In what looked a melodrama, Air Peace crew members on Monday foiled attempts by two women to traffic a three-month-old baby boy on the airline’s Lagos-Banjulflight.
According to sources, the suspected traffickers were exposed mid-flight when the airline’s crew members noticed a baby crying inconsolably. It was gathered that attempts by one of the suspected traffickers, who claimed to be the baby’s mother, to soothe him failed.
When the crew members suggested to the suspected trafficker to breastfeed the baby, she declined. Scared that the baby’s cries were attracting attention, the woman who claimed to be his mother requested for water from the crew. The crew, however, noticed that the alleged mother was fumbling in giving the baby the water.
Suspicious that the baby was either stolen or being trafficked, it was gathered, the crew summoned the alleged traffickers to the back of the aircraft for questioning. The alleged traffickers allegedly told the crew members that the baby was a child from a surrogacy arrangement.
Dissatisfied with the alleged mother’s response, the crew notified Air Peace team at the Banjul International Airport in The Gambia of the development. When the flight landed in Banjul, Air Peace staff accosted the two alleged traffickers.
According to the source, when the two women were separately questioned, they gave conflicting accounts of how they came about the baby. Air Peace staff in Banjul, it was gathered, quickly called for the intervention of Banjul International Airport (BIA) Police Station in The Gambia and the suspected traffickers were promptly arrested.
A source alleged that medical tests conducted by security operatives in Banjul showed no relationship between the baby and the woman who claimed to be his mother.
Another source said the two women later claimed that the baby was being taken to his father in Banjul. The alleged father, it was gathered, told security operatives that the baby was his. He, however, could not provide documents at the police station in Banjul to prove his claim.
Reporters gathered that security operatives in Banjul asked the father to undertake a DNA test to prove his claim. The alleged father told the police that the DNA test would be conducted in Nigeria, it was learnt. A source told newsmen that The Gambia Police rejected the alleged father’s decision to do the test in Nigeria, insisting they could not trust the medical result from the country. Police in Banjul, reporters were told, insisted on the DNA test being conducted in The Gambia.
Reports, however, claimed the alleged mother of the baby again changed her account at the police station in Banjul. She allegedly claimed the baby was handed over to her by a distant relation who got pregnant for a man she could not identify.
A source, however, said the alleged traffickers had been granted bail by the police in Banjul in deference to The Gambia’s laws limiting the detention of suspects yet to be charged to court to 72 hours. An unidentified Gambian, it was gathered, took the suspects on bail.
A source told newsmen that the police in The Gambia were still investigating the matter to secure enough evidence to charge the suspects to court. The baby, another source said, had since been transferred to SOS Child Care Center in Bakothe in The Gambia for proper care pending conclusion of investigation.
Contacted for his comments on the development, Air Peace corporate communications manager, Mr. Chris Iwarah confirmed the incident. He, however, refrained from confirming the names of the suspects and the baby. He insisted that the matter was already being investigated by relevant security agencies in Nigeria and The Gambia.
He, however, pledged that the airline would cooperate with the relevant security agencies to unravel the true identity of the baby. He assured that the airline and its crew would remain vigilant to ensure the safety of its guests as well as continue to assist society in exposing suspected criminal acts.
Iwarah said: “On Air Peace Lagos-Banjul flight P47560 on Monday, June 4, 2018, our vigilant and experienced crew observed a baby crying inconsolably. The crew members, therefore, approached the supposed mother to breastfeed the crying baby. She declined, giving a flimsy excuse for her decision.
“The alleged mother of the baby eventually asked our crew for water to give to the baby when he would not stop crying. Our crew members, however, observed that the alleged mother of the baby was struggling with giving the baby the water. At that point, our crew offered to assist and took the baby from the supposed mother. But when our crew attempted to return the baby to the woman who claimed to be the mother, the baby expressed fright and unwillingness.
“Given the situation, our crew summoned the alleged mother to the aft of the aircraft for questioning on her relationship with the baby and she claimed the baby boy was a product of a surrogacy arrangement and was being taken from Nigeria to Banjul in The Gambia.
Unconvinced, the crew informed our ground staff in Banjul of the development. When the flight eventually landed in Banjul, the two women travelling together with the baby were separately questioned and contradictions were observed in their different accounts. At this point, we had no choice than to report the case to security operatives at the Banjul International Airport, who took in the alleged mother of the baby for questioning to establish the true identity of the baby she claimed was hers.
“Investigation into the matter is ongoing and we trust that security operatives would be able to identify the true parents of the boy who appears to be three months old.
“For our part, we are ready to assist the relevant security operatives and agencies with any information within our purview to ensure the case is brought to a proper conclusion and we will continue to ensure that our flights are safe at all times for our esteemed guests.”