By Busari Yusuf
The family of 15-year-old Ajala Samuel thought they could briefly use him to raise money for some urgent family needs. But four months after handing him over to a Lagos trader, identified as Iya Meta, who paid them N8,000, his whereabouts had yet to be known by the parents, PUNCH reports.
It was learnt that Iya Meta allegedly loaned Samuel to some traders on Lagos Island, who paid N72,000 for him.
The traders were alleged to have further given him out to another family somewhere in the state.
Two policewomen, identified as Titi and Funmilayo from the Ijora Badia division, were accused of harassing the family to refund the N72,000 paid to Iya Meta, failing which Samuel would be forced to work till October 2017 when the contract would expire.
His stepfather, Idowu Isiaka, said the family’s crisis started in June 2016 when he lost his job.
He said, “I worked as a security guard for a traditional ruler. When a banner displaying the man’s picture was stolen, I was put in a police cell for a week before I was released and told that I had lost my job.
“At that time, Ajala’s mother just had a surgery and she needed money for medications. I borrowed a motorcycle from a friend and started using it to work. Later, I had an accident with the motorcycle and broke a man’s leg. The motorcycle was seized from me and I was asked to raise money for the victim’s treatment.
“I called my wife and told her that we needed to raise money by all means. I told her about Iya Meta, who lived in the community and always said she needed teenagers to work for her. We agreed to take Ajala (Samuel) to her so we could raise some money.”
Iya Meta offered them N8,000 as payment for the two months that Samuel would work for her.
The 39-year-old Kwara State indigene said at the expiration of the period, he was surprised that Samuel did not return home as agreed.
He said he went to Iya Meta’s house in Ijora Badia, Lagos, and discovered she had packed out.
He said, “When I called her on the telephone, she said she was in Seme (Benin Republic) on a business trip and she had taken the boy along. She apologised for not telling me. She said Ajala (Samuel) was at home and when she got home, I would speak with him. She didn’t call back that day.
“The following day, I called her and she told me that she had actually lied to me. She said the boy was with some people whom she had problem with. She told me the case was at the Ijora Badia Police Station and one officer Titi would tell us where the child was.”
Isiaka explained that he went to the station with his wife and officer Titi told them that they must pay N72,000 before the boy would be released.
He explained that the policewoman made them to realise that the money was the amount paid to Iya Meta for the victim’s service. He added that officer Titi said Samuel would not be released until October when the contract would terminate.
The Director of the Lagos State Office of the Public Defender, Mrs. Olubukola Salami, said the agency was working with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other related Matters, to ensure that the victim was rescued.