Paul Owne, the mastermind of the trafficking and sale of nine missing children found in Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria has been sentenced to 104 years in prison.
Owne was convicted on Friday, July 30, of human trafficking, kidnapping, among other charges by a State High Court in Kano, Northwest Nigeria.
The sitting judge, Justice Zuwaira Yusuf sentenced the accused to prison with an additional fine of N100,000 for conspiracy with six others to kidnap the minors from Kano State and sell them off in far away Onitsha, Anambra State.
Owne was arraigned before the court on 38 count charges alongside five others namely; Where Ogbono, Emanuel Igwe, Loise Duru, Monica Oracha and Chinelo Ifedigwe.
Delivering the judgement, Justice Yusuf explained that Owne was convicted on three categories of offences with multiple counts after he pleaded guilty.
“In the first category, the court upheld that the convict was found guilty of counts 2, 8, 9, 27 and 34,” the judge said. She sentenced the accused to seven years each without option of fine in addition to the payment of the sum of N100,000.
Similarly, the court found Owne guilty of counts 3, 5, 10, 11, 22, 28 and 38 and was sentenced to 7 years in prison. While in the last category, Justice Yusuf said Owne’s action was in contravention of count 4, 12, 13, 29 and 38. She, therefore, convicted him to four years in prison for each count without the option of a fine.
The nine kidnapped children were discovered and reunited with their families in October 2019, according to a Daily Trust report. In Jan. 2021, another set of five missing children were recovered from Anambra and Enugu states, according to a Vanguard report.
According to a United States’ State Department Trafficking in Persons report, Nigeria remains a source, transit, and destination country when it comes to human trafficking.
In Africa, a total of 1,493 prosecutions (up from 995 in 2019) and 382 convictions (considerably down from 2,112 in 2019) were generated in 2020.
In Global Slavery Index (2018) Report, Nigeria ranks 32/167 of the countries with the highest number of slaves – 1,386,000 – and its National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) reports that the highest number of trafficked children in Nigeria, recently upgraded to a Tier 2.
NAPTIP further contends that 75 per cent of those who are trafficked within Nigeria are trafficked across states, while 23 per cent are trafficked within states. Only 2 per cent of those who are trafficked are trafficked outside the country, according to NAPTIP.
It is the third most common crime in Nigeria after drug trafficking and economic fraud, according to the United Nations.
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