In a new style of operation, a couple has fallen prey to child traffickers in Ebonyi, losing their twins and triplets in a twinkle of an eye. UCHENNA INYA reports from Abakaliki
Child traffickers have devised new means of stealing children. In their new style of operation, they approach their victims on the pretence to help them out of difficult situations , hypnotize them and then move the children away to where they sell them to their customers. Some members of the public in Ebonyi State have fallen victims to the new style of operations of the child traffickers with the latest being a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Akpanke Emmanuel. The couple lost their twins and two of their triplets to the traffickers in a circumstance that surprises anyone that hears about the ugly development. Mr. Emmanuel Akpanke and wife, Mary Emmanuel of Etemi village, Ikom Cross River State, together with their children; a set of twins, a set of triplets and another child were traveling to their home from Ondo State, where they reside.
They got to Ebonyi State and alighted at popular Ochudo Motor Park along Afikpo road, Abakaliki, to connect another vehicle that would take them to Ikom directly. They ran out of cash and the head of the family, Emmanuel, asked the wife and their children to stay at the park and wait for him to withdraw money from a bank on Ogoja road, very close to the park to enable them continue their journey.
Immediately he left the family, a woman emerged and started admiring the children, especially the twins and triplets and showing concern on his wife and children. The woman, whose name could not be immediately ascertained, asked Mrs. Emmanuel to follow her to Tycoon hotel under the disguise that she wanted to render help to her and she followed her to the hotel where she disappeared with her four out of five children, leaving the last child she left on the bed who was seriously sick.
She told New Telegraph that while she was waiting for her husband to come back to the motor park for them to continue their journey, the place became busy with activities as anyone that passed the area admired her children, especially the triplets and the twins and in the process give her money.
Mother narrates ordeal
Her words: “There was this particular woman that came, and was very happy seeing my children. She asked me if I was the mother of the children. I said yes. She then inquired of who I was waiting for and I told her I was waiting for my husband. She then asked if I was with my husband’s telephone number, so as to call him using her telephone. So I gave the number to her.
She tried the line and said it was switched off. She then gave my children N100 and started talking to me, telling me that she love people like me, that whenever she sees people like me, she remembers when she was suffering. “As the discussion was on, she asked where I came from. I told her Yala, Cross River State.
On hearing that, she was so excited and she hugged me, saying that I’m her mother’s sister. Immediately she hugged me, she became restless and continued admiring my children. “She said I should follow her to where she was lodging , which is Tycoon hotel, and I told her to try my husband’s line again to inform him of my whereabouts, so that he would easily locate us. She tried and told me, it was switched off.
“She then insisted I must follow her, that the sun was too hot for the babies; that I should follow her to the hotel, so that I will bath the children and change their clothes. So, I agreed.” Continuing, Mrs. Emmanuel said: “When we came, she made a call and a young guy who was peeping at the window came out.
The guy came out and assisted me with the luggage. When we got to the reception, the receptionist tried to question us but the guy told the receptionist to allow us, ‘that this is his wife i.e. the woman.” “Meanwhile, the woman told me that they lodged for three weeks, getting to a month in the hotel, saying that she is a lawyer and her husband is a doctor. As they were introducing themselves, I became very weak and tired. She bathed my twins and I bathed my triplets.
After I had finished bathing them, she then ordered me to go and bath. “So, while I was bathing, I heard her making a call. After the call, she told me, that my husband called her, and told her that he was waiting for us at Spera-in-Deo. That he insisted that the woman should come and pick him, and she said she was going with the twins so that my husband would recognise her.
So, I told her okay and she left. Immediately I finished bath, I felt something; it was if they removed something from my eyes. The only thing I could see was one of the triplets lying on the bed. The other four were nowhere to be found.” She disclosed that immediately she regained herself, she ran out of the hotel and approached a girl selling recharge card, asking if she saw a woman with four children. The girl responded in affirmative but told her she didn’t know where the lady passed because her attention was not on her.
The woman added that she went back to the hotel, and met with the receptionist, asking her how long the woman had spent in the hotel. The receptionist told her that the woman only lodged that day. According to her, the receptionist said she saw the woman with the children and tried stopping them but the woman said she wanted to buy food for the children.
“I was surprised because it was not what the woman told me. Immediately, I started screaming. I told the receptionist to free me, so that I would go in search of her. But the receptionist refused, saying I should calm down. “The Manager came in and assured me that he had called the police and that they were on their way. I waited for more than 30 minutes. I didn’t see any one or even the sign of police.
I begged them for phone so that I can call my husband. They didn’t answer me. I insisted on going in search of my husband, so that he would know my whereabouts but they refused. When it was quarter to six that evening, they allowed me to leave. I met my husband where he was charging his phone; with tears I told him everything and said he should come with me, that his attention was needed at the hotel.”
She noted that when they got to the hotel, the hotel Manager refused to help them. Rather, he was apportioning blame on them but they were later taken the Central Police Station in Abakaliki. She added that three persons were detained except the manager, who escaped and was arrested after three days through the help of the security officer attached to the hotel.
On his part, the husband, a driver, explained that when he got to the park, he was confused as he didn’t see his wife and children, adding that he searched everywhere and even inquired from people, but no one agreed to have seen them. He stated that he begged a man to help him with his charger to enable him power his phone, so that he could reach his people or his wife could reach him. He explained that while he was charging his phone, he saw his wife looking confused and that as she approached him, she broke down in tears, narrating her ordeal. He noted that when they got to the hotel, the hotel management felt nonchalant in rendering assistance and accused them of selling their children.
He noted that he threatened the management before they took them to Central Police Station around 10pm to report the case. He revealed that through the assistance from his relatives, who reside in Abakaliki, the case was transferred to State CID, adding that the hotel management promised to handle the case but failed to pay money for tracking the woman’s phone number, but later complied when he threatened that the hotel would be closed down if the management failed to comply. Emmanuel said that he trusts his wife as he had stayed with her for over 15 years and knows what she was capable of doing.
He revealed that the woman who took away his children, later called him on the telephone asking if he was the father of triplets and if he was looking for his children. He said yes, noting that the woman promised to come to Abakaliki with his children and asked him to meet her at Spera-in-Deo. He said he went to Spera-in- Deo and didn’t see her, adding that she later called and said she was in Kpirikpiri, “so police and my wife went to Kpirikpiri to look for her but they didn’t see her; she kept on turning us around until we became frustrated” Emmanuel stated. He disclosed that when the police checked the CCTV from April 17, 2019 to May 8, 2019, the woman and her husband have been lodging in the hotel but always change rooms and that they usually stayed some days before leaving the hotel.
He added that before the incident, the suspects had stayed from May 4 to May 8 before they left the hotel with the children. Emmanuel said the CCTV picked their faces and called on the state government and other nongovernmental agencies to come to their aid and help rescue their children from the hands of the traffickers. “We know they have been taken out of the state. We pray that the state government comes to our help, help contact other states so that our children would be found”, he said.
When contacted, Ebonyi State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Odah Loveth, confirmed the incident and said police has intensified efforts to rescue the children and arrest the suspects. She gave the names of the stolen children as Mercy Emmanuel, 6; Marvelous,6; Promise, a year and three months and Peace a year and three months. She urged hotel managers to be weary of people that lodge in their hotels and keep accurate records of their customers and mount CCT cameras to help security to track criminals that may be lodging in their hotels. Odah appealed to members of the public who have useful information on the missing children to come up to the police and assist.
“One Mary Emmanuel Etumi, a native of Ikom, Cross River, came to CPS and reported that at 11am on 8 May, she was with her five children, a set of twin, a set of triplet at the age of six and twin at the age of a year and three months respectively at Ochudo park waiting for her husband Emmanuel Akpanke, who went to a bank on Ogoja road to withdraw some money. All of a sudden, a woman whose name and address is yet unknown met her and asked her to accompany her to hotel, De Tycoon, where she lives to enable the children take bath.
The woman came in pretence that she wanted to help her. “The complainant said she left with the unknown woman to the hotel room where she claimed to live. She introduced a man who they met in the room to her as her husband . The complainant and the strange woman took the children to the bathroom and bath them. Thereafter, the complainant left her children with the strange woman and entered the bathroom to take her own bath. She came out from the bathroom and met only her last child lying on the bed while the strange woman and the man she introduced as her husband disappeared with her four children”. “This is a new trend in the state whereby a man and a woman will come up to show help.
There was a case of child stealing, children who went to fetch water and their wheelbarrow spoiled. A woman from nowhere and the husband came to the children. She claimed to render help and asked one of them to go and pump the barrow with her husband while she stayed with their brother. When they got there, the man gave the boy N200 to go and buy biscuits after pumping the tyre.
Immediately the boy accepted the money and left, the man and the woman disappeared with the younger brother, who was six years old. “I want to appeal to the public to stop giving in to unnecessary claimed help. Parents should learn from others. Don’t give in to someone you don’t know because that is their style now. “But effort is on top gear to arrest them. We are even calling on neighbouring communities to help Ebonyi State police command with useful information at their disposal”, she said.