Operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team, IRT, have smashed a notorious human trafficking syndicate operating from a church in Rumuolumili area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which specialised in selling day-old babies to prospective buyers, rescuing three newly born babies, their mothers, and three pregnant teenagers Vanguard Newspaper reports.
Vanguard gathered that the Church, known as Great Mercy Deliverance Ministry, located at number 3 Giwa Street in Rumuolumili area of Port Harcourt, was owned by a couple, identified as Chidi and Maureen Martins who were in the business of scouting communities in Rivers, Abia, Akwa Ibom and Imo states, for pregnant teenagers who couldn’t care for their pregnancies, with promises that they would be provided with accommodation, feeding, and maternity care and they would be sent back to reunite with their families after their delivery.
But, when the girls were delivered of their babies, the couple would sell the babies to the buyers who were already waiting while the girls would be told that their babies were dead.
It was gathered that the couple who were believed to have sold over 20 babies to different families across the country ran into operatives of the IRT headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, who got information about their activities from one their victims in Akwa Ibom State.
It was learned that relatives of one of their victims, Patience Edet Okon, who was lured by the syndicate from Uran area of Akwa Ibom State, alerted the IRT operatives based in Akwa Ibom State, about her disappeared and she was trailed to the couple’s church where they found her and three other pregnant teenagers, three newly born babies, and their teenage mothers.
A couple from Efuru area of Delta State, who had paid the sum of N3.5million to buy a set of twins was also arrested at the church.
According to a source who spoke to Vanguard on the condition of anonymity, “there was a child trafficking case we were working on from our base in Akwa Ibom State when we discovered that the girl had been moved to a home in Port Harcourt, so we trailed her to a church-owned by one Maureen Matins and her husband Chidi Matins.”
“We also found three pregnant teenagers there; Lovett Emmanuel, who was five months pregnant from Ngor-Okpala area of Imo State, 18-year-old Chisom Emmanuel, from Ohaji Egbema, Imo State, who is presently seven months pregnant and one Chioma Ifeanyi, from Ukwa-East area of Abia State.”
“We found Patience Edet Okon, who we traced from Akwa Ibom with a day-old baby boy and two other teenagers; Favor Friday, aged 18 years with a two-days-old baby girl and one Chizaram Chukwudi, from Ibekwu area of Abia State, with a two-days-old baby boy.”
“In the course of our investigations we discovered that pregnant teenagers were usually induced into delivery when their pregnancies were eight months old due to demand from people who wanted to buy the babies.”
“They also had a woman known as IB who is on the run now, who would go out to scout for these girls who would then be made pregnant by drug addicts.”
“Maureen told us that she met IB in 2019 and she had lost count of the number of babies she sold for IB.”
“We also arrested a couple who bought a baby boy and a baby girl from Maureen after paying the sum of N3.5million for the two babies who were delivered by Patience Okon and Favour Friday.”
“In the church, there were over seven rooms where they kept the girls and Maureen would get them drugged after their delivery and when they woke up, she would tell them that their babies were dead, since they were asleep and they wouldn’t know when the buyers would come to pick up the children.”
“They usually sold these babies with their placentas 24 hours after their deliveries. Maureen and her husband would then give the girls a paltry sum of N30,000 to go back to wherever they came from and these girls would leave the church believing that their babies were dead.”
“We discovered that Maureen had been operating this baby factory for over six years and people came from all over the country to buy babies from her.”
“She usually sold baby boys for N1.5million, while baby girls were sold for N1.1million. Maureen is the General overseer of her church, while her husband is an associate pastor.”
“We are currently tracing over 20 children which they had sold. We learned that when a child was born, Maureen would ask the mother not to breast feed the child so that the child would not get used to breast milk and this would enable their new mothers to feed them with baby milk.”
When Vanguard interviewed Maureen she denied being the owner of the business. She said; “I am from Isiamba North area of Imo State, but I reside in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.”
“I am 45 years old, I’m married with two children and I am also nurse. It was a woman, known as IB who introduced the business to me, she also brought the girls and sold the babies.”
“I don’t know where she got the girls, but my job was to look after them and when they were due for delivery, I would deliver them. IB would then take the babies to whoever had paid for them and I would tell the girls that their babies were dead and give them money to return home.”
MY WIFE WAS DECEIVED WITH FAKE PREGNANCY — Suspect
Henry who was arrested for buying stolen babies said he and his wife were deceived by Maureen and her colleague known as IB.
He said his wife had been barren for six years after their marriage and a woman his wife met in a bus linked her to IB and they ended up with Maureen before they were arrested.
He added that he had no plan of buying any child but he was made believe by the women that his wife was pregnant for nine months.
Narrating his story, he said; “I have been married since 2014 and I have no child. My wife then met one IB through one woman who was giving drugs to my wife.”
“They started giving her drugs that made her look like she was pregnant and her stomach became big and her legs were swollen. We went for ante-natal at the General hospital and they told my wife that her babies were doing fine.”
“IB asked my wife to call her whenever she believed she was due for delivery. We called IB and told her that my wife’s stomach was very big and strong and she asked us to come to Port Harcourt and took us to Maureen who identified herself as a midwife.”
“She gave my wife a concoction after which she started feeling dizzy, then they took my wife into a room and asked me to start praying for my wife that she should deliver safely. I was also asked to go out. Then, I started hearing my wife shouting and they called me and told me that my wife had delivered a set of twins.”
“I saw the children with the placentas intact. But my wife told me that the children were not her own and that we had to do DNA on the children.”
“Since we saw the children with placentas, we decided to take them home. They also cut my wife’s private part, inserted their hands and when I came in, I saw blood everywhere.”
“So, the people around asked us to rejoice that my wife had delivered a set of twins but I had this strong feeling that the children were not mine.”
“Few days later, the police came and arrested us and told us that the children didn’t belong to us. They showed us the real owners of the children which I paid N3.5milllion to get.”
VICTIMS NARRATE THEIR ORDEALS
One of the victims, Favour Friday narrated how she found herself in the baby factory. She said; “I am 18 years old, I left secondary in 2019.”
“My boyfriend got me pregnant in Abia state and he wasn’t taking good care of me. There was this woman known as Precious who approached me and told me that she would help me, so she brought me to Port Harcourt, where I stayed for one month and I was delivered of my child when the pregnancy was not even due for delivery.”
“They gave me an injection that induced the pregnancy. They took me to Maureen’s house where I was locked up in a room with some other girls for hours.”
“I slept off and when I woke up, they told me that my baby was dead. They were not feeding us but I heard that they sold my baby and one other child for N2.5million.”
Another victim, Emmanuel Lovett said after she got pregnant, she was rejected by her parent and her boyfriend’s relatives while a woman who she didn’t know offered to bring her to the church where she would be taken care of.
She said: “I am from Imo state, when I got pregnant my mother rejected me and when my boyfriend took me to his relatives, they also rejected me, then his friend told me that there was a woman who would take care of me during the pregnancy and when I was delivered my boyfriend would come and pay and take me away.”
“I was taken to the woman, I didn’t suspect her so, I was very relaxed with her. They locked us inside the house for 10 hours on most days and I didn’t suspect any wrong was going on.”