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Benin Prominent Socialite Convicted  For Human Trafficking, Gets  12-Year Imprisonment, N24M Fine

Daud Olatunji 

In a relentless pursuit of its mission to eradicate human trafficking and ensure that offenders face justice, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has achieved a significant victory. 

A well-known socialite in Benin City and a high-profile human trafficker, Felicia Osaigbovo, alias Mama Masha, has been convicted and sentenced to a 12-year prison term.

Additionally, she faces a hefty fine of N24 million, a ruling handed down by the Honorable Justice Geraldine Imadegbelo of the High Court, Criminal Division, Benin City.

Felicia Osaigbovo, a 62-year-old member of a human trafficking syndicate, stood accused of playing a key role in the recruitment and trafficking of 12 Nigerian girls to Belgium for sexual exploitation.

Remarkably, 12 collaborators, among them three of the convict’s own children, have already faced convictions in Belgium, highlighting the international reach and interconnectedness of these criminal operations.

NAPTIP Press Officer, Adekoye Vincent, said the legal proceedings against Felicia Osaigbovo were initiated on July 1, 2021, with a comprehensive 24-count charge that included allegations of aiding persons involved in trafficking and organizing foreign travel that promotes prostitution.

Adekoyejo explained that  the  charges were in direct violation of the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPPEA) of 2015. 

According to him, despite vehemently pleading not guilty to all counts, the defendant’s fate was sealed when the prosecution presented a compelling case with three witnesses, including a Belgian Chief Inspector of Police, and submitted a total of 13 exhibits as evidence.

He said “after an exhaustive trial that left no room for doubt, the court delivered a unanimous verdict of guilt on all 24 counts. 

“This resounding judgment resulted in Felicia Osaigbovo being handed a 12-year prison sentence and a substantial fine of N24 million.

In response to this landmark judgment, Prof. Fatima Waziri–Azi, PhD, the Director General of NAPTIP, expressed her profound appreciation for the verdict, highlighting its significance as a fitting and impactful punishment for such grave crimes.

 She went on to commend the collaborative efforts of the Belgium Police Authorities, the Federal Ministry of Justice, the UK National Crime Agency under the Joint Border Task Force Initiative, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 

These agencies worked tirelessly to ensure that justice was served for the victims ensnared in this web of human trafficking.

Since taking office in September 2021, the Director General had vowed to relentlessly pursue high-profile traffickers, and this conviction underscores NAPTIP’s unwavering commitment to sending an unequivocal message to those engaged in this heinous crime.

In her own words, Prof. Fatima Waziri–Azi stated, “NAPTIP shall continue working tirelessly to ensure a safer and better society.”

This conviction not only marks a pivotal moment in the fight against human trafficking but also serves as a resounding deterrent to those who would engage in this reprehensible practice.

She said “NAPTIP shall continue working tirelessly to ensure a safer and better society,” affirmed the Director General.”

 It sends a powerful message that NAPTIP, in collaboration with its international partners, is resolute in its mission to protect the vulnerable and ensure that those responsible for their suffering face the full force of the law.

 

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