Operatives of the Rivers State Police Command have arrested a child trafficking syndicate, identified as Maureen Wechinwu, who claims to be a reverend sister.
She was paraded among 20 other suspects arrested in the state within August and September for various crimes.
Speaking, the Commissioner of police in the state, Friday Eboka, said based on intelligence, Wechinwu was arrested at her residence in Aluu Community, Ikwerre Local Council of Rivers State and rescued 15 children from her home.
He said the children recovered from the suspected trafficker were aged between seven and nine, adding that the suspect would be prosecuted upon completion of investigation.
Eboka said preliminary investigations have shown that the children were picked from different parts of the country and were being sold out to people.
According to him, it took about 24 hour before the children were able to tell their experiences to the police, adding that they were tortured and hypnotised.
The CP said: “On September 3, 2022, Operation Restore Peace Personnel of the Command, acting on credible information, regarding hideout of child traffickers, stormed Onuigwe Abuja Phase II, Aluu, in Ikwerre Local Council, where a lady, who claimed to be Rev. Sister Maureen Wechinwu, ‘f’, 44, was arrested.
“Fifteen children were rescued, while the case file has been transferred to the CP Monitoring Unit for discrete investigation.
“Investigation revealed the following facts: Prosper Godwin (m) was abducted at Ikpazasia market in Bayelsa State, on October 31, 2020, together with two others whom he does not know their whereabouts and was taken to the suspect.
“Later, he (Prosper) was sold to a woman at Lagos and subsequently returned back to the suspect. The parents, Mr. and Mrs. Godwin Ododor have been contacted and they corroborated the statement of the child.
“Queen Harry (f) was abducted at Ojukwu filed Mile 1, Diobu, Port Harcourt at about 1900hrs, while on an errand with the elder sister. The mother, Mrs. Florence has been contacted and she corroborated the fact.
“Miracle John Ohiri (f) was abducted on November 19, 2021 at Ada-George Road, Port Harcourt, opposite Holy Rock Church, along with her mother and two siblings, who have not been seen till date.
“The father John Ohiri has been contacted for identification of the child, who corroborated her statement that he reported the incident at Rumuokpakani Police Station.
“Favour Edeze (f) was abducted at Creek Road Market Port Harcourt on April 29, 2022 at about 1000hrs, while on errand. The father, one Emeka Edeze, has been contacted and identified his child and also confirmed the incident .
“Chimele Obinna (f) was abducted on April 24, 2022 at Rumuodara/ Culvet Oroigwe, Port Harcourt, while seated in front of their house with her sister. The mother Glory Obinna was contacted and she stated that the incident was reported at Okporo Police Station.”
Eboka said five parents have come and identified their children and that the police were yet to locate the parents of the remaining, calling on parents who lost their children to visit the Command.
MEANWHILE, Wechinwu in an interview, said she has become a disgrace to her people and herself, insisting that she is not into trafficking.
She said: “I run an Orphanage home with children of mad people. Fransisca Onyinyechi, who was given birth to by a mad woman in Ogbogoro community market.
“I cannot say that I am a reverend sister now that I am a disgrace. But I believe I used to be.
“I am of the Ladies of Victory Missionary Sisters. It is in England. Foreign Congregation. I am the only Nigerian in it.
“Some of the children are from mentally challenged people. The others were brought to me by one Mr. Victor. Sometimes, he comes with them in twos. One Miss Alice brought two to me. Alice said since I am a beginner that I should take them.
“Sometimes when victor brings children he will be demanding money. But due to the pressure on me sometimes I give N50,000, N60,000, and N100, 000.”
But, two women who have already identified their children at the police headquarters Rivers State have expressed joy over the police operation that led to the rescue of their children.
A mother of one of the rescued children, Glory Onyia, said her child went missing five months ago, adding that the family has been in pain.
Onyia said: “My child went missing on April 22, 2022. He is eight years old. I have been moving around from one church to the other. I even went to Okporo Police station to give reports.
“I am very happy. When he saw me he was very happy, shouting “Mummy “and everybody in our compound shouted when the police brought him.”
Also, Nkechinyere Harry, said: “My daughter is Queen Harry, she is nine years old. She was kidnapped at Mile one close to Ojukwu field. I sent her to the market where they sell roasted plantain. I usually send her to get yam peels for our goats.
“I sent her elder sister, she and her younger sister went. When they went there one man sent her elder on an errand, but when she returned from the errand, she could not find her again. She returned to the house, but could not find her.”