Ediozi Odi. Image credit: IOL

A Nigerian human trafficking kingpin Ediozi Odi has been handed six life sentences and an additional 129 years imprisonment by a South African court in Pretoria.

According to IOL, Ediozi received three life sentences on three charges of human trafficking and three more life sentences for each charge of rape.

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Judge Natvarlil Ranchod, sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, on Wednesday cited experts as saying that human trafficking is increasing worldwide. It not only caused trauma to the victims, but also to communities.

The court heard evidence behind closed doors for months from, among others, three young victims around the age of 13 and 14, who were lured from the streets by recruits – other young girls – used by Eziodi, who is a brothel owner.

The court heard that once inside Eziodi’s house which was thought to be a barber’s shop, the girls were immediately forced to smoke a drug called “rocks”. This was manufactured and sold by Ediozi and is believed to be highly addictive.

An expert told the court that once the girls were exposed to this drug, they were immediately hooked. He said they would do anything to get their hands on the drug.

The girls told the court how they were taught to smoke the drug by one of Ediozi’s co-accused, Nomsa Hlalele.

Once high on the drugs, Ediozi himself raped these girls “to teach them the tools of the trade” as an initiation into the sex trade.

The victims were locked up in the house for the duration of their stay, while Ediozi send his workers to prowl the streets for prospective clients. They were also locked up in a dungeon under the floor of the house whenever the police raided the house.

A 14-year-old teenager was only rescued after a year, while two other victims were able to escape after a week, when the police raided the house following a tip-off that the brothel master was going to move them to another premises.

The girls were paid for their prostitution with drugs and they got hardly any food.

The court also heard evidence that some police officials were bribed to turn a blind eye to what was happening in the brothel.

Judge Ranchod said that on the other hand, these girls were saved by other SAPS officials who took their work seriously.

Ediozi, who was convicted on 24 of the 29 charges against him, sat emotionless as Judge Ranchod told him “You were the kingpin.”

The judge also commented that Ediozi was aggressive at times in court and even threatened his co-accused.

The judge referred to pictures handed to court of the dungeon where these girls were often kept, as well as the filthy and unhygienic brothel that was littered with condoms.

Judge Ranchod also referred to the fact that Ediozi used his co-accused Hlalele and Luke Botha as drug runners. They often had to fetch drugs from other suppliers as well as ingredients to manufacture his own drugs.

The two drug runners each received a suspended sentence for the possession of drugs.