They were still suspects until yesterday when Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos pronounced them guilty and handed them 41 years imprisonment for trafficking in person.
The convicts are: Precious Owoh, a.k.a. Ejiro, 32, Blessing Gabriel, a.k.a. 28, Precious, and Rose Gabriel, 28
They were pronounced guilty of charges leveled against them by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
The three convicts who are residents of 15, Adewunmi Adeogesun Street, Ajah, Camp 4, Block 10, Room 7, Ojo Military Cantonment, Ojo, all in Lagos State, were arraigned before the court sometimes in October 2015, on a four-count charge bordering on recruiting, trafficking, exporting, promoting and facilitating the prostitution of one Udeogu Ann Ugochi, 27 years, in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, for prostitution.
They were said to have committed the act with one Otubo Nicole, who is said to be at large, between October 2014 and July, 2015.
The offences according to the prosecution, are contrary to and punishable under Sections 13(1)(2)(b), 13(4)(a)(c), 14(b) and 18 of the Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
The convicts had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were accordingly admitted to bail on different terms, but the first and second convicts, Precious and Blessing were unable to meet the bail terms.
During their trial, the prosecution called four witnesses, who include: the victim, Udeogu Ann Ugochi, and three intelligence officers of the agency.
The victim, during the trial told the court how she was contacted by the third convict, at the instance of the second convict, who linked her up with the first convict, whom she said had contacted the second convict to recruit for her the illicit profession.
She also told the court how the first convict paid for her trip to Dubai, and on getting to Dubai, how she introduced her to prostitution.
She told the court that before departing Nigeria to Dubai, she was made to believe that she would be engaged in Dubai in a vocational job only to be introduced into prostitution on getting to Dubai.
She also told the court how the first convict subjected her to all sorts of inhuman treatment, for failure to do her biddings in the unwholesome profession.
She further told the court how she contacted her sister in Nigeria for return ticket when she could no longer bear the hardship imposed on her by the first convict, who sent her money for return ticket, and that upon her arrival, she was arrested at the Airport and taken to the NAPTIP office for interrogation, which led to the arrest of the convicts.
Also, all the intelligence officers of the agency during the trial narrated before the court the roles each of them played in arresting the convicts, and how they were investigated.
However, delivering judgment in the suit, the Presiding Judge, Justice Kuewumi said, “from the totality of the evidence of the prosecution, I am satisfied that the prosecution has successful proved its case against all the defendants.
“Consequently, the first and second, defendants are guilty of count one, two, three and four. While the third defendant is guilty of only count one and two, but discharged and acquitted of count three and four”.
Following the pronouncement of the judge, lawyer to the convicts, Oke Ojakove, in his allucutor, pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy, as the convicts are first time offenders.
He said, “I plead for leniency, they are first time offenders, they have learnt their lesson bitterly, they are mother’s of very little kids”.
Ojakovo, also urged the court to give the convicts a reformatory sentence in accordance with Section 416(2)(b) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act ACJA, 2015. And for court to consider the days they have spent in detention.
He also begged the court to impose the fine option of the sentence.
Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Kuewumi said, “I have listened to the allucutor of the counsel to the convicts, the offence of trafficking in persons is a very serious offence, it has affect the image of the country internationally, consequently, the first and second convicts are hereby sentence to two years in count one, and five years in count two, three and four. And the third convict is hereby sentenced to two and five years on count one and two only”.
Justice Kuewumi however awarded the sum of N250, 000, for count one and N1 million as option for count two, three and four, for each of the convicts. The judge also ordered that the jail terms are to run concurrently.