Air Peace crew members on Monday foiled suspected attempts by two women to traffic a three-month-old baby boy on the airline’s Lagos-Banjul flight, a source close to the airline has told SaharaReporters.
According to the source, the suspected traffickers were exposed mid-flight when the airline’s crew members noticed a baby crying inconsolably.
Attempts by one of the suspected traffickers, who claimed to be the baby’s mother, to soothe the baby failed.
When the crew members suggested to the suspected trafficker to breastfeed the baby, she declined, insisting that she wouldn't. As the baby's cries did not subside, the suspect, whose identify could not be confirmed as of the time of filing this report, requested a cup of water from the crew, which was given to her. However, the baby refused to drink the water, which further raised suspicions from other passengers.
Suspicious that the baby was either stolen or being trafficked, the crew summoned the alleged traffickers to the rear of the aircraft for questioning. Although the alleged traffickers told the crew members that the baby was a child from a surrogacy arrangement, they could not provide documents to back up their claim.
Dissatisfied with the alleged mother’s response, the crew notified the Air Peace team at the Banjul International Airport in The Gambia. When the flight landed in Banjul, Air Peace staff accosted the two alleged traffickers. Sources claimed that when the two women were separately questioned, they gave conflicting accounts of how they came about the baby.
Air Peace staff in Banjul 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 is his. However, he could not provide documents at the police station in Banjul to prove his claim. Security operatives in Banjul asked the father to undertake a DNA test to prove his claim, but the purported father told the police that the DNA test would be conducted in Nigeria.
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.
Reports said the alleged mother of the baby again changed her account at the police station in Banjul, claiming 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. Although unidentified Gambian, it was gathered, took the suspects on bail, the Police in The Gambia are 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 CenterinBakothe 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, but declined to mention the names of the suspects and the baby.