By Ikenna Obianeri

 A Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting in Awka, Anambra State, has sentenced a 42-year-old woman, Victoria Enwerem (Anosike), to 18 years’ imprisonment for stealing children.

Enwerem was arraigned in the Children, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court on three counts of conspiracy to steal children, fraudulently enticing and habouring children, and forcefully isolating children from the lawful possession of their parents.

The offences are punishable under the Criminal Code, Laws of Anambra State of Nigeria 1991, and the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition and Protection) Laws of Anambra State, 2017.

The five stolen children were between the ages of three and 10.

While delivering judgement in the matter, the presiding Chief Magistrate, Genevieve Osakwe, found the defendant guilty of all three counts.

The chief magistrate noted that based on the oral testimonies of the defendant and the submissions of the plaintiff witnesses, there were overwhelming pieces of evidence against the defendant.

In sentencing the defendant, Osakwe slammed Enwerem with four-year imprisonment on count one, eight years on count two, and six months on count three.

The sentences are to run concurrently without an option of fine.

According to the police prosecutor, Enwerem in September 2022 conspired with one Oluchi Ahamefula, now at large, to steal children at MCC Junction, Onitsha, Anambra State, with a view to moving the children to an unknown destination.

But luck ran out on her when she was caught by men of the Nigeria Police Force, who were on a stop-and-search operation at Oraifite, Anambra State.

She was granted bail, but escaped and was later tracked and apprehended at a remote part of Ebonyi State with two other underage kids, whom she stole from their parents.

It was later discovered that she had continued the business of stealing children while hiding in Ebonyi State.

However, when the convict was arraigned a second time, she told the court that her counsel deceived her by collecting an undisclosed amount of money from her and informing her to stop coming to court with a promise that she (lawyer) and the defence counsel would scuttle the case.

Visibly angry, the presiding magistrate described the attitude of the defense counsel as “unprofessional legal practice.”

The chief Magistrate commended the Nigeria Police Force for their doggedness and commitment, especially in tracking and recapturing the convict to face trial.

She urged the Women and Social Welfare Ministry, Awka, to write to the Ministry of Women Affairs, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to see that the orphanage home being managed by Enwerem was closed down.

Reacting to the sentence, the Anambra State Women and Social Welfare Commissioner, Mrs Ify Obinabo, expressed happiness at the speedy trial of the case.

She assured that the ministry would work with her counterpart in Rivers State to ensure that the said orphanage home was sealed off to save unsuspecting members of the public.

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