What started as a beautiful love story for 20-year-old Ifeanyichukwu Elem of Amangballa village, Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State and 15year-old Peace, has ended in anguish. Ifeanyi and Peace were dating and both their parents appeared to smile on the relationship.
Their love story, however, turned sour after Peace got pregnant and later sold the baby for N5,000. Peace was alleged to have been tricked by her uncle’s wife, Mrs. Perpetua Eze, into selling the baby.
Although she was promised N100, 000 by the woman, till date, Peace is yet to receive it. Ifeanyi, the father of the baby never had an opportunity to behold his baby before it was sold. Determined to get justice, Ifeanyi petitioned the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police.
He was, however, shocked to his bone marrows when he suddenly became the suspect and was locked up. He was alleged to have been detained for 20 days and tortured by the police. By the time he was released, he could no longer walk and speak.
His elder sister, Endurance Elem, said: “He was never the same after he was released from police detention. He couldn’t stand, walk and talk because of what he passed through while in the detention.”
Attempts made by New Telegraph to speak with Ifeanyi proved abortive. Family members said that Ifeanyi’s health started deteriorating while he was in police detention. Scared that he might die in their custody, the police, on November 10, rushed him to the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.
He was later granted bail on November 12. Ifeanyi was arrested by the police on allegation that he impregnated an underage girl. Before Ifeanyi was arrested, he and Peace had already agreed to marry. When it was discovered that Peace was pregnant, both parents allowed it to be.
Everyone was already looking forward to the birth of the baby, when her uncle’s wife, Perpetua, like the biblical serpent in the Garden of Eden, came calling. Perpetua was alleged to have sweet-talked and brainwashed the young lady into agreeing to sell her unborn baby.
She was further alleged to have told Peace that she was too young to become a mother. She urged Peace to follow her to where the baby would be sold, promising further that Peace would be given N100, 000. How she convinced Peace to keep sealed lips on the matter is yet unknown; but Perpetua brought a woman, Blessing Prince, aka Mummy B, to meet Peace.
Blessing resides in Port- Harcourt, Rivers State. Blessing later left with Peace. Peace was later delivered of a baby in Port Harcourt, but she wasn’t even allowed to touch her baby after it was born. According to her, the baby was immediately taken away. She waited, thinking Perpetua and Blessing would bring the baby to her, but they didn’t. She cried that she never had opportunity to breastfeed the baby for once and didn’t even know its sex.
After the birth of the baby, Peace was given N5, 000. She was told that the promised N100, 000 would be sent to her. There were gasps of shock when Peace returned to the village. The pregnancy had disappeared, but there was no baby to show for it. Villagers whispered and gossiped. Ifeanyi and his family members got angry.
Peace’s father, Mr. Francis Oko, recounting the incident, said: “On October 24, in the night, my phone rang. The caller asked if I had heard what happened. I didn’t understand what he was saying.
The caller said Ogbonnia Eze Ogudu’s wife, Perpetua, arranged and took my daughter to Port Harcourt. The caller told me that Perpetua, during her discussion with Peace, told her that she was too young to be a mother. The caller told me that Perpetua told my daughter that she has a place in Port Harcourt, where they would go. She told Peace that once she delivers, she would be paid N100, 000. Peace should use the money to take care of herself.
The baby was given to another woman. Perpetua and her husband don’t have any means of livelihood, but both drive different types of cars.” Oko noted that without his knowledge, Perpetua took Peace to Port-Harcourt.
Oko said: “Peace delivered the baby in Port Harcourt and the baby was sold. Till date, the baby had not been seen. The baby was born on Wednesday and my daughter returned to the village on Saturday. When Peace returned, people started asking questions. She told the crowd that her uncle’s wife, Perpetua, contacted a woman in Port Harcourt, who came with a jeep and took her to Port Harcourt. She only saw her new born baby when it was born. The baby was immediately taken away from her. Peace was, thereafter, given N5000 by the woman and told to go back to Afikpo.
The woman promised to send N100, 000 to Peace. My daughter went to Perpetua and demanded the N100, 000, but the woman threatened to deal with her. People in the village raised the alarm against Perpetua, but her husband, armed with stick, attempted to attack the villagers. “He grabbed my daughter, put her inside his car and drove to Afikpo Police Station, to dump her there. He handed Peace to the police without making any statement and then left.”
Oko said that when one of the policemen quizzed Peace on why she was brought to the station, she spilled out the story. The policeman went that same night to arrest Perpetua. She was arrested on October 24. Oko said that he told the police to transfer the case to Ebonyi State Police Headquarters, Abakaliki. Ifeanyi, who impregnated Peace, came to the police command to write a statement on the matter.
Oko recollected: “On Tuesday, when I was in Abakaliki, I was told by the police that Peace was sick. The police asked me to go and buy drugs for her, which I did. To my greatest shock, the police said I should bring N10, 000 for case file. I told them I won’t. I told them that those who committed the crime were in detention and should be made to pay such money.”
Angry at the monetary demand, Oko petitioned Ebonyi State Governor and Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. Oko said: “At a stage, the ministry started demanding that Peace be handed over to them, to enable them to give her adequate medical treatment. The Police refused to release Peace to them.
On October 24, the ministry invited me, Ifeanyi, who impregnated my daughter and his elder sister, to the ministry to see the officials. On our way home, we decided to visit Peace at the police station, where she was still being detained. Meanwhile, Ifeanyi had petitioned the Commissioner of Police. Police asked him to state how much he would collect to bury the case.
The police told Ifeanyi that they had gone to Port Harcourt for investigations and that the woman who sold the baby had been arrested. The woman claimed that the baby died after delivery and had since been buried. Ifeanyi told the police that he wanted his baby, dead or alive, not money.”
Oko said he was shocked when those that conspired to sell his grandchild were released, while Ifeanyi was detained. Oko queried: “How can a boy, who is demanding the return of his baby that was sold, be detained while the suspects are released? Does it mean that in this country the poor has no right?” Ifeanyi’s elder sister, Endurance, said all the family wanted was the newborn baby. She also said Blessing and other suspects who were arrested and released should be re-arrested and charged to court. Endurance said: “I’m not happy the way my brother was detained and treated.
Look at how he is now; he used to be so full of life. My brother is almost paralysed. He was not like this before this case. Now, he can’t speak, he can’t stand and walk.” The Ebonyi State Police Public Relations Officer, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), George Okafor, had earlier confirmed the matter.
Okafor said: “Ifeanyi reported that he impregnated Peace and that on September 19, Peace told him that she wanted to see her grandmother at Amaokwe- Amangballa village. Ifeanyi didn’t know that there had been a concluded plan between Peace and one Perpetua to meet one woman called Blessing. The two of them left for Port Harcourt. It was at Blessing’s place that Peace delivered a baby. Information reached Ifeanyi that the baby was delivered and sold.”
“On the receipt of the report, the police swung into action and arrested Peace and Perpetua. Blessing’s address is not known for now, but we will get to the nittygritty of it. At least, if they don’t know the address, they’ll be able to take police to the place in Port Harcourt.
We will be able to see how the woman can be arrested and possibly the person the baby was sold to. For now, we are still investigating the matter and we will come up with a position soonest.” Okafor warned members of the public to be aware that the act of child trafficking is a new trend in crime.
“So, people must be careful that their children are left in the care of adults before you go for your business or whatever you do for a living. For young girls that are not well-trained and well-behaved who go about conceiving for their boyfriends and selling, once you discover that your female child is pregnant, watch-out and be careful about her movements because some of them would connive with their friends who can lure them to somewhere else where they may sell the child,” he added. Meanwhile, it was learnt that Blessing has been re-arrested by the police.
On Wednesday, Blessing was arraigned before a Federal High Court 2, Abakaliki, for selling Ifeanyi and Peace’s baby for N5,000. She was arraigned on a two-count charge of dealing in child trafficking and selling a four-day-old baby. The suit number is FHC/AI/H/2016. After the charges were read to her, Blessing pleaded not guilty.
The trial judge, Justice Akintayo Aluko, granted her bail in the sum of N2 million, with a surety who must be a civil servant of not less than level 10. He said the surety must have a landed property in Abakaliki. Justice Aluko ordered that the accused be remanded in prison custody if she did not fulfill the bail conditions. The case was adjourned till December 5, for trial.