A couple in Ogun State, 46-year-old Abiola Wahab and Toyin Abiola, have given the heinous crime of child trafficking a despicable new face.
The couple were said to have been on the run for a long time until nemesis caught up with the duo in Obatoko, Ogun State and they were arrested. They are now cooling their heels in the custody of the Special Armed Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Ogun State Police Command, where they are undergoing interrogation.
The couple was alleged to have serially used their three-year-old son, an innocent toddler, as collateral to defraud a long list of victims, from whom they borrowed money or bought goods on credit, which they sold and never paid the creditors.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ahmed Illiyasu told Sunday Sun that the husband and wife allegedly defrauded large-scale distributors of goods.
Giving insight to the modus operandi of the duo, he said that they would visit a distributor, collect goods worth millions of naira, pay in some money and then disappear and never return to settle the debt. He said the couple had duped victims in Oyo, Lagos, Osun and Ogun states.
To facilitate their operation and avoid detection, the police commissioner said that the couple always switched the number plate on their vehicle, which they drove to the business premises of their victims. This way, they were able to make it impossible for the victim who may have copied the vehicle number to trace them.
Illiyasu added that the command had been receiving several complaints about a couple that was duping major distributors and deceitfully taking goods from them on credit but never returning to pay.
On the strength of the complaints, the police commissioner said that an investigation was launched by the command. Through diligent investigation, the police was able to track down the couple.
They were arrested during a raid by a team of SARS operatives. The commander of SARS, Supol Uba revealed that the couple was nabbed in a home they built in Ikire, Osun State.
When she spoke with Sunday Sun at the headquarters of SARS, Toyin disclosed that prior to her getting involved in the fraudulent act alleged against her, she had been engaged in distribution of rice.
Her words: “I was into distribution of rice in Ikiru, Osun state. In 2008, somebody duped me of N1 million after I had supplied rice. My clients were pestering me for their money. The case was transferred to State CID Oshogbo and I was arraigned in court.
The magistrate ordered that I be remanded at Ilesha prison and adjourned the case. I was nine months old pregnant at the time. I delivered my second child in prison. The day that the magistrate granted me bail was also the day I gave birth. I spent only five days in the prison, and that was why I named my baby Aishat Abiola. The court ordered that we pay off the money within one month, but I could not afford to pay. So I jumped bail.”
She explained further: “Life was so difficult for us, the family of my husband and my own family assisted us and gave us N770,000 naira. We used the money to buy a car in Apapa in 2013. My husband and myself started trading in rice again. We would go to Saki to buy rice and resell. One day, a Customs officer duped us.
That was also when we began to dupe other people. We have duped a lot of people. We would collect assorted drinks and promise to pay but we would not go back again.
“When we go to visit a prospective victim, I would wear a hijab to disguise myself and seem like a pious Muslim woman. I would pay an amount with a promise to pay the balance after selling the goods. But I never went back.”
Also speaking, her husband disclosed that he married Toyin 11 years ago and they had faced difficulties in the course of the marriage. During their alleged fraudulent activities, he told Sunday Sun that they often took along their three-year-old son and pretended that he was sick.
“We used our three-year-old son as collateral in the deal and pretend that he was not feeling well,” Wahab said.
The unfortunate victims would because of the ill-health of the toddler show pity on the couple and allow them to go away with goods while temporarily leaving behind the supposedly sick child in the care of the victim, with the promise that they would come back to collect him and pay for the goods. Craftily, the wife would come back to take the child and disappear.
The couple’s cookie crumbled when they were perfecting arrangements for another duping expedition. As they were relaxing in the comfort of their home, SARS operatives who had been on their trail swooped on them and their child and arrested them.
Following their confessions during interrogation, the detectives invited some of the victims, who positively identified the duo, who the police commissioner assured would be charged to court soon.