Hawk-eyed Air Peace crew members has thwarted attempts by two women to traffic a three-month-old baby boy on the airline’s Lagos-Banjul flight on Monday.
Sources said the suspected traffickers were exposed mid-flight when the airline’s crew members noticed a baby crying inconsolably.
AbelNews gathered that attempts by one of the suspected traffickers, who claimed to be the baby’s mother, to comfort 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 suspect, 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.
The source added that 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.
The source stated that the crew who were not satisfied with the alleged mother’s explanation notified Air Peace team at the Banjul International Airport in The Gambia of the development.
The source further explained that when the flight landed in Banjul, Air Peace staff accosted the two alleged traffickers, adding that when the two women were questioned separately, they gave conflicting accounts of how they came about the baby.
At this point, the source said, Air Peace staff in Banjul, quickly called for the intervention of Banjul International Airport (BIA) Police Station in Banjul, Gambia and the suspected traffickers were promptly arrested.
The source alleged the tests conducted on the suspect and the baby by security operatives in Banjul showed that there is no relationship between the baby and the woman, who claimed to be his mother.
However, a source close to Gambia Police the two women later claimed that they were taken the baby to his father in Banjul.
The alleged father, the source said told security operatives that the baby was his but could not provide documents at the police station in Banjul to prove his claim.
AbelNews learnt that security operatives in Banjul asked the father to undertake a DNA test to prove his claim.
It was further learnt that the alleged father told the police that the DNA test would be conducted in Nigeria but that Gambia Police rejected the decision by the suspect to conduct the test in Nigeria, insisting they could not trust the medical result from the country.
To evade arrest the alleged mother of the baby changed her account at the police station in Banjul, saying that the baby was handed over to her by a distant relation, who got pregnant for a man she could not identify.
AbelNews checks revealed that 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.
Meanwhile, sources close Gambia Police told journalists that the police were still investigating the matter to secure enough evidence to charge the suspects to court, while the baby had since been transferred to SOS Child Care Center in Bakothe in The Gambia for proper care pending conclusion of investigation.
The Air Peace Corporate Communications Manager, Mr. Chris Iwarah confirmed the incident but did not give the names of the suspects and the baby.
The airline’s spokesman said that matter was already under investigation by relevant security agencies in Nigeria and The Gambia, assuring 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 watchful to ensure the safety of its guests as well as continue to assist society in exposing suspected criminal acts.
“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,” he said.
He continued, “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.”