Two female social workers in the employment of the Delta State Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development have been sentenced to one and a half year jail term each by a Magistrates’ Court sitting in Warri, for their alleged involvement in child trafficking.
One of the convicts, Mrs Ubido Blessing, 50, is a grade level 14 social welfare officer and was in charge of the Warri South Local Government Area office.
The other, 46-year-old Christy Urhuemu, is a grade level 12 social worker.
The duo were apprehended and dragged before the court by the Delta State Task Force on Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration led by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Peter Mrakpor, on two counts bordering on attempted child trafficking and attempt to sell a six months old baby, Lucky Tony, at the sum of N200,000.
The prosecution counsel, who doubles as the Director, Child’s Right/Sexual Offences, Mrs Uche Akamagwuna, had told the Magistrates’ Court that the offence was punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code, Cap C21, Volume 1 Laws of Delta State of Nigeria, 2006 and Section 509 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap C21, Volume 1, Laws of Delta State, 2006.
In their defence, however, the two officials denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the allegations were trump-up charges to frame them up.
They also told the court that they were innocent of the two counts proffered against them just as they prayed the court to quash the charges for lack of sufficient evidence linking them to the offence.
But the court presided over by Chief Magistrate Geraldine Uche Ofulue, while delivering its judgement on Monday, found the duo guilty of the two counts.
Mrakpor, in his capacity as the boss of the state Task Force on Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration, had earlier taken over the prosecution of the case and deployed the Director, Child’s Right/Sexual Offence, Mrs. Uche Akamagwuna to oversee the prosecution.
Akamagwuna had told the court that on November 23, 2016, information was received that some group of persons working under the Warri Area Social Welfare Office, Ministry of Women Affairs, were conniving with unknown persons to sell a six months old child with the consent of the biological parents of the said child.
Based on the information, the police immediately swung into action that led to the arrest of the two convicts. The said baby was recovered from them and was subsequently handed over to the matron of the Little Saint Orphanage Home, Ekpan, by police detectives.
The court was further informed that during investigation, it was revealed that the convicts made contact with the parents of the child and convinced them to sell the baby in question to a willing buyer in Lagos whom the defendants had made arrangements with to buy at the sum of N500,000.
The convicted social welfare officers however offered the parents of the child the sum of only N200,000 before the police burst the deal.
Reacting to the conviction of the two social workers, Mrakpor hailed the judgment, pointing out that the state government’s zero tolerance for crime and criminality, including human trafficking, was non-negotiable.