Just when operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team thought they had heard it all, then comes the mind boggling confessions of 25-year-old Blessing Stephen.
Stephen, without batting an eye, told the operatives that she got pregnant for three men at different times and sold each of the babies because she needed the money.
According to the policemen, they had heard stories and even encountered women that had sold their babies for paltry sums of money, but it was not everyday they come across a mother, who wilfully sold three of her children.
Aside from her three children, Stephen’s gang has allegedly stolen and sold over 30 children.
Stephen was among six suspects arrested over their connection in a child-trafficking ring.
Members of the gang presently in police custody are a homeopathic medical doctor, Dr. Una Ekong Godwin (58), Blessing John (27), Blessing Stephen (25), Israel Ariyo (33), Itoro Anthony (40) and Mforbong Ntoro (48).
Stephen, a secondary school dropout, residing at Ijota-Ajah area of Lagos State, said: “It was there I met and started dating Julius Abang. He impregnated me. I had a baby boy for him and called his name Emmanuel. This happened in 2010. In 2011, Abang and I broke up. My mother started taking care of Emmanuel and I. Life became too tough. I went to Mrs. Mforbong, who advised me to sell Emmanuel and tell his father that he died and had been buried. My mother never knew I sold the child. In 2012, I got a job working in a shopping complex in Ikota. When I went to my village in Akwa Ibom State, for my mother’s burial, I met a truck driver and we started dating. He also got me pregnant. But after two years, he abandoned me and got another lady pregnant. A month after this incident, I sold the baby for N100, 000.
“In 2013, I got another lover, Israel, an iron bender. Within six months, he impregnated me; but he was too poor and couldn’t afford to feed me, let alone to pay his house rent. The motorcycle, which he uses for commercial purposes to augment his income developed fault after someone poured salt into the engine. We decided to sell the baby for N250, 000. Mforbong collected N20, 000 and advised us to tell people that the baby died and had been buried. Later, Mforbong called from village that she needed another baby boy. I told my friend Blessing John to steal a baby boy from Ikota. It was the theft of that baby that got us into this police trouble.”
The downfall of the syndicate started after they stole a four-year-old boy, identified as Ojo Adegboyega
Fapounga on July 14, 2019. The boy was stolen from his parents’ home at Ikota Housing Estate, Ajah Lagos, by Blessing John, a bosom friend to Stephen.
John, who is a neighbour to the boy’s parents, allegedly ferried him to Ibadan, Oyo State, the following day after stealing him. John took him to Stephen and the boy would later spend three days in the house of Stephen and her lover, Israel Ariyo.
After spending three days in Stephen’s home, the child was moved to Akwa Ibom State, where he was sold to Mforbong for N350,000.
The stolen boy, who started living with Mforbong, also took to crying incessantly, compelling neighbours to start asking questions. Petrified that her illicit business dealings might be found out,
Mforbong quickly recalled Stephen. She urged her to come and take the child, that she was no longer interested in keeping or reselling him.
Mforbong further claimed that the boy was too old for the specification she needed. She told Stephen to keep a lookout for a week old baby.
Stephen returned the child to Ibadan, and then to John. She told John to return him to his parents’ home at Ikota in Ajah area of Lagos.
A police source said: “John was told to look for a safe place to drop the child. A place where his parents would be able to easily locate him. When John got to Ketu area of Lagos State, she went to an Apostolic Church.
She told the security guards to mind the child for her that she wanted to cross over to the other side of the road to pick some of her stuffs. But they refused. She reluctantly left with the child and then stealthily went to the back of the church, sneaked into the church, dropped the child and ran away.
“When the child could not see her, he started crying, drawing attention of the guards.
They rushed into the church, saw the child and raised the alarm. The matter was reported to the nearest police station. After all efforts to trace the person who abandoned the child in the church failed, the divisional police officer (DPO), decided to take the child to a Child Care Center in Lagos.”
Meanwhile, after the boy was stolen, his parents ran from pillar to post searching for him.
His frantic father, Mr. Adegboyega, finally petitioned the IGP, who instructed the IRT Unit, headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari to lead the investigation in the search for the stolen the child and hunt for his abductors.
The suspects were tracked and nailed. The first set of people to be arrested were Stephen, John and Israel.
The three were arrested in Ibadan. They were used as baits to catch other members of the gang; Dr. Godwin, Mforbong and Anthony, all in Akwa Ibom State.
“This syndicate has stolen over 30 children. Some children that were declared missing and not found, might have played into the hands of these men and women from hell,” said the police source.
Israel on his part explained that it was hardship that made him to go into child trafficking.
He explained that he had wanted to offset his debt and bills, but to his greatest shock, money from the trafficking didn’t solve much of anything.
Israel said: “I allowed my wife to sell our baby to enable me solve my problems, but to my greatest surprise, it created more problems.”
John said: “Nobody was taking care of me, including, my brothers. My brothers called me a prostitute and a thief.
I had operation when I was pregnant and needed money to continue treatment. I dropped the child in the Apostolic Church to save my life.”
Anthony, a Palm Oil trader, confessed: “It was Dr. Godwin that gave me the child, a baby girl to go and sell.
He’s the husband of my late friend, Mrs. Mercy Godwin. My husband is doing the same palm oil business. I have three children but I have not sold any of them because it was not necessary. My role in the syndicate is to find buyers and supply them with babies. I got N50,000 in the first operation I participated. The second baby sale was for N700,000. I got N259,000.”
Godwin explained that he assisted the women to sell their babies because they were desperately in need of money to feed their families.
His words: “I did not make money from child trafficking because I am an herbalist. I was merely helping Blessing Stephen and Ariyo, based on what they told me. They came to me for help. One of the women told me that her husband was doing bunkering and got killed in the process. Since then, life had been tough for her. She told me that she had five children and wanted to sell one to survive the hardship. I told Mrs. Anthony to look for buyer. She sold the child for N450,000. I gave the mother N350,000 and collected only N100,000. I didn’t give Mforbong a dime.”