Thirty-six-year-old Adejoke Popoola is a mother of seven children born to different fathers. She had her last baby, almost three months ago, through caesarean section. But the labour pain she must have experienced while going through the births of her seven children did not make her have consideration for other mothers when she decided to connive with another woman to steal other people’s children for sale.
But the long arm of the law caught up with her in Ogbomoso town, Oyo State, two weeks ago, when she was arrested by the state police command for allegedly stealing a four-year-old boy (name withheld) at Oja Igbo area of the town. Two other suspects connected with the stealing, one Mrs Abibat Oyesanya and a male staff of the social welfare department in a ministry in an undisclosed state in the South-West, were also arrested.
Disclosing this last Wednesday, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Sam Adegbuyi, who was represented by the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Adekunle Ajisebutu, a Superintendent of Police, said the suspect perpetrated the act while the boy was playing in front of his father’s house.
Adegbuyi said the suspect was, however, stopped in her tracks when the sibling of the stolen child who saw her raised the alarm which attracted the victim’s father and other sympathisers. He added that the father and sympathisers ran after the woman who had escaped from the scene with the child strapped to her back, apprehended and handed her over to the police at the Owode Division in the town.
The police commissioner further stated that the case was transferred to the Anti-Kidnapping Squad at the police headquarters in Ibadan where the confessions of the first suspect, during investigation, led to the arrest of the two other suspects.
Adegbuyi said the woman disclosed to the police that she was sent by Mrs Oyesanya who paid her N30,000 to steal a child for her, with the promise to give her a balance of N100,000 after the child must have been successfully delivered.
During an interview with the suspects, Saturday Tribune learnt that Adejoke had once been involved in the giving of a child to Oyesanya, though both claimed that the child was given to them by her mother who was a commercial sex worker. It was also learnt that Oyesanya was an ex-prison inmate who was once arrested and arraigned in court by the Lagos State Police Command in connection with a similar offence.
The arrest of the suspects and their confessions also exposed the child racketeering likely to be going on in government ministries in charge of social welfare as well as in some homes and orphanages in the affected state.
“I used to sell herbs”
Speaking during the interview, the prime suspect, Adejoke, an Ibadan indigene living at Ayekale area, said, “I used to sell herbal concoction at Ibafo, Ogun State. I am a mother of seven. I went to the front of Soun’s palace in Ogbomoso to steal a boy when I saw him trying to cross the road. I carried him and strapped him to my back. But the father saw me and raised the alarm. The child was then taken from me. The child followed me when I picked him; I did not use any charm on him.
“I was sent by Abibat Oyesanya, a.k.a Iya Bili. I knew her in Ibafo while I was hawking herbal concoctions. I don’t know how much she intended to pay me, but she gave me N30,000. I did not know what came over me that made me carry out the act eventually. I just left my house without any underwear and went to steal the child. This is the first time I would do such.
“Before my going to Ogbomoso in September, she had called me in February while I was pregnant with my last child, asking me to go to Abattoir in Lagos State to steal children from the prostitutes there. I rejected the suggestion, raining curses on her.
“I delivered a baby on June 26 through caesarian section and was still in hospital on July 2 when she called me again, appealing and saying that she was not trying to set me up. She promised that the secret would be kept. My mother was with me and she warned me against such an act when she overheard what Oyesanya told me. She later begged me and said that she wanted to give the child to a lawyer.”
Adejoke appealed to Nigerians to forgive her, promising never to do such again. She also advised parents to take care of their children so that another person would not act as she did. On the child she was alleged to have taken from a prostitute and given to Oyesanya in the past, she said it was a Togolese commercial sex worker who approached her and asked her to keep her child.
“I told her I had enough burdens, so I could not care for her child. It was in the process that I approached Oyesanya to know if she had someone who could accommodate a young child and she said she had someone who needed a house help. She took the child and that was the last I knew of it.”
‘I only asked her to get a prostitute’s child
In her own confessions, however, Oyesanya claimed that she did not send Adejoke to go and steal but rather to get her a child from a prostitute. Oyesanya, who is also a mother of seven, further explained thus: “Adejoke once got a child from a prostitute which I witnessed. That was why I sent her. I didn’t approach the prostitutes myself because she was used to them through the herbal concoction she was selling. The child she got from the prostitute was about six-year-old and was given out as house help. That was four years ago at Ogere.
“Recently, a man contacted me that there was a woman who needed a child for adoption. That was how I asked Adejoke to help. The man gave me N50,000, out of which I sent N30,000 to her account for the job. I was to give her a balance of N150,000 after she must have brought the child. I asked for a girl child, not a boy that she went to pick.”
She confirmed that she gave the prostitute’s child given to her by Adejoke to her friend as house help but trouble later brewed over the issue. “I was arrested by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos when the person to whom I gave the child wanted to sell her. I was charged to court with others and remanded in prison for 17 days before I was granted bail. The story was even published in a national newspaper. The case was eventually resolved”, she said.
‘I paid her N50,000’
The male suspect (49), a government official, also told Saturday Tribune: “I knew Oyesanya through a family friend. The family friend said that Oyesanya once had problems with the state for running illegal homes, but had registered her orphanage and knows many homes in Lagos State.
“Since Oyesanya said she runs an orphanage and has papers backing up her home, I asked her to help get a child from one of the people who came to my department to process adoption of a child. We usually help people like that because after processing their papers, we advise them to go to orphanages to check out if they would see children they would want to adopt.
“Since there were documents the woman who needed the child had to back with the adoption and I didn’t have time to help her go round orphanages to search for an abandoned child that she could adopt, Oyesanya offered to do the scouting around homes and demanded for N300,000, out of which I gave her N50,000, pending the time she would find a child and we would go to the home with an approval letter to adopt the child formally. I told her the child should be between a day old and eight months.”
However, Oyesanya countered the male suspect on the issue of owning an orphanage, saying she never told him that she ran a home but was into agriculture.
Expressing appreciation to members of the public who raised the alarm in time for the police to nab the suspect, the Oyo police PPRO admonished parents to keep eyes on their children to save them from prowling kidnappers and thieves. He disclosed further that the command was after other suspects implicated in the case, adding that those currently in police custody would soon be charged to court after the completion of investigation.