From Rosemary Nwisi, Port Harcourt
Police in Rivers State said they have uncovered an illegal orphanage suspected to be used as a child trafficking facility in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
The orphanage known as “Tender Life Foundation Initiative” located in the Oyibo area of the state, was raided by men of the command on Tuesday.
All the occupants, including babies and expectant mothers were reportedly rescued.
Parading the rescued occupants before journalists, spokesman of the police command, Nnamdi Omoni, a Deputy Superintendent (DSP), said 25 children and four expectant teenagers were rescued during the operation, adding that the operator was equally apprehended.
Omoni said, “Today I am glad to inform you that operatives of the Eagle Crack in a covert operation yesterday (Tuesday) bust a child trafficking syndicate at Work in Port Harcourt where 25 babies between the ages of 1 and 2 years and four pregnant teenagers were recovered.
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“The babies and the pregnant teenagers who are frail and malnourished are currently receiving medical attention at the police clinic while investigation is still ongoing.”
Speaking through her lawyer, Eunice Onyema Uchendu, operator of the facility, claimed that the outfit was genuine and that she does not operate a baby factory but a duly registered nongovernmental organisation.
She further said that the NGO works in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation.
An official of the Tender Life Foundation Initiative, Onuche Richard, who was also arrested, equally claimed that the organisation is genuine.
He said “I was employed as a Programme Manager by the foundation. In the course of my interview the Executive Director (ED) here (pointing at the operator), told me that there are two projects they are running and that these two projects are being run in this building, one upstairs and one downstairs.
“She said that my office where I will work as a programme manager is downstairs and that on no condition should I go upstairs. Since November 18th, 2019 I have not climbed upstairs,” he alleged.