Esther Edet Asuquo, 34, a prophetess who hails from Mbikpong Atai in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government of Akwa Ibom has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for buying and selling two children for five hundred thousand.
It was reported that Esther and her accomplice, Blessing Akudo Sunday, were both sentenced to 14 years imprisonment each.
Justice Okon Okon, the presiding judge who handed down the judgment, said the suspects on September 2013, and others now at large, committed a felony by child buying and selling, contrary to Section 28 (1) and (2) of Akwa Ibom State Child Rights Law, 2008.
According to reports, the prophetess and Sunday were standing trial with a 72-year-old visually impaired Osueoluka Okoye, however, the court discharged and acquitted him over the inability of the prosecution to prove the charges against him beyond reasonable doubt.
The court held that “there is no evidence that the third accused gained financially for his role in the child dealing racketeering.”
Justice Okon found the prophetess and Sunday, guilty of unlawfully removing and taking away two siblings without their parents’ consent and selling them in Abia and Anambra states.
“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,” he said.
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.”