A 34-year-old prophetess, Esther Edet Asuquo of Mbikpong Atai in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Blessing Akudo Sunday and a 49-year-old native of Umuoba Isiala-Ngwa in Abia State, were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment each for buying and selling two children between the ages of one and two at the sum of N500,000.
The presiding judge, Justice Okon Okon, who handed down the judgment said the convicts and others now at large, on September 2013, at Ndon Uruan in Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State conspired to commit a felony, child buying and selling, contrary to Section 28 (1) and (2) of Akwa Ibom State Child Rights Law, 2008.
Esther and Blessing were standing trial with a 72-year-old visually impaired Osueoluka Okoye from Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, who was discharged and acquitted over the inability of the prosecution to prove the charges against him beyond reasonable doubt.
Justice Okon said;
“The evidence adduced at the trial which the Court accepts as the truth is that, the father of the children went to the house of the estranged wife and took the children away. No matter how sentimentally persuasive and emotional laden this argument may be, the fact remains that the two children were with their father when the father handed them over to the first and second accused persons,”
The court further held that “it is not open to argument or debate and contestation that a father has access to his children and thus, exercises lawful care over them whenever the children are with him. The reality is that the father not only consented to but took an active part in giving away the children. Whatever was his motive is irrelevant and immaterial for the purpose of the provisions of Section 28 of Akwa Ibom State Child Rights Law, 2008.”
Justice Okon said he believed “the evidence of the Prosecution Witnesses that the first and second accused persons benefited financially from their dealings with the father of the children (names withheld by me).”
He said “the first and second accused persons certainly engaged in child selling, which this Court considers to be illicit and inhumane trade. I find no concrete, cogent and credible evidence, linking the third accused person, Osueoluka Okoye to the selling and buying of the children beyond the fact that he sought the help of one Dr Edwin Ikechukwu Okoye to arrange for him to adopt a child from an orphanage for his Sister in Anambra State, who paid N400,000 for the child.”
“I condemn the actions of the first and second accused persons for their involvement in child dealing, a detestable and repugnant trade. I however take into consideration that the first and second accused persons assisted the Police to recover the victims, who have been successfully reunited with their mother whose exemplary conduct in boldly exposing the child buying and selling cartel, I highly commended. I also take into account, the years spent by the accused persons in detention to mitigate their sentences.” Justice Okon held.
“In Count 4, the first and second accused persons are each sentenced to seven years imprisonment. In Count five, the first and second accused persons are each sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The sentences shall run concurrently.”