The Nigeria Immigration Service Kebbi State Command has arrested a cleric while trafficking 21 children from Nigeria to Mauritania and Senegal through the Kebbi border post.
The Islamic cleric whose name was given as Husseini Sulieman Idris, a native of Bida in Niger State was arrested at Kangiwa Border Post of the Nigeria Immigration Service in Arewa Local Government Area of Kebbi State as he tried to move the children out of the country with fake ECOWAS passports
While briefing journalists at the NIS Command in Birnin Kebbi, the State Comptroller Rabi Bashir Nuhu said upon interrogation, the cleric claimed he was taking the children to Senegal for Maulud celebration from where he planned to move them to Mauritania to seek Islamic knowledge.
The Comptroller said in their investigation it was discovered that the ECOWAS passports with which the cleric was moving the 21 children out of the country were fake.
She said, “From what he told us, we suspected the cleric was trafficking the children out of Nigeria. What is disturbing is that the victims are minors, particularly the two girls that are among the 19 boys.
“Though the cleric, Sulieman claimed he was moving the children to Mauritania with the consent of their parents but we don’t believe him. We know the children are being trafficked.
“The victims are minors and many of them are still in JSS in their various schools in Bauchi, Kano and Benin, Edo states. How come they are being moved out of the country to another country for Islamic knowledge where they have nobody, no relations?” She queried.
“We are not against people going to other countries to seek Islamic knowledge but they must have relevant papers. In the case of these children all their ECOWAS passports are fake,” the Comptroller said.
Nuhu warned that the NIS will not tolerate moving of persons out of the country under any disguise to traffic them. She warned parents against allowing their children to be moved out of the country to where they have no relations by people with ulterior motives.
While responding to questions from journalists, the cleric, Idris claimed he was moving the children to Senegal and Mauritania with the consent of their parents.
He said, “This is not the first time, I had moved some of them to Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal in the past to seek Islamic knowledge. I’m not aware that the ECOWAS passports they issued to the children are fake.”
Some of the children who spoke to journalists claimed that their parents were aware of their journey to Mauritania and Senegal and that they even paid for the trip.
While accepting the children from the NIS, representative of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Sadiq Abubakar Atiku, said they will immediately commence investigation into the matter and will rehabilitate the children before they are reunited with their families.