Comrade Ighorhiohwunu Aghogho, a child rights activist, has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Benin Zonal office, of compromising investigation into an alleged organised conspiracy of child trafficking involving a cartel operated by the officials of the Delta State Judiciary and Ministry of Women Affairs.
He said the head of the commission in the zone frustrated investigation into his petition dated December 23, 2019, bordering on child trafficking and illegal child adoption.
The activist also alleged that the zonal head of the commission on April 7, 2021, openly spoke in defence of the subjects of the investigation who were absent during his presentation to the economic governance and legal units of the commission.
Aghogho said the commission has refused to invite the affected officials for questioning and interrogation despite his written statements and the prima facie evidence he submitted to detectives regarding the petition.
He disclosed this in a statement issued on Sunday and made available to SaharaReporters in Abuja.
The statement partly reads, “That on/about April 7, 2021, Comrade Ighorhiohwunu Aghogho in company with a fellow Comrade had a presentation before the Zonal Head of EFCC, Benin and detectives from Economic Governance (EG) and Legal Units at EFCC’s Zonal Office, Benin on the above subject matter. However, it was observed with dismay that the said Zonal Head of EFCC, Benin misdirected himself and acted unprofessionally when he started speaking in defence of the subjects of the investigation in their absence.
“For instance, it was observed repeatedly during the presentation, when the Zonal Head of EFCC Benin was trying to defend the subjects on their behalf, on the sales of illegal adoption forms where the sums of N20,000 and N50,000 respectively were unlawfully received by the subjects through ECO BANK: 2152023855, ZENITH BANK: 1011047631 running into millions of naira from over 300 unsuspecting members of the public whereby they usurped the functions of the Family Court of Delta State.
“There was prima facie evidence that the subjects criminally took over the functions of the Family Court of Delta State but yet the said Zonal Head was turning a blind eye to the law and evidence.”
He added that the Zonal Head of EFCC, Benin has not been able to provide any written law authorising officials of the Delta State Ministry of Women Affairs to sell adoption application forms to unsuspecting members of the public for the sums of N20,000 and N50,000 respectively and usurp the functions of the Family Court of Delta State.
The petition reads further, “That the Zonal Head of EFCC, Benin has not been able to invite/arrest these accomplices who allegedly bought these adoption application forms from the officials of Delta State Ministry of Women Affairs to substantiate the allegation of collecting the sum of N4 million and N8 million respectively for the buying of children through the said ministry.
“That similar investigation was compromised by the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, where the CJN misdirected himself when he allowed one of the principal suspects, the Chief Judge of Delta State, Justice Marshal Umukoro to investigate himself on the subject matter and published his findings on NJC’s letterhead dated 23rd September 2019, referenced NJC/DE. HC/10/II/96, NJC/DE. HC/10/II/94 respectively in a bid to exonerate himself from the offence.
“That the said Chief Judge of Delta State, Justice Marshal Umukoro unlawfully forwarded the said fraudulent NJC’s findings/reports laced with injustice and prejudiced dated 23rd September, 2019, referenced NJC/DE. HC/10/II/96, NJC/DE. HC/10/II/94 respectively to all courts under the Delta State Judiciary, including the Ughelli North Area Customary Court through a lawyer called Ese Gams Owe Esq, who was representing the plaintiff in the case- Comrade Ighorhiohwunu Aghogho Vs. Engr Odeseneka Gabriel, suit number UNACC/384T/18 and influenced a judgement in the said case, dated 4/12/19 via a correspondence referenced JS/HCJ.25/VOL.IV/178, dated 4th October, 2019.”
He explained that over 20 children from Delta State with a child valued between N4 million and N8 million, depending on the sex of the child were being trafficked in the black market, thereby raking in millions of naira for the cartel from the said proceeds of crime.
He, however, noted that the claim by the Delta State Commissioner of Women Affairs, Mrs. Flora Alanta, and the ministry's permanent Secretary, Mrs. Oghenekevwe Agas, on raiding of an illegal orphanage 'Foster Paradise Orphanage' located in Ashaka, was a camouflage to re-traffick the already trafficked 22 children recovered from the said foster care orphanage as the word 'orphanage' is not known to law in Nigeria.
He said, “The commissioner's claim of splitting the 22 recovered children where 11 male children were transferred to a government approved orphanage known as 'Orem Orphanage' in the Ughelli North Local Government Area of the state, while the female children also numbering 11, were relocated to 'Ojone Orphanage' in Ogwashi-Uku, Aniocha South Local government was their regular trade- in- mark in trafficking children from the state as both Orem and Ojone orphanages are illegal orphanages not known to law and operating outside the provisions of the Delta State Child’s Rights Law 2008. That similarly, the Delta State Ministry of Women Affairs cannot enquire into the welfare of children without a court order.”
Meanwhile, efforts by SaharaReporters to get reactions from EFCC on the allegation were unsuccessful as repeated calls to the mobile phone of the spokesperson, Wilson Uwajaren, were not answered.
Saharareporters had on October 11, 2016, reported the plot by Delta State Government to cover up missing state adoption records and in May 23, 2020, the allegation against Delta State Chief Judge, Marshal Umukoro, of working in cahoots with one Barr. Emmanuel Dolor in the trafficking of thousands of children from the state without observing adoption procedures.
In a bid to silence the activist on the matter, the state officials allegedly conspired with the Department of State Services and the police who invited and detained the activist, Aghogho, on several occasions.
The activist has vowed not to be intimidated by the security agents until those officials are brought to justice.