Brains behind vast child trafficking ring that grabbed children from one region of Nigeria and sold them to couples in other regions sentenced to 104 years in prison
Presiding Justice Zuwaira Yusuf, of the Kano State High Court found the Paul Onwe guilty of all 38-counts he faced and sentenced him without the option of fine
Onwe was arrested in 2019 along with six co-conspirators for abducting, selling and forcefully converting the Muslim children to Christianity
The children, all under the age of 10, were snatched from predominantly Muslim Kano state and sold in Onitsha, Anambra state in the mostly Christian south eastern part of the country
Some of the the trafficked children have been recovered in an on-going rescue operation by police, and testified at his trial
The other six other defendants – Mercy Paul, Ebere Ogbono, Emmanuel Igwe, Loise Duru, Monica Oracha and Chinelo Ifedegwu – are remanded in prison custody pending the commencement of their trial
Prosecutors say they are facing 38-counts bordering on conspiracy, kidnapping and trafficking in children from Kano to Anambra
All have pled not Guilty to the charges
Mastermind of the kidnap of nine children in Kano state, a state in the predominantly Muslim northern part of Nigeria was on Friday July 30 sentenced to 104 years in prison by the Kano high court.
Presiding Justice Zuwaira Yusuf, who found the Paul Onwe guilty of all the 38-count charge, sentenced him without an option of fine.
Onwe who was also fined the sum of $243 [NGN 100,000].
He was accused of conspiring with six accomplices to kidnap the children, all under the age of 10, from Kano state and selling them in Onitsha, in Anambra, a state in the mostly Christian south eastern part of the country.
Onwe was arrested in 2019 along with six co-conspirators for abducting, selling and forcefully converting the children from Islam to Christianity.
The defendant facing 38 counts, classified into three main charges, was found guilty all counts.
On counts 2, 8, 9, 2, 27 and 34, he was sentenced to seven years on each.
On counts 3, 5, 10, 11, 22, 28 and 38, he was also sentenced to seven years on each.
On counts 4, 12, 13, 29 and 38, he was convicted to four years for each without an option of fine.
At sentencing Justice Yusuf stated that the offences contravene the provisions of Sections 97(1), 273, 277 of the Nigerian Penal Code and Section 32 (5) of the Children and Young Persons Law of Kano State, 2012.
The court which stated that the jail time will run concurrently.
At the commencement of the trial in October 2019, Farouk Ibrahim Ahmad one of the nine children rescued by the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Nigeria Police Force, Kano State Command, recounted his ordeal for the court.
“I was playing with my friends in front of my family house one evening when one man (who I later came to know as Mr. Paul) grabbed my hand and I started shouting, the child told the court.
But, he covered my mouth with his other hand and took me to an isolated place.
A woman [Paul’s wife], later came and took me away from that place. When I got to their house, I saw Paul. And then, Paul took me from Kano to Onitsha.
Initially “I was afraid when Paul’s wife took me away. I thought she would kill me, but after Paul took me to Onitsha, I become comfortable staying there. I was the first person Paul took to Onitsha. I was handed over to Madam Ebere, who I was told was my mother. Whenever a new set of children was brought to Madam Ebere, people come around to buy them from her.
“I had seen where Madam Ebere collected money from her visitors more than two times. I saw her counting money when they brought the twin girls – Husnah and Amira, who were also brought to Onitsha from Kano,” Ahmad testified.
The other six persons indicted in the human trafficking racket have all entered not guilty pleas in their preliminary hearings. The six identified as, Mercy Paul, Ebere Ogbono, Emmanuel Igwe, Loise Duru, Monica Oracha and Chinelo Ifedegwu, the court ordered to be remand pending the commencement of their trials.
Earlier, the Prosecution Counsel, Mahmoud Balarabe, told the court that the defendants were facing a 38-count charge, bordering on conspiracy, kidnapping and trafficking in children from Kano to Anambra, sometime in 2019.
Some of the children were rescued from the traffickers.
The rescue operation for the trafficked children since has been ongoing.
In January the Kano State Government, announced that seven more children kidnapped from the state and trafficked to Anambra State had been rescued. In an interview with BBC Hausa Service, Muhammad Garba, the State Commissioner for Information said parents of five of the seven children have been identified