Uncertainties are still surrounding the whereabouts of Mrs Ngozi Nweze and her two children: Elochukwu and Wisdom, who were taken away from their abode on June 15, 2015 by their neighbour who sold them in Imo State.
Until his recovery by the officials of the Ebonyi State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development recently, her first son, Daniel, was also part of the persons trafficked to the state and sold like a common commodity.
The family hails from Umuezeoka community in Ezza North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. The four were lured to Imo State on the fateful day by their neighbor, whose name was simply given as Amaechi.
Before that fateful day, it was gathered that life was hellish for the poor family of the Nwezes. The breadwinner of the family had kicked the bucket, leaving his young wife and three children, whose ages range from seven to 13, behind.
To feed, the widow worked herself to the bones in order to raise money. And in all she did, helps appeared not to be coming from anywhere. There were series of bills to pay, ranging from school fees to clothing the children.
It was perhaps based on the obvious predicament of the family that their neighbour, Amaechi, allegedly lured them to Imo State with a promise to offer the widow a plum job through which she would be able to take care of her children.
Like the proverbial goat that goes to the slaughterhouse, Ngozi prepared the family for the journey. And on the fateful day, they bid their villagers goodbye not knowing that they had set out for a precarious journey which return was uncertain.
On arrival at Owerri, the Imo State capital, 13-year-old Daniel, was separated from his family as he was sold to one Madam Peppe who reportedly resides in Mbaise community in the same state for N300,000.
But the business went sour when the boy sneaked out of his buyer’s house during a renaming ceremony reportedly staged for him by his buyers and ran into a team of mobile policemen on patrol.
The Director, Child Development Department in the Ebonyi State Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development, Mr Godwin Igwe, who had been on the matter confirmed the incident.
He disclosed that the trafficker who also hails from the same Ebonyi community sold Daniel to the said Madam Peppe, noting that the whereabouts of the other family members remained unknown.
“What happened was that a human trafficker hoodwinked his mother and two other siblings to Imo State and probably sold or gave them out to different people.
“The story has it that the person who bought this Daniel Nweze organized a renaming ceremony. But as they were entertaining themselves lavishly, the child sneaked out.
“In the course of running back home, he ran into policemen on patrol and they then took the child to an orphanage home in the state”, he said.
Daniel’s uncle, Ven. Silas Nweze, said that he got the message about the family’s disappearance a month after the incident happened.
“It was on July 2015 that I got a message that some policemen from Imo State came to our place with Daniel. I rushed to Imo State to find out. So, when I got there, I discovered that the police kept him in their facility.
“On inquiry, I was told that somebody in a nearby compound sold Daniel out to one Mr Solo from Mbaise in Imo State on one Eke market day together with his two siblings and mother. Mr Solo later sold Daniel to one Madam Peppe for N300,000”, he narrated.
But a source who preferred anonymity gave a conflicting account. “It was Mr Solo that sold this boy to a woman called Madam Peppe. Then, they organized a party, as they said; to rename him, but the boy refused to answer the name and insisted on answering his real name.
“The woman was shocked by his spontaneous rejection of the new name and she immediately demanded her money back. She accused Mr Solo of selling an ‘old man’ to her. She told him to come and take the boy back.
“In the morning, Mr Solo came and an argument over the refund of N300,000 ensured between them. The boy, having eavesdropped on their argument, ran out of the house.
“Incidentally, he ran into a team of mobile policemen on patrol. He took the police to the scene of the incident after narrating his ordeal to them. On getting to the scene, the argument was still on.
“The police arrested them, but one week later, they were released. After they were released, Mr Solo ran away”, the source said.
Receiving the boy in her office, the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Women’s Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Rebecca Ogbuewu, said that it took the ministry three years of consistent efforts to recover him from a motherless babies’ home where the police had sent him to.
She said that when the mission to recover the boy became too tough for the officials of the ministry she had detailed to bring the boy back, she liaised with her counterpart in Imo State who assisted to ensure that the child was released to the Ebonyi State government.
She, however, promised to rehabilitate the child and ensure he is properly taken care of; even as she vowed that his siblings and mother must be discovered no matter what it would take.