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After a protracted legal battle, spanning over 11 years, a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court sitting in Gwagwalada has convicted a human trafficker, Dr Joseph Danley Obiechie. The convict who claims to be a Clergyman with a Doctorate degree in Christian Counselling from the United Faith Ministry in Miami, Florida, USA was however, sentence to 10 years imprisonment on each of the 5 counts charge preferred against him. The sentence will run concurrently. He was also given an option of fine of N100, 000 on each of the count of the charges.

Dr Obiechie, promoter and President of Truth Talk Foundation (TTF) and Foundation for Correction of Moral Decadence (FCMD) was on the 6th February 2006 arraigned by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) before the FCT High Court, Gwagwalada for committing offences contrary to the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act 2003 as ammended. He was convicted and sentenced on Wednesday by Honourable Justice M. Balami, in the case with suit No. CV/74/06.

The convict, 52 years (41 years as at the time of commission of the offence) was charged to court on 30th January, 2006 for deceitfully moving three under aged girls from Ibusa, Delta State to Lugbe District of the FCT, Abuja and harboured them in his house. The three girls were subjected to series of sexual and labour exploitations by the convict.

The convict uses his NGOs to run projects called ‘Moral Adjustment’ and deceived the girls and their families that he will engage the girls in his foundation’s activities and also assist them in their education.

While in the convict’s house, the girls were subjected to domestic work and daily compulsory sexual activities as he slept with them daily to satisfy his sexual urges.

The girls ages 15, 17 and 18 (at the time) suffered exploitation for eight months until one of them escaped from the house and ran to a nearby church where she reported to some officials who subsequently reported the matter to NAPTIP. NAPTIP immediately swung into action and in a sting operation in Lugbe, Abuja, arrested the convict and rescued the girls whom he held hostage.

During the trial of the case which spanned a period of over 11 years, the convict who had once served a jail term in the United States of America for arms dealing was at all times opposing every procedural step taken by the prosecution and seeking for adjournments to delay the trial or frustrate the Agency to drop the case. However, the prosecution remained resolute and focused.

Reacting to the conviction, the Acting Director-General of NAPTIP, Mr. Abdulrazak Dangiri, said that NAPTIP has been vindicated at last. He explained that after a tortuous and rigorous trail, justice has been done. He also commended the three victims and other witnesses who gave useful evidence during the trial for their bravery and courage.

While appreciating the efforts of all key players leading to the conviction, he also commended the judiciary for its unwavering efforts in meting out punishment to human traffickers.

Josiah Emerole

Head, Press and Public Relations (NAPTIP)

The Supreme Court of Nigeria has upheld the conviction of a human trafficker, Serah Ekundayo Ezekiel, who had earlier been sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for trafficking in persons. The judgment brings to an end the legal battle which started in 2011 in Ikeja, Lagos.

In a unanimous decision on Friday, the five Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who sat on the matter upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division. In his lead Judgment, Justice C.C Nwaeze found no merit in the appeal and therefore, dismissed it.

Serah Ezekiel was dragged to the Federal High Court, Ikeja, Lagos on November 18, 2011 by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on behalf of the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation on an 18 Counts charge, all bothering on offences of trafficking in persons contrary to various sections of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 (as amended)

Ezekiel, who was 29 year old as at the time of committing the offence in July 2011 procured four females, aged 17, 19, 20 and 21 years from various parts of Lagos State and took them to Mali where they were used as prostitutes.

On arraignment, she pleaded guilty to all the counts and was subsequently found guilty, convicted on all the 18 counts and sentenced.

Aggrieved by her conviction and sentence, Serah Ezekiel approached the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division which affirmed the trial Court’s verdict. Still not satisfied, she approached the Apex Court which has dismissed the appeal for lack of merit.

Reacting to the Supreme Court judgment, Acting Director-General of NAPTIP, Mr. Abdulrazak Dangiri expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the appeal.

Nneka Aniagoh

For: Head, Press and Public Relations