By KINGSLEY OMONOBI – Abuja
Baby factories where teens are kept and made to bear children for a token and the babies sold have become the order of the day. As shocking, immoral and unreligious as it may seem, some Nigerians still indulge in the act. In this interview, Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Frank Mba, speaks on what the police are doing to check the trend.
There have, of late, been an increase in cases of baby factories as discovered by the police, especially in the South-east. What do you think is responsible for the development?
An exposition of the concept of baby factories tells us the cause of this ugly trade. Baby factories are locations where young ladies or girls, some teenagers or little above that, are harboured and deliberately encouraged or forced to become pregnant and subsequently give up their babies for sale. The fact that these ladies are from poverty-stricken background makes it possible for them to be easily enticed with the offer of monetary gains by the operators of these illegal baby farms. After paying some token to these young mothers, the babies are sold to buyers for illegal adoptions.
Can you throw more light on the cause of this problem?
As earlier stated, one of the major factors that fuel the crime is the pecuniary benefit associated with it. This is further fueled by the patronage the operators enjoy from desperate couples who have, in their wrong belief, reduced marriage to mere baby making unions. You can imagine that,
in some cases, the prices of these babies differ in sex and occasionally in complexion.
Baby boys are costlier because, in this part of the world, some wrongly believe that having baby boys gives the woman legitimacy and strong hold on her marriage. Other factors that fuel the crime are greed and ungodliness which are the common traits of those in this unwholesome practice. We can also add that illiteracy and ignorance on the part of the teenage victims who are either deceived or given false promises or even expressly forced into baby-making homes, play significant roles here.
As a law enforcement agency, what strategies have the police put in place to control the ugly trend?
Our strategies are two pronged. First is through core law enforcement strategies and secondly through non-traditional law enforcement approach. Law enforcement strategies in this case include intelligence gathering, raiding of suspected baby factories as well as arresting and prosecuting the operators and their clients. In doing this, we adopt another a strategy which I can call ‘naming and shaming’. In this case, suspects are exposed to the public through the publication of their pictures and stories. This sometimes serves as a disincentive to those still indulging in the unwholesome practice.
What about the second strategy which you said is non-traditional law enforcement approach?
The non-traditional approach is through public education and enlightenment, just as we are doing now through this interview and also through counseling of victims who are mostly under-age girls. It must also be stated that we are constantly training and re-training our men on how to improve on their capacity to handle the crime of this nature. In addition, the IGP is also making efforts at strengthening our special branches, including Juvenile Welfare Centres (JWC) and Anti-Human Trafficking Unit that handle cases of child trafficking and such other exploitation of women and children.
Are there laws against baby farming?
Yes. Firstly, the exploitation of these girls for such purpose is against their fundamental human rights. Secondly, it offends the anti-human trafficking laws and other related statutes. Thirdly, it is against the Child Rights Act because some of these women are under-age who are incapable of taking their own decisions. It is also amounts to another form of slavery which was banned decades ago. Abduction of young girls and child theft are offences under our laws.
Can we say that this practice has negative image on our society?
Indeed there are negative implications of this crime. It gives us negative perceptions and soils our image in other climes. Just recently, the EU published a report saying human trafficking is the third biggest crime in Nigeria. It also increases prostitution and spread of infections. Some of the young girls, in an attempt to overcome the psychological trauma associated with giving up or selling their babies, resort to taking dangerous drugs including psychoactive or psychotropic substances like marijuana and other depressants. This could have long term negative implications for our polity.
Is there anything government can do to stem the trend?
Government can contribute in several ways to control this, through the strengthening of our adoption laws and putting machineries in place to monitor compliance to standards in the approved motherless babies’ homes. This is necessary because some of these homes are filthy for human existence while some have veered off from being such homes to baby-breeding factories. On the other hand, government may take steps to subsidize fertility treatment such as assisted reproductive technology (ART), including in vitro fertilization (IVF) to help couples in need, address the problem of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. This will help reduce the quest for ready-made babies.
How do we prevent this recurring problem?
To prevent this crime, parents must totally embrace their responsibilities to their children. This cannot be divorced from the proper education of the child. Again, couples must also
realize, through effective reorientations, that marriage goes beyond just being a baby-making union; they must come to terms with this reality to avoid the wild desperation to have a child at all costs. We must also stop stigmatizing young girls for having ‘illegitimate’ pregnancies. The truth is that most of these girls run into these baby factories in an attempt to seek protection from parental or family chastisement and indeed the associated stigma arising from such ‘unwanted’ teenage pregnancies.