Two senior staff in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, were among the four persons arraigned by the Federal Government on Wednesday over their alleged involvement in human trafficking.
The Chief Accountant on Grade Level 14 in the Office of the AGF, Innocent Bola-Audu and an Assistant Executive Officer on Grade Level 13, Cecilia Nkiruka Aneke; Sunny Ochinyabo and his wife, Irene were docked before Justice Charles Agbaza of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi area of Abuja, according to the charge sheet with Ref. No. CR/080/2021, by National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons following their alleged involvement in the recruitment of a 22 years old girl, Kehinde Mustapha living in Oturkpo area of Benue State into child surrogacy.
The Office of the AGF had issued query to the two staffers to which they should respond within 48 hours, following a letter by NAPTIP to the AGF with Ref. NAPTIP/INV/OPS/2899/I, dated March 9 2021, titled: ‘Update on investigation activities: Bola Audu-Innocent, Aneke Cecilia Nkiruka.’
Bola-Audu, a former President, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria had confirmed that he was arrested by NAPTIP and detained for two weeks over alleged human trafficking but was not told who sent a petition against him.
He had said, “All I know is that I was arrested by NAPTIP, alleging that I’m suspected of trafficking in persons. They never showed me anybody who complained, they said they are still investigating me. They detained me for two weeks.”
Bola-Audu, Sunny Ochinyabo, Irene Ochinyabo and Cecilia Aneke, were listed as first, second, third and fourth defendants respectively.
The accused persons were arraigned on a four count charges of abuse of position of vulnerability for the purpose of her exploitation.
The offences, according to the prosecution contravened Sections 13 (2) and 27 of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
When the charges were read to them, they all pleaded not guilty and pleaded for bail.
Lawyer to the first defendant, Samuel Zibiri (SAN), raised an application for his client to be granted bail on self recognition as there are no circumstances on record that can militate against granting him bail.
A similar application for bail was argued by both the lawyer representing Sunny Ochinyabo and his wife, Oghenovo Otemu and Lucky Odigie, lawyer for Cecilia Aneke.
The applications for the bail were not opposed by the counsel to the Federal Government (NAPTIP), Dr. Hassan Liman (SAN).
Delivering his ruling, Justice Agbaza granted each of the four accused persons N10 million bail, with a surety who must be a civil servant of not less than Level 10 and must have evidence of residency in Abuja.
He therefore adjourned the case till September 22 and 23 for hearing.
NAPTIP’s petition copied to the Office of Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan and Secretary-General of ASCSN, Alade Lawal, was signed by its Director (Administration), Effeh P. Ekrika, for its Director-General.
The letter read, “I am directed to respectfully inform you that the agency has commenced investigation on above named staff of your organisation concerning a suspected case of human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable persons involving them, contrary to the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
“The agency, therefore deems it necessary to update you that investigation is ongoing and your office will be updated on further development on the case.
“While appreciating your supporting in the fight against human trafficking and its associated crimes, please accept as always the assurance of the Director-General’s esteemed regard.”
The two-paragraphed query by the Office of the AGF with Ref. ADM/DISC/05/110, dated March 11 2021 was issued by the Deputy Director (Appointment, Promotion and Discipline), V. O. Wategire on behalf of the AGF.
“I am directed to inform you that the office received a letter the from the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) concerning a suspected case of human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable persons in which your name featured (copy attached). In view of the above, you are requested to submit your comments on the matter within 48 hours of the receipt of this letter”, it read.