By Ishola Balogun
It was first at the 2012 edition of Celebrity Media Awards, CMA, where Saturday Vanguard shone like stars as it won the Best Weekend Newspaper of the Year, then came the prestigious Nigeria Merit Media Awards, NMMA, where Ishola Balogun of the same desk won the 2012 Alex Ibru Prize for Investigative Reporter of the year last Saturday.
The event which was held at the Eko Hotel and Suites recognised media practitioners for their contributions to the growth of media industry in Nigeria with technocrats, captains of industries in attendance.
Presenting the award, Mr Yomi Jones, former Chief of Executive Officer, Nigeria Airways congratulated Balogun for working so hard to get the award.
The story had earlier fetched him the Aremo Olusegun Osoba Prize for Investigative Story which he won last year and a nomination for the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting 2011.
The Award winning story
Giving birth to seven babies in one year is a strange phenomenon that even those in the field of medicine have described inexplicable. But Precious Donatus Ogbonna, a 37 year old Pastor/General Overseer of Holy Ghost Power Salvation Ministry, Owerri, Imo state who had been barren for twelve years of her marriage suddenly claimed she delivered seven babies in one year within a space of one month interval.
More stunning was the fact that she claimed she was expecting more babies from that same conception. She declined to mention the hospital where the delivery took place and did not give a clue on how to locate the place but insisted she was ready for a DNA test to prove the veracity of her claim. Following the reports in the newspaper, Police swung into action and arrested ‘Mummy P’ as she is fondly called with the seven babies.
Vanguard Media limited immediately sponsored a DNA test on her and the seven babies and it was soon revealed that maternity was excluded in all the seven babies. In fact, the test further revealed that none of the babies had same maternity.
But where she got these babies became the nagging question as millions of Nigerians who followed the story in Saturday Vanguard newspaper posed the question.
Investigation continued and the reporter did not only get the places where she got the babies from but also squealed out how pregnancies were framed and how deliveries were arranged for some desperate women.
In far away Port Harcourt, Rivers state, Aba and Okigwe in Imo state, several unpublicised clinics which take the posture of native maternity homes where such ‘arranged deliveries’ take place were uncovered. Desperate baby seeking habitué pay as much as N750,000 to N1million depending on the sex of the baby and N1.5million for twins; a delivery date is given pending when a baby will be arranged for the ”expectant woman”.
The reporter had to employ an observant participant method to locate the places where she got her babies including several other places where such activities thrive. Posing like a desperate customer, he requested for similar arrangement and was asked to pay the sum of N750,000 for a male child and they demanded to see his wife who would be given certain drugs before the arrival of the baby without passing through gestative period.
In one of the places, the owner of the home suspected that the reporter was gleaning information from her and secretly planned an attack, but the reporter got the move and found his way out of the area.
The reporter disguised to the orphanage in Owerri where the babies were kept to observe them a number of times.
The reporter diligently followed every move of the controversial woman even to one of the homes he had earlier uncovered as carrying out this phony deliveries for her 9th baby which climaxed at 12:15am on Sept 21 last year. For about 24 hours, the reporter kept watching ‘Mummy P’ who neither showed any sign of pregnancy nor fed the baby she got out of this arrangement. The court is yet to give judgement on the matter.