Officials of the Department of State Security (DSS) in Akwa Ibom State yesterday paraded a Catholic priest and 20 others for their alleged involvement in child theft.
The priest, Rev Okono Joseph of St Peter’s Parish of Owerri Catholic Diocese in Imo State, was arrested for buying two boys, age three and four years, at N900,000.
State Deputy Director, Fubara Duke, who spoke at the DSS headquarters in Uyo, said the cleric bought the children self-styled man of God bought the children from an agent sponsored by Uche Joel Canice Onyekedru from Ogiri in Imo State.
Other suspects are: Mercy Etim; Collins Edet; Caroline Nkwonna; Cecilla Ngene; Eleka Okoye; Nwaonu Okoro; Adaobi Onyeke; Elizabeth Onubogu, Umeh, Ebele Nwadika, Florence Onyodobi, Emenka Anaefuna, Nnamdi Onuchukwu, Ifeoma Gladys Nweze, Chiyneyen Roseline, Idam Vivian Ogbona and David Ogbuagu.
The deputy director noted that over 60 children had been sold in the last eight months, adding that leader of the syndicate, Onyekedru, had lost count of the number of children he has sold off to members of the public.
According to Duke: “He (Onyekedru) usually operates in conjunction with agents, who liaise with government officials in children homes and maternity hospitals.
“The investigation took our men to Abia, Imo and Ebonyi states before they arrested some of the suspects. Over 20 children were rescued.
“Though some of the suspects are still at large, efforts are being intensified to ensure that they are all arrested”, he said.
The SSS boss advised parents to be wary of strange faces.