A Ho High Court presided over by Justice Eric Baah has sentenced two persons to a total of 34 years in prison for trafficking nine children in the Volta region, after a 2-year trial.
The two, 40-years old Aku Kedevi, a fish monger and 63-years old Michael Boti, a fisherman, were respectively sentenced to 18 and 16-years jail terms in-hard-labour after they were found guilty in two separate cases of trafficking and using of the children in fishing activities on the Volta Lake.
In the first case, involving the State verses the two; Aku Kedevi and Michael Boti were charged for trafficking two siblings aged 15 and 9 years, from Gbi Wegbe in the Hohoe Municipality, to Akpoklikope Island on the Volta Lake, while in the second case, they were charged and tried for trafficking seven (7) children of ages between 9 and 16 from Ehi, near Dzodze, to the same Island for fishing purposes.
The victims were said to have been taken by Aku Kedevi from their parents under the pretence of sending them to school but were handed over to Michael Boti who engaged them in fishing for a fee.
The two were charged with conspiracy to commit crime -human trafficking, whereas Michael Boti was handed two more charges for using trafficked children for economic purposes.
Prosecution/facts of the trial
According to a prosecution led by State Attorney, Andrew D. Adugu, the police in collaboration with International Justice Mission (IJM), an NGO conducted an intelligence-led operation to rescue the victims from the said Island on May 16, 2018.
The victims according to investigations, mentioned Aku Kedevi as the one who brought them under the pretext of sending them to school but failed to do so after they were taken out of their homes.
Though the convicts had admitted recruiting the children for the purpose of fishing, instead of taking them to school as narrated by the prosecution to the court, the two pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Nonetheless, evidence presented in court showed that that Aku Kedevi received pay for the services rendered by the children to Michael Boti, upon which the judge sentenced the two.
As a result, Michael Boti is to serve 8-years jail term for each of the two cases, while Aku Kedevi is to serve 10 and 8-years for the two cases.
The two; Michael Boti and Aku Kedevi are also directed to pay an amount of GH¢5,000.00 to each of the victims.
Delivering his judgement, Justice Eric Baah, described Kedevi as a “disgrace to womanhood” who used deception to lure innocent children from poor parents into servitude, while adding that, Aku Kedevi’s repetition and engagement in the barbaric trade made her a callous woman who took pleasure in the illegal trade, hence deserved no sympathy from the court.
In the case of Michael Boti, who is a chief, the judge noted that he failed in championing the campaign against human trafficking and child slavery by engaging the services of such young children in servitude.
The High Court judge also commended the police, the Department of Social Welfare and the International Justice Mission (IJM) for their roles and rescuing the victims and getting the offenders prosecuted.
Meanwhile, the court has further ordered the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Department of Social Welfare to make the necessary arrangements for victims’ custody, welfare, education and training.