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Parents, Gombe govt tango over recovery of trafficked children

The Gombe State Government and some parents who lost their children to human traffickers are in a squabble over alleged failure by the government to…

The Gombe State Government and some parents who lost their children to human traffickers are in a squabble over alleged failure by the government to return their children reportedly found in Anambra State, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

The parents under the auspices of the Amalgamated Association of Parents (AAP), accused the government of failing to retrieve their children trafficked to Anambra State.

However, the government has blamed the parents for not following the right channel of communications and protocol that would enable it (government) retrieve the children and bring them back to Gombe.

Not satisfied with the government position, the parents met at the private residence of Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, to press their demand for the retrieval of the children who were trafficked to Anambra State about six years ago.

According to them, over 20 children were recorded missing between 2017 and 2020, out of which only eight were recovered and reunited with their parents.

One of the mothers, Maryam Abubakar Muhammad, a resident of Riyal Quarters who had one of her children trafficked, said they were at the governor’s residence to appeal to him for assistance to unite them with their children.

She said the children were abducted and trafficked to Anambra State over five years ago. “We heard that some of them were found in Anambra State. That is the reason we gathered here to appeal to the governor to help us bring them home.

“Although the state government assisted us in bringing some of them back about two years ago, we are, however, appealing for another assistance from the government to get the rest back.

“In 2020, four children were reunited with their parents following government’s intervention, while some parents sold their properties to cater for the logistics and retrieved four others. So, in total, we have eight children who were retrieved from the traffickers in Anambra State.

“However, 13 children are still in Anambra State and we are yet to get them back. And the traffickers arrested by the police have agreed to connect us with the families they sold our children to,” she said.

Maryam added that they visited the governor’s residence because they have tried other possible means to get the government’s attention to help them with the logistics to locate and bring their children back but to no avail.

Another mother, Fatima Abubakar of Arawa area of Gombe metropolis, said her then three-year-old son was kidnapped about five years ago while he was playing alongside other children.

According to her, because their husbands are low-income earners, they were left with no option but to solicit for government’s assistance to help them retrieve their children.

She said, “Our husbands are low-income earners and are struggling to feed us; therefore, they can’t afford to pay for the logistics from here to Anambra State, in order to return our children.

“So, we are here to solicit for the assistance of the governor because we don’t have money to travel to Anambra to bring them home.”

Fatima further stated that, “all the women you are seeing here are mothers of the remaining 13 children that were trafficked and sold in Anambra State. We are appealing to the government to offer its usual assistance.”

On his part, Ibrahim Ardo, Secretary of the Amalgamated Association of Parents who lost children to human traffickers, said his daughter was abducted by a syndicate of traffickers, who stole children and sold them in Anambra State.

“After the state government in September 2020 returned four children to us, some of us sold our properties to go to Anambra State and reclaimed four other children. That a total of eight out of 21 children taken from Gombe and sold in Anambra,” he said.

According to Ardo, he sponsored himself to Anambra and claimed his daughter, but there are 13 other children still living with people who bought them from the traffickers.

“We got information that the children are still in Anambra State. And the traffickers that were arrested by the police gave us addresses and telephone numbers of people that are still holding our children.

“Upon receiving this information, we wrote a letter to the state governor through the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. A director in the ministry was assigned to take our letter to the governor for subsequent action.

“But for months now, we haven’t heard from the government on efforts being made to retrieve the remaining children. Therefore, we are appealing to them, to please help us unite with our children,” Ardo said.

However, the state Commissioner of Women Affairs, Mrs Naomi JJ Awak, stated that the parents are yet to follow the appropriate channel that would allow the government to intervene and bring back the children.

According to her, the ministry is yet to get official communication from the police, “which is the proper channel of communication before the government could take any further action.

“The state government is always ready to assist and bring these children back and unite them with their parents. But we need a police report before we can swing into action to retrieve these children.

“It was the same procedure that was followed in 2020, and the governor gave his approval to the ministry, and we provided the police with all the logistics to Anambra State and brought the children back.

“However, the ministry can assure the parents that we are always ready to retrieve such children whenever they are located. As such, the parents should bring evidence to the police about the location of their children, and we will go there and retrieve them,” she said.

Mrs Awak added that the ministry under her supervision is unrelenting in its mandate of protecting rights and provision of welfare to women, children and other vulnerable members of the society.

Daily Trust reports that in September 2020, the Gombe State Police Command had in collaboration with the Anambra State Police Command, busted the kidnapper’s den in an “orphanage” in Onitsha, Anambra State, where they rescued 12 children.

During the raid, seven boys and five girls below the ages of 10 were rescued, while one Nkechi Odulye, the “proprietor” of the orphanage, alongside one Ali Bala Shaukani from Taraba State, the “supplier” of the children, were arrested by the police.

The police said it launched the raid following information scooped from one Hauwa Usman from Gombe and one Faith Okpai from Anambra who were in detention at the Gombe prison following their arrest in November 2019, in connection with two children abducted from Gombe and sold in Anambra.

Hauwa and Faith operated from Gombe where they stole children mostly below two years and transported them to Onitsha from where they handed them over to Shaukani who later sold them to Nkechi.

The police said they gathered that male children were sold for N300,000 each, while female children went for N250,000 each, and that the children were subsequently resold between N750,000 and N800,000 to prospective buyers; mostly from the South South and the South East.

Daily Trust Saturday learnt that investigation led the police to Nkechi and Shaukani who were the masterminds and partners of Hauwa and Faith in the human trafficking business.

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