Operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) have intercepted and rescued 10 persons who were being trafficked to Moscow, Russia, the agency said in a statement Sunday.
They were intercepted on Saturday night at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in an operation code-named ‘Operation BLOCK’ while trying to board a Turkish Airline flight to Russia using the 2018 World Cup as an avenue for travelling.
The rescued victims comprise nine young girls and a boy.
Five of the rescued persons are from Edo State, three are from Delta State, while the remaining are from Imo and Benue states.
Eight of them reside in Benin City while the other two reside in Warri and Osogbo respectively.
It was from these locations, NAPTIP SAID, that they were moved simultaneously on Friday to Lagos for the journey to Russia. They all had the FIFA Fan ID.
NAPTIP said five suspects, including Esan Matthew, a police sergeant, and Stephen Fayemiwo, a quarantine officer, were also arrested as they were caught coordinating the movement of the victims.
Three others – Azeez Olowo, Idowu Fashakin and Eni Godwin – were also arrested for assisting the victims.
Last week, Julie Okah-Donli, the Director-General of NAPTIP, raised concerns that criminal gangs were using the relaxed entry into Russia for the 2018 World Cup to recruit Nigerian youth to Russia for exploitation.
She also stated that operatives of the agency were working on some intelligence gathered and were on the trail of the criminal gangs and their potential victims.
‘’These traffickers have continued to mount pressure on some youths and their parents forcing them to part with huge sums of money in exchange for a Russian visa’’, Ms Okah-Donli had said.
According to NAPTIP, the latest potential victims bean their movement to Lagos on Friday from their various locations to meet their recruiters.
The agency said its operatives had been monitoring the communications between the suspected traffickers and their victims and followed them up until they were stopped at the point of departure at the airport.
“Four of the victims arrived Obalende, Lagos, at various times on Friday from Benin City, Edo State to a place called Sura Market and kept in a room in a shanty at the Sura area of Lagos.
“Operatives who followed them kept vigil at that location until Saturday at about 3 p.m. when the movement to the airport commenced.
“The gangs used two Lagos yellow painted taxis. One taxi carried two potential victims (PVoTs) with a young man later identified as Azeez Olowo sitting in the front passenger’s seat while the second taxi also carried two PVoTs with a young man later identified as Idowu Fashakin also sitting in the front passenger’s seat.”
Upon arrival at the International Airport at about 5.25 p.m., the agency continued, the four PVoTs alighted with their luggage and the two suspects that accompanied them.
The two suspects, Messrs Fashakin and Olowo, started making phone calls while the four PVoTs were standing by a corner outside the departure hall for over one and half hours awaiting further directives, NAPTIP said.
Shortly after, Mr Olowo met and held discussions with one man who was eventually identified as Eni Godwin.
“Later on, one Mathew Esan who was later identified as a police officer went to meet with Eni Godwin who was standing a few meters away from the four PVoTs, and had a chat with him for a while. Thereafter, Matthew Esan went to the girls and held discussion with them and the situation was like that of a teacher addressing his students.
“Not too long after this meeting, one Stephen Fayemiwo who was later identified as a Quarantine Personnel came to meet the girls where they were sitting outside the departure hall, addressed them and handed to each of them their travel documents including their International Passports, Russian 2010 FIFA ID Card and Turkish Airline tickets.
“He thereafter, led them into the departure hall and facilitated their check-in at the Turkish airline counter where he was eventually arrested.
“His arrest was simultaneously done with the other four persons who had NAPTIP operative marking them closely. Stephen Fayemiwo (Quarantine Officer) was arrested beside the Turkish Airline counter, Mathew Esan (Police officer) and Idowu Fashakin were arrested beside the passage queue of Turkish Airline while Eni Godwin and Azeez Olowo were arrested outside the departure hall by Gate D entrance.”
NAPTIP said its operatives rescued five other PVoTs who were refused boarding by the Airline because they had only one-way ticket to Russia. The male amongst the PVOTs was stopped because his sponsor in Russia is linked to one of the five female PVoTs rescued.
“They were all taking to the office of the Aviation Security where they were documented before they were taken to NAPTIP Lagos Command for further investigation. This operation was supported by officials of the Aviation Security (AVSEC) , Department of State Service (DSS) and the Joint Border Task Force (JBTF) which NAPTIP is a member.”