Two married women have been sentenced to 14 years in prison each for selling two children between the ages of one and two at N500,000.
The convicts are: a 34-year-old prophetess, Esther Edet Asuquoof Mbikpong Atai in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom and Blessing Akudo Sunday, 49-year old native of Umuoba Isiala-Ngwa in Abia.
They were sentenced, Wednesday, by an Akwa Ibom High Court sitting in Uyo and presided over by Justice Okon Okon.
The convicts and others now at large in September, 2013 at Ndon Uruan in Uruan Local Government Area, conspired to commit 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, who was discharged and acquitted 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.”
Okon found the first accused person, Esther Edet Asuquo and the second accused, Blessing Akudo Sunday, guilty of unlawfully removing and taking away of two siblings without their parents’ consent and sold them in Abia and AnambraStates.
“The evidence adduced at the trial which the court accepts as the truth is that the father of the children (name withheld) went to the house of the estranged wife and took the children away. No matter how sentimentally persuasive and emotional laden this argument maybe, 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 and incontroverted fact is that the father not only consented to, but took 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.”
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.”
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 to 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 is 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.
While sentencing the two accused to 14 years in prison each, the court held that “the sentences shall run concurrently.”