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Ekaette Unoma Akpabio: Crusading against Child Theft By Osondu Ahirika

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It is a litany of sad tales. From the odious to the unexpected. Outrageous and bizarre to the tenth degree. Grave enough to prick the mothers heart of the founder of the Family Life Enhancement Initiative and First Lady of Akwa Ibom State, Her Excellency, Mrs Ekaette Unoma Akpabio. Here are a few stories that shocked us all in the last few days.
Case study 1
Men of the Abia State’s command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps have arrested two men, Chibuike Anibuife and Jonathan Nwogu, allegedly caught with a dead baby girl in a sack. In a media briefing, the state’s Commandant of NSCDC, Mr. Andy Dateer, said the suspects were arrested by NSCDC men on patrol at Ariaria Junction, Osisioma near Aba . He explained that the suspects were initially intercepted by some residents who wanted to lynch them after the discovery of the corpse of the little girl, who was said to be about three years old, stuffed into a sack. Apparently, the corpse was to be disposed like a piece of thrash.
Case study 2.
A certain Muyideen Salaam, a 35 year-old apprentice at Aketegbo community in Seme, Badagry area of Lagos, recently gave a chilling confession of how he killed a 13 year-old boy, Rilwan Amuda, in his crave for materialism. The Ibadan-born suspect claimed he was tempted to opt for money ritual after his wife left with their two children when feeding became an uphill task for him.
Case study 3:
Then, there is this 64-year‑old herbalist, has recounted his confession, on how h buried a 68-year‑old retired Customs officer and her 10-year‑old adopted daughter alive in a shallow grave behind his shrine in Ajuwon, Ogun State.
Alfa  Olatunji Azeez, who was paraded by the command’s boss, Umar Manko, showed no sign of remorse as he said he committed the act in order to prevent the victim from demanding N9 million he used to prepare concoction for her.
Those are by no means exhaustive. If the breaking news shocked you, it pained Her Excellency even more. Our society has drifted to the low level of, “One day, One tragedy.” Ritual killings. Abductions. Child labour and trafficking. Baby factories and market. Girls who are bonded to sex slavery and trafficked across the border are predominant abominations that have rocked our communities. These matters are weighty enough to rouse the attention of Mrs Akpabio.
Yet again, on Sunday, July 20, 2014, the Akwa Ibom First Lady better known as Mother Theresa, on account of her charitable exploits mobilized and commenced a crusade to save the child. That she chose to start it from the grassroot is significant. The hinterland is where the social scourges, heretofore mentioned, have laid unabating siege. That fateful day, three Churches were visited on what amounted missionary journey. Christ Faith Church, Utu,  Qua Iboe Church Ikpe Atai, Nkwot Superitendency, both in Etim Ekpo Local Government Area and The Apostolic Church, Ikot Akpa Nkuk, Ukanafun Local Government made the list of this visitation.
Before this, the sensitization tour had taken Her Excellency to some churches in Ini, Ikono and Ikot Ekpene Local Government Areas. Mrs. Akpabio warned parents to desist from giving their children out to child thieves and traffickers who come to them with enticing offers of jobs and money to lure their young girls into prostitution and bondage in baby factories, where they are made to have babies which are later sold or used for rituals.

She also used such occasions, to remind the worshippers that with the enactment of the Widows’ Rights law in the state last year, it is now a punishable offence to make a widow undergo obnoxious practices such as disinheritance, forced shaving of hair or drinking of corpse water.
Other Churches visited in the ongoing crusade include, The Presbyterian Church,  The Life and Light Church, both in Ogu, Itu Mbonuso, Ini LGA, Methodist Church, Iton Odoro, Ikono LGA, and The Apostolic Church, Ikot Obong Edong, Ikot Ekpene,
The child rights sensitisation outreach was also taken to  churches in Obot Akara, Essien Udim and Abak local government areas of the state.
Among the churches visited was St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Nto Edino, and  St. Thomas Catholic Church, also in Nto Edino, Obot Akara.
Tens of hundreds of women and several more kids and youths were targeted and have so far been reached by the First Lady.
The message was simple but thought provoking. Mothers arise and Save the Children. She frowned against the near abandonment of under age children to their fate, decried the granting of early independence and weaning of children from parental care, counselling and guidance; lamented the misfortune of children who are given out by unsuspecting parents to supposed uncles, auntie’s or close acquaintances as house helps, with all manner of promises, only for the children to be subjected to the most horrendous existence possible, but unknown to their parents.
Children are bought and sold like food items or packaged products in the open and black markets. Many, especially teenage girls, are hounded down to becoming baby making machines. The babies are sold out as soon as they are born with nothing for the hapless mother and without recourse to her parents back in the village, who remain unaware of the birth of a would have been grandchild. Kids are forced into child labour. Hawking during school hours, inspite of the ongoing gratia of the free and compulsory education programme of the Akpabio led administration. Ritual killing of children with missing body parts are on the rise. Her Excellency was evidently heart broken.
Her melancholic mood over these sad oddities was easily infectious, as tears could have freely had its flow.
Mrs Akpabio pleaded with the women to arise and redress the wrongs meted to our children. The plea was pertinent. Stop giving out your children to people in trust. Tarry with them, come rain or shine. Take advantage of the free and compulsory education and give our children an assured future. Protect them from rampaging paedophiles, kidnappers and evil men by keeping them close, under watch, guidance and supervision. The message was well delivered.
As Chairperson of Family Life Enhancement Initiative (FLEI),
Her Excellency, Mrs. Ekaette Unoma Akpabio, has undertaken several programmes which add verve to, and inspires her current crusading, which is set to continue. The multiple births programme.  The less privileged reach out programme.  The Family Life Enhancement Initiative’s Shelter Support  for widows, which has seen over 80 houses donated to widows across the State, the latest being a widow at Christ Faith Church Utu Etim Ekpo whose mud and thatch roofed house was gutted by fire, coinciding with Her Excellencies visit. Her known support for the disabled and Physically challenged,  Empowerment Programmes, Rehabilitation Centres, and the massive project to rehabilitate abandoned and stigmatized children are all the multiple operations embarked upon with great impact by this woman of substance. We can’t forget, that in April 2014, the Maitama area of Ewet housing, notorious as a red light district with steady sex workers and the street wares which have become compliments of this despicable revelry  was cleared out by  Mrs Ekaette Unoma Akpabio. To rid the area of prostitutes, she personally intervened and took upon herself the mission to re-orient and rehabilitate the girls there. Her strong advocacy for girl child education and women empowerment cannot be over stated.
It is this stellar activism that we must salute, rally around and support, for the betterment of society. Interestingly, Mrs Akpabio doled out cash gifts and clothings to the widows at every Church she visited. Touching lives and changing fortunes.

The seriousness of her mission was amplified by the strength of the delegation she led. They include, the woman she introduced as her Deputy Women Leader, and wife of the Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government, Mrs Martha Udom, wife of the Deputy Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Lady Ime Udo kiriean, and Honourable Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr Aniekan Umana and spouse Maureen, as well his Women Affairs counterpart, Dr Gloria Udoh. Others are, wives of the Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, and Agriculture, Mrs Inemesit Enobong Uwah and Mrs Gloria Godwin Afangideh, spouse of the Special Adviser on Technical Matters, Mrs Nse Etido Inyang and Mrs Asuama Sydney, Co-ordinator of FLEI.
The aggregate support these very important persons lent to this crusade serves to magnify the seriousness attached to this advocacy initiated by Mrs Akpabio.

Adding her voice to the homily on Child Rights, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel warned that the child predators are becoming more and more ingenious in their operations and called on parents, especially mothers to be safety conscious at all times as their children are gifts entrusted in their care by God. She also warned children to refrain from talking to or accepting gifts from strangers, which could lead to abduction. She added that young girls are especially vulnerable to this threat and advised girls to avoid greed and be contented in what their parents can afford so they do not get lured into the dangerous trap.
In the coming days, the crusade can only gain speed and ennervate the momentum of confronting the evil days visited on our children. As she has vowed, the crusade will not relent until all 31 Council Areas in the three Senatorial Districts are covered.

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