a petition to IGP Adamu, Mohd who directed DCP Kyari to go after the suspects.
Kyari thus mandated the IRT operatives based in Akwa Ibom State to fish out the syndicate.
Subsequently, the team was briefed about the disappearance of the girl and she was trailed to the couple’s church where the police also found three pregnant teenagers, including Patience Okon. Also discovered at the church were three newly born babies and their teenage mothers.
The team also found a couple from Efuru area of Delta State, who had paid the sum of N3.5million to buy a set of twins at the scene.
A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, detailed how the operatives got wind of the syndicate. He said: “There is a child trafficking case we were working on from our base in Akwa Ibom State. We discovered that the five-month-old pregnant teenager had been moved to a home in Port Harcourt. We trailed her to a church owned by one Maureen Martins and her husband Chidi Martins.
We also found three pregnant teenagers, Lovett Emmanuel, who is five months pregnant. She is from Ngor-Okpala area of Imo State. We also found one Chisom Emmanuel, from Ohaji Egbema, Imo State. The 18-year-old was seven months pregnant. We saw as well, one Chioma Ifeanyi, who is from Ukwa-East area of Abia State.
Patience Edet Okon, who we traced from Akwa Ibom was found with a day-old baby boy and there were two other teenagers Favour Friday (18), with a two-day-old baby girl and one Chizaram Chukwudi, from Ibekwu area of Abia State, with a two-day-old baby boy. In the course of our investigations, we discovered that pregnant teenagers were usually induced into delivery during their eight months due to demand from people who want to buy the babies. They also have a woman known as IB who is on the run now; she is the person who goes out to scout for these girls and gets them pregnant by drug addicts.
Maureen told us that she met IB in 2019 and that she had lost count of the number of babies she had delivered and sold for IB. We also arrested a couple who came to buy a baby boy and girl from Maureen. They paid the sum of N3.5million for the two children and these babies were delivered to by two different women. Patience Okon gave birth to the baby boy while Patience Friday gave birth to the baby girl. However, they were set to be sold as a set of twins. They were arrested on the day they came to carry the babies. In the church where the woman operates her business, they have over seven rooms where they keep the girls and, Maureen will get them drugged after their delivery and when they wake, she will tell them that their babies died. Since they would be asleep, they would not know when the buyers would come and pick up the children. They usually sell the babies with their placentas 24 hours after their deliveries. Maureen and her husband would then give the girls a paltry sum of N30, 000 to go back to wherever they came from. The girls will leave the church, believing that their babies were dead.
We discovered that Maureen had been operating this baby factory for over six years and people come from all over the country to buy babies from her. She usually sells baby boys for N1.5million, while baby girls are sold for N1.1million.
“Maureen is the General Overseer of the church, while her husband is an associate pastor. We are currently working on tracing over 20 children that they sold. We learned that when a child is born, Maureen will ask the mother not to breastfeed the child so that they don’t get used to breast milk. That will enable their new mothers to feed them with baby milk.”
During interrogation by the Police, Maureen who is a nurse denied being the owner of the business. She was quoted as saying: “It was a woman known as IB that introduced the business to me. She is also the one that brings the girls and sells the babies. I don’t know where she gets them from, but mine is to look after them and when they are due for delivery, I will deliver them and IB will come and take the babies to whoever that has paid. I will tell the girls that their babies are dead and give them money to return back home. It is IB that knows more about this.”
On his part, Henry said he and his wife were deceived by Maureen and her colleague known as IB. He said his wife had been barren for six years after their marriage and that a woman his wife met in a bus linked her to IB and they ended up with Maureen before they were arrested. He added that he had no plan of buying a child but that he was made to believe that she was pregnant for nine months.
His words: “I have been married since 2014 and I have no child and my wife met one IB through one woman that was treating her medically. They started giving her drugs that made her look like she was pregnant and her stomach became big and her legs were swollen. We went for antenatal at the General Hospital and they told my wife that her babies were doing fine. IB told my wife to call her when she thinks she is due for delivery. We called IB and told her that my wife’s stomach was very big and strong and she told us to come to Port Harcourt and she took us to Maureen who identified herself as a midwife. She gave my wife a concoction and then she started feeling dizzy, then they took my wife into a room and they asked me to start praying for my wife that she should deliver safely. I was also asked to go out and then I started hearing my wife shouting, then they called me and told me that my wife had delivered a set of twins. I saw the children with the placentas intact. But my wife told me that these are not her children and that we have to do DNA on the children. Since we saw the children with placentas, we decided to take them home and they also cut off my wife’s private part and insert their hands into it and when I came in, I saw blood everywhere. So, people around told us to rejoice that my wife was delivered of a set of twins. But, I have this strong feeling that the children were not mine. The children were always crying. A few days later, the police came and arrested us. They told us that the children didn’t belong to us. They showed us the real owners of the children which I paid N3.5milllion to get,” he lamented.
Friday Favour, one of the victims of the syndicate narrated how she found herself in the baby factory. According to her: “I am 18-year-old. I left secondary school in 2019. My boyfriend got me pregnant in Abia State and he wasn’t taking care of me. There was this woman known as Precious who approached me and said she wanted to help me. She brought me to Port Hacourt, where I stayed for one month. I was delivered of my child on Sunday and the pregnancy was not due for delivery but I was given an injection then I delivered the baby. They took us away to the house of Maureen, where I was locked up in a room with some other girls for hours. I slept off when I woke up; they told me that my baby was dead. They don’t feed us. I heard that they sold my baby and one other child for N2.5million.”
Another victim, Emmanuel Lovett said she was rejected by her parent and her boyfriend’s relatives after she got pregnant, hence she fell victim of the syndicate after being assured they would care for her.