Despite the efforts of security agencies and the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to curb the unwholesome practice, Nigerians in some parts of the country are still making brisk business from the sale of babies.
Way back in 2004, the proprietor of a private hospital Zik Avenue, Enugu got into trouble when it was discovered that his clinic and maternity home was doing more business than it was registered to do. People in the neighbourhood always spoke of the exotic automobiles that brought people to the clinic on a daily basis, making many believe that the clinic had rich people as patients. It was soon found out however that most of the rich visitors were there to buy babies.
It was gathered that most of the patrons were people who had been childless for years and were willing to part with huge amounts of money just to have children of their own.
The public was made to believe then that the babies involved were children that were unwanted by their biological mothers either for social or economic reasons, and at times both. Such mothers were young and unmarried ladies. It was later found out that the clinic had agents who went in search of pregnant single girls; the job of the agents on the hospital management’s payroll was to convince the girls to come to the clinic and register instead of aborting their pregnancies.
At the clinic, several tests were conducted on the young inexperienced expectant mothers and those found to be suitable for the hospital’s purpose were given free accommodation, feeding and medical care until the delivery period. It was also gathered that the hospital management often ensured that they signed documents that would perpetually separate them from the children they bore, after that; the hospital management pays them off. In most cases, they are separated from the infants immediately after the delivery.
Back then, the mothers got between N 40,000 and 60,000 for female children while those who were delivered of baby boys were paid between N 80,000 and N 100,000.
Incidentally, it was discovered that the clinic had a long list of rich couples desperately in need of babies. Most of those on the list were said to have paid about N 100,000 just to register with the clinic. Factors considered before the hospital assigned babies included the infants’ blood group, resemblance as well as the financial capability of the couples involved. The financial capability also determined how much was paid, though baby girls then went for between N 250,000 and N 400,000 while boys were sold for between N 500,000 and N 1 million depending on the financial strength and bargaining power of the buyer.
Street Journal has however found out that the illicit baby trade is not peculiar to Enugu which has been known as the hub of baby trafficking; rather, various “baby factories” have sprung up in the South East and even in Lagos over the years. They have also fashioned a new mode of operation; most operators of such business now register them as Non Governmental Organisations and sometimes orphanages.
Dr. Ego Uzoezie, the Anambra State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development recently disclosed that more than 50 illegal orphanages and motherless babies’ homes are operating within the state. To worsen the situation, closure of such orphanages hardly affects the trade as more people are embracing it almost on a daily basis.
When a baby factory in Okigwe, Imo State was stormed by soldiers sometime ago, it was discovered that some pregnant girls were living in the camp owned by Mrs Omosuyi, a Yoruba woman from Ondo State and after delivery; they were paid between N 50,000 and N 100,000 after which the ownership of their babies changed. The place run by Mrs Omosuyi doubles as a traditional clinic. Street Journal gathered that what they are paid depends on how long they have been in the camp. It was found out that while some pregnant girls got there on their own, the owner of the camp also engaged the services of some young men and women to engage in sexual activities, the aim is to impregnate the girls and the children from such relationships automatically belong to the owner of the camp.
Street Journal also gathered that not long after the woman was nabbed by army personnel and handed over to the appropriate authorities; she was released thus giving her the image of a well connected and untouchable woman.
The owner of another suspected baby factory located in Umunkpeyi Nvosi, Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State too belongs to the class of “the untouchables”. In spite of several police raids and arrests, the home has remained standing like the Rock of Gibraltar.
Police investigators found 30 pregnant teenage girls behind the high walls of the Iheanyi Ezuma Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation located in Ihiala village in Anambra State. The owner of the home, two male security guards and two other men found there were arrested.
Street Journal’s findings have revealed that a good number of the baby factories are actually registered as motherless babies’ homes or Non Governmental Organisations running charity homes. It was also found out that some of such homes encourage pregnant young girls to come and live in their premises in the guise of advising, helping and supporting them through the period of pregnancy. Unfortunately, their babies are sold when they put to bed and the mothers paid off.
People around the “home” in Umunkpeyi Nvosi disclosed that none of the pregnant girls in the home has been seen leaving with a new born baby. When it is time to leave, they do so alone thus raising questions as to what becomes of the babies.
Street Journal has also found out that it is difficult to run a baby factory without the backing of law enforcement agents. Apart from being well connected to various seats of power in the country, checks revealed that successful operators of baby factories are never stingy to law enforcement agents. An observer said “as long as they grease the necessary palms, they are covered”.
Officers from Government Ministries are not left out of the largesse as Street Journal gathered that there are inside jobs from concerned Ministries when the necessity to perfect adoption papers arises.