Policemen attached to the Ebonyi State Police Command, have been accused of collecting N2.5m bribe from a suspected child trafficker in order to set her free. This accusation was first leveled against the police by a Human Right Activist, Idam Emma and later supported by members of Amasiri Community, Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. It was gathered that the community had been repeatedly plagued by activities of child traffickers. Members of the community have been doing everything within the ambit of the law, to check the activities of these traffickers.
One of the recent moves a member of the community took was to go undergo cover and pose as a father, who wanted to sell his two kids. The idea was to uncover a suspected trafficker, who allegedly used to frequent Amasiri, to buy kids.
To uncover this trafficker, the community involved three policemen in the operation. The suspected trafficker fell for the ruse and was arrested. The community expressed shock to later discover that the trafficker was allowed to go, after the policemen allegedly collected a bribe of N2.5m from her.
The matter was reported at the police command and the policemen were detained. But after a while, the policemen were released. The outraged community members, including a traditional ruler, immediately petitioned the Governor of Ebonyi, Mr. Dave Umahi and the state’s commissioner of police. According to the petition, the action of the policemen would continue to make the community seem attractive to child traffickers.
One Onuabuchi Ikpor, a member of the community, who started the whole process of arresting the suspected trafficker, said he had watched and discovered ways most of the child traffickers operated. Thus, on June 8, 2016, Ikpor confided his observation to Idam Emma.
He told Emma how he witnessed sells of infants and pregnant teenagers within where his mother’s hotel was sited.
He told Emma that the prime trafficker appeared to be operating from Umuahia, Abia State. Ikpor had allegedly collected the phone number of the trafficker in Umuahia, from another suspected dealer, promising to find children to be sold When Ikpor tabled his findings and plan before Emma, the activist said he needed to be further convinced. Ikpor placed a call to the trafficker, put the call on speaker and Emma listened. Ikpor and the trafficker bargained and fixed a date.
It was agreed that Ikpor would supply 10 infants on an agreed date. Ikpor said: “Prior to the agreed date, Emma and I tipped off three policemen attached to Afikpo North Area office of the Federal Investigations Bureau (FIB). The policemen placed another phone call to the trafficker and it was agreed that the kids would be supplied and sold two by two.
“On the agreed date, the trafficker declined to come to Amasiri for the transaction. She said she had been making too many trips to Amasiri and needed a break. She told me to travel with the children to Okigwe, Imo State, where the deal would be sealed. We obliged. On June 10, 2016, I took my two kids; male and female and my sister-inlaw, to pose as my kids’ mother.
Emma, the activist and the policemen went with us. Following instructions, we alighted at Okigwe, before the motor park. Emma and the policemen kept surveillance from afar.” Ikpor said that after haggling over the price for the two kids, the trafficker told him to join her inside her car, so that they would head to Umuahia, where they would seal the deal.
They zoomed off, while the plain clothed detectives followed closely behind. The policemen intercepted the trafficker at Umuahia Tower Express Road. Ikpor said: “The policemen transferred my kids, myself and the trafficker into their own car and reversed, heading back to Afikpo.
The policemen stopped at Mile 2 Police Post, Ishiagu, where on interrogation, the woman confessed to have a network of three syndicates. They later headed for Afikpo Police Division, and stopped. This time, the policemen ordered everyone to get down, except the suspect.” According to Ikpor, he and Emma felt something was not right and decided to trail the policemen.
They trailed them to Afikpo Area Command. Later, the policemen seemed to disappeare. They went to FIB, Afikpo office. They saw two among the policemen, but the suspect and the third policeman was nowhere to be found. Ikpor said: “The policemen pretended to be taking the suspect to the police command. But on their way, they took the suspect to the bank, where they collected N2.5million and released her.” Emma, who also petitioned the commissioner of police on the matter, explained how Ikpor came to him and how he got involved.
Emma said: “We asked Ikpor how he could identify this group, and he told us that he collected their phone number and told them that he had two children for sale; male and female, at N400,000 and N3000,000 respectively. We asked him to call them on phone and put the phone on speaker which he did. This was to enable us confirm what he was alleging.”
Emma said: “It was at this juncture, we involved two policemen, Emeka and Kelvin, who identified themselves as officers of the FIB Afikpo Office.” The officers later called Sergeant Ferdinand, claiming he was the officer in charge of their office. Emma said that the trafficker was baited and later apprehended in Umuahia, Abia State by the policemen. Emma said: “But the policemen began playing hide and seek, as soon as they crossed the boundary into Ebonyi State.
First they took a detour to a Police post in Ishiagu, Ivo Local Government Area, instead of proceeding to the Afikpo Local Government Area. There they interrogated the trafficker, who allegedly confessed to the crime. “After interrogating the trafficker, we left for Afikpo. On getting to Amasiri; the officers ordered me and Ikpor to alight.”
According to Emma, he later traced the officers to their office in Afikpo. His words: “On reaching there, we saw their car parked in front of the office, and then we knocked on the door and entered.
We only saw Ferdinand and Kelvin, but the trafficker and Emeka were not there. Ferdinand asked us what we came to do; I told him we came to know the next line of action as we had brought the suspect to the station.
He said we were not police, but I reminded him that I also have an office to report to. It was then that he called on Emeka to bring the woman to their office, and immediately Emeka and the woman entered, a man came for her bail.”
Emma said he insisted that the woman should not be bailed, but detained at the divisional headquarters in Afikpo as it was late. But the officers allegedly refused to heed his advice. They zoomed off with the woman, saying they were taking her to police command that night.
According to Emma, Ikpor came to his house the next morning, to alleged that the policemen collected a bribe of N500, 000 and allowed the woman to go. He said all efforts to contact the officers to know the status of the matter, proved abortive as they refused to pick their calls and later switched off their phones.
Emma said he was left with no choice, than to report the matter to the Area Commander in Afikpo. He was invited to make a formal statement and thereafter, the matter was transferred to police command. Emma said that when he came to Police Command to report the matter, he was threatened by some policemen.
He further alleged: “They had people trailing me. They tried to abduct me on the day I came to submit the petition to the commissioner of police.”
In a petition dated June 30, 2016, signed by traditional ruler, Omezue Ichie Chukwu Idam, Omezue Mbe-Agbaenyi, Ichie Oka Itiri, Reverend Sunday Eze and other stakeholders of the community, the people said the recent arrest of the trafficker and release by the officers of the FIB Afikpo Annex was clear indication that the police were not ready to check activities of traffickers.
In a petition, the community sent to state’s commissioner of police, the community alleged that there was a plot to shield the trafficker and the three policemen. The community demanded for the re-arrest and prosecution of the three policemen
The petition gave the first names of the three officers as Ferdinand, Emeka and Kelvin. The Commissioner of Police in the state, Peace Ibekwe Abdallah, denied knowledge of the matter. She said: “We are not aware of the matter.” She immediately switched-off her phone.
But a copy of the petition was obtained by our correspondent. The petition, dated June 20, 2016, displayed the commissioner of police’s official stamp