Operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons have rescued 10 youths who were allegedly being trafficked to Moscow, Russia, for the World Cup tournament.
Punch learnt that the victims were rescued on Saturday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport during an exercise codenamed, Operation Block, by the anti-trafficking agency.
The operatives also arrested a police sergeant, Esan Matthew, for alleged complicity in the trafficking.
It was gathered that the victims were trying to board a Turkish Airline flight to Russia when they were intercepted by operatives at the airport.
The victims comprised nine girls and one boy; five of them were said to be from Edo State, three from Delta State, one from Imo State and the last victim from Benue State.
The Head of Press and Public Relations, NAPTIP, Stella Nezan, in a statement said,
“Apart from the policeman, a quarantine officer, Stephen Fayemiwo, was also arrested for allegedly coordinating the movement of the victims.”
Other suspects arrested in the syndicate were identified as Azeez Olowo, Idowu Fashakin and Eni Godwin.
It was learnt that the victims converged on Lagos on Friday preparatory to meeting the syndicate members at the airport.
Acting on a tip-off, the NAPTIP operatives reportedly caught up with them at the location around 3pm on Saturday and arrested the suspects, while the victims were rescued.
Nezan said investigations into the matter were ongoing, adding that the sponsors of the traffickers in Russia would be apprehended.
She said, “The Director-General, Julie Okah-Donli, had penultimate week alerted that there were plans by some criminal gangs to use the 2018 World Cup to recruit Nigerian youths to Russia for exploitation. On Friday, some of these victims were stopped at the point of departure at the airport and those involved in recruiting them and facilitating their journey were arrested.
“Before the arrest, Mathew Esan, had held a discussion with the victims, while Stephen Fayemiwo handed to each of them their travel documents, including their passports, Russian 2018 FIFA identity card and Turkish Airline tickets.
“The operation was supported by officials of the Department of State Services and the Joint Border Task Force, which NAPTIP is a member. While investigations have continued, the agency is still on the trail of some other facilitators and the sponsors in Russia.”