A Federal High Court in Lagos has sentenced a 55-year-old woman, Patricia Igbinovia, to seven years imprisonment for trafficking young girls abroad for prostitution.
The court also ordered the convict to pay the sum of N1m for her illicit act, in addition to the sentence.
The convict was arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke by the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
She was charged on six-count bordering on trafficking young girls, promoting girls prostitution and sexual exploitation.
Igbinovia pleaded guilty to the charge.
In the charge, the Prosecutor, Mrs Becky Jibo, said the convict belonged to a cartel which organises and sponsors foreign travel for girls, to promote prostitution and sexual exploitation .
She said the convict recruited girls to go from Lagos to Málaga in Spain for prostitution.
Following the convict’s guilty plea, the prosecutor appealed to review the facts of the case which the court granted.
The prosecutor called a witness, one Mrs Mabel Bajulaiye, a member of the team which investigated the intelligence about the Nigerian organised crime group.
The witness told the court how sometime in 2016, the Federal Government through the office of the Attorney General, received an intelligence about a crime group that traffic young girls to Madrid and Málaga in Spain.
Bajulaiye said the girls were made to work as prostitutes for sexual exploitation and monetary gain.
According to the witness, the crime was uncovered due to the synergy between the Nigerian and Spanish Governments on human trafficking and prostitution.
She said the Spanish authority uncovered the group and consequently, contacted the Nigerian authority through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
She said the case was referred to NAPTIP for investigation.
She added that while in NAPTIP, the case was handed over to a joint task force within the agency, which investigates foreign cases.
The witness further testified how a team of investigators from Spain came to Nigeria and revealed the arrest of some members of the group including one Cynthia Orjiakor and Katie James.
“Shortly after, a team of investigators from Nigeria had to travel to Spain to gather more intelligence on the case.
“The team was told that they were going to send more intelligence to Nigeria to help in the investigation,” she said.
She told the court that some documents were sent to the Ministry of Justice, while the ministry forwarded the documents to NAPTIP.
She added that it was discovered that the convict changed her real name at different times, from Patricia Ekhoe Igbinovia to Mama Bobby and Mariam Audu Olayemi, respectively.
Prosecution also tendered exhibits through the witness, which the court admitted.
The testimony of the witness was not objected.
Justice Aneke consequently, convicted the defendant as charged.
During plea for mercy, the Defence Counsel, Mr Uche Okoronkwo, urged the court to tamper justice with mercy, adding that the convict was remorseful and pleaded guilty without wasting the time of the court.
Okoronkwo urged the court to show leniency.
In his verdict, Justice Aneke said the court had listened to the plea for leniency, by defence, especially as the convict did not waste the time of the court.
“The court is not unmindful of the harm and trauma the activities of the convict has done to the country before the international community,” Aneke said.
He noted that her illicit activities had affected the country’s image internationally.
Consequently, the court sentenced the convict to seven years imprisonment and a fine of N1 million.
The offence of human trafficking contravenes the provisions of section 18 of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2015.