Mrs. Felicia Osaigbovo
A 62-year-old high-profile human trafficker, Mrs. Felicia Osaigbovo popularly known as Mama Masha, has been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and a fine of N24 million.
Justice Geraldine Imadegbelo of the Edo State High Court sitting in Benin City sentenced her on Tuesday, October 3, 2023
A Belgian police officer, Mr. Jimmy Wellem Hendrik, also testified, providing graphic details of how the convict exported young girls to her three children in Belgium for pr*stitution.
Osaigbovo, a resident of Okuarobo Street, Off St. Saviour Street, Upper Sakponba Road, Benin City, the capital of Edo State, was arraigned on July 1, 2021, on a 24-count charge of assisting the activities of persons engaged in trafficking in persons, contrary to Section 13(4)c of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) said Osaigbovo, a member of a human trafficking syndicate, was involved in the recruitment and trafficking of 12 Nigerian girls to Belgium for s3xual exploitation.
The convict was also accused of organising foreign travels that promote pr*stitution, contrary to Section 18 of the same Act, for 12 victims who are currently in Belgium.
She, however, pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
The prosecution, in proof of the counts, called a total of three witnesses, including the Belgian police officer, Jimmy Wellem Hendrik, who flew in from Brussels on May 3, 2023, to testify.
Hendrik told the court that three of the convict’s children, including Aigbe Egberanmen, who was sentenced to six years, would have to pay €108,000, while Aigbe Daniel, who was fined €108,000, was jailed for five years.
Another brother, Osaigbovo Nathaniel, received five years of imprisonment and a fine of €48,000. They were all sentenced in Belgium.
The Belgian policeman said that the convict could have been tried in absentia in Belgium based on the overwhelming evidence sourced from the several victims who escaped from the prostitution ring.
The victims officially told stories of how Mrs Osaigbovo, who also goes by the alias “Mama of Juliet,” recruited them in Benin City and took them to Europe for s3xual exploitation and pr*stitution.
They officially told stories of how Mrs Osaigbovo, who also goes by the alias “Mama of Juliet,” recruited them in Benin City and took them to Europe for s3xual exploitation and pr*stitution.
The Belgian, under cross-examination by the counsel to the defendant, painted a graphic picture of how Nigerian girls who were recruited to Belgium and other European countries dressed almost n*ked, standing by their windows and in private clubs, soliciting customers.
The age of the victims, numbering 24, ranges from 14 to 23, and they were trafficked in March 2015 by Mama Masha from Benin to her children, Juliet Egberanmwen Aigbe and Osaigbovo Nathaniel, based in Antwerp, Belgium, for pr*stitution.
The Belgian detective defended his Nigerian trip, insisting that human trafficking does not end in Belgium and Europe and thus must be tackled at its roots, whether in Nigeria or elsewhere.
He added that the young victims who were rescued had been resettled and were now engaged in legitimate businesses in Belgium.
The prosecution also tendered 13 exhibits during the trial.
Delivering judgement, Justice Geraldine Imadegbelo found the convict guilty of all 24 counts and sentenced her to 12 years imprisonment and a fine of N24 million.
In response to the judgment, Prof. Fatima Waziri–Azi, Director General of NAPTIP, expressed her appreciation for the verdict by the judiciary, emphasizing that it represents an appropriate and significant punishment.
Adekoye Vincent, NAPTIP Press Officer, who made this known in a statement signed on Tuesday, noted that the conviction is a significant victory in the fight against human trafficking.
“The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) remains resolute in its mission to combat human trafficking and bring offenders to justice," the statement read.
"In another significant victory, NAPTIP has secured the conviction of a well-known socialite in Benin City and high-profile trafficker, Felicia Osaigbovo, also known as Mama Masha
"She has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined N24 million by Hon. Justice Geraldine Imadegbelo of the High Court, Criminal Division, Benin City
"Felicia Osaigbovo, a 62-year-old member of a human trafficking syndicate, was involved in the recruitment and trafficking of 12 Nigerian girls to Belgium for s3xual exploitation
"Notably, 12 collaborators, including three of the convict’s children, have already been convicted in Belgium. The case against the convict commenced on July 1, 2021, with a 24-count charge that included assisting the activities of persons engaged in trafficking in persons and organizing foreign travels that promote pr*stitution, in violation of the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPPEA), 2015
"The defendant pleaded not guilty to all counts. The prosecution presented three witnesses, including a Belgian Chief Inspector of Police and submitted 13 exhibits as evidence.
“Following a thorough trial, the court found the convict guilty on all 24 counts, leading to a sentence of 12 years in prison and a fine of N24 million,”
Prof. Fatima Waziri–Azi, lauded the collaborative efforts of the Belgium Police Authorities, the Federal Ministry of Justice, the UK National Crime Agency under the Joint Border Task Force Initiative, and UNODC in ensuring justice for the victims.
“Upon assuming office in September 2021, the Director General pledged to pursue high-profile traffickers vigorously. This conviction underscores NAPTIP’s determination to send a clear message to those involved in this heinous crime."