By Mustapha Sumaila
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), on Thursday insisted that Mathew Esan, an Inspector, was arrested for alleged complicity in the attempted trafficking of the nine girls and one boy to Russia.
Esan was arrested by NAPTIP on June 9 at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos for allegedly attempting to traffic young Nigerians to Russia.
NAPTIP Head, Press and Public Relations, Mrs Stella Nezan in Abuja said: “ he was caught in the act while coordinating the arrangement at the Airport for the Potential Victims of trafficking (PVoTS) to board the Turkish Airline flight.”
According to her, NAPTIP had been monitoring the activities of Esan and others.
“NAPTIP’s attention has been drawn to the statement by the spokesperson for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Police Command, Joseph Alabi exonerating the officer who was arrested by the agency’s Operatives on Saturday.
“The agency is shocked that DSP Alabi would make such a sweeping statement that the Officer was arrested by “overzealous NAPTIP operatives while carrying out his legitimate duties at the airport terminal,” she said.
“We do not know how the Police Command’s Spokesperson ascertained that the other suspects denied knowing Esan.
“We appeal to the police command to exercise restraint at this point and wait for the outcome of further investigation going on” she said.
She stated that NAPTIP’s concern was the safety of young Nigerians, and would continue to collaborate with the Nigerian Police as one of its strong allies in the fight against human trafficking and other vices.
“The Nigerian Police is an institution of high repute and it is important that officers do not sacrifice that reputation by trying to defend an officer who may have overstepped his bounds to engage in activities away from his primary job.
“We wish to assure the public that the Nigeria Police as an institution is not under investigation by NAPTIP, the only person being investigated is Esan who is an officer of the Nigerian Police.
The MMIA police command last Tuesday said its officer, Esan, was not involved in human trafficking.
Alabi said, “Investigations by the command showed that the officer was arrested by overzealous NAPTIP operatives while carrying out his legitimate duties at the airport terminal.
“On June 9, at about 7.30 p.m., Insp. Esan, while on duty at the MMIA departure hall, received one Henry, who claimed that he was sent to him (Esan).
“While trying to get acquainted with the said person, some men who were later discovered to be NAPTIP operatives, descended on him and seized his mobile phone as well as his identity card.
“He was later told that he was a member of a syndicate trafficking young Nigerians to the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia and was taken to the NAPTIP office alongside other arrested persons and 10 rescued youths.”
Alabi said following the intervention of the command, Esan was released on Monday after the arrested persons confirmed that they did not know him.