By Wale Akinola
What will you do if you have just been delivered of a baby and the police storm the hospital hours thereafter and seize the baby?
Cry? Kick? Resist? Action predictable. This is exactly what Mrs. Gloria Musa, a native of Umuahia, Abia State, and married to Mr. Musa from Garkida, Adamawa State but lives in Haringey, United Kingdom (UK) did after she had just been delivered of a baby and the police invaded Norwich Park Hospital and took away the baby. Three months earlier, the same police, allegedly acting at the behest of the Haringey social service, had equally seized five children of the Musas on the grounds that the mother was a sex worker.
The newly born baby’s seizure in hospital took place on June 12, 2010 while its other five siblings were taken into custody on April 8, 2010. But more than one year after, the six seized children are said to remain in the custody of the Haringey social service while every effort to get them to rejoin their parents has reportedly failed. The social service, according to reports, secretly gets interim care order (ICO) on monthly basis from the court to validate its action because the evidence they peddle against the Musas is untenable. The action is generating ripples both in Nigeria where the couple hails from and the UK. Although Sunday Vanguard could not ascertain the intervention of the Nigerian High Commission in the UK on the matter, a letter from an Advocate and Public Interest Intervener on behalf of the embattled mother of the seized kids asked the Haringey social service to forward documents in the Musa family case to the High Commission.
In Nigeria, the House of Representatives has taken up the matter, urging the Federal Government to persuade her British counterpart to ensure that the Musas are reunited with their kids until evidence show any wrongdoing. The House claimed paternity tests conducted on the children showed they belonged to the Musa couple.
The sponsor of the motion that led to the resolution, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, from Ikorodu Federal Constituency and chairman of the House Diaspora Committee, among 27 other lawmakers, described what the Musas are going through as the height of inhumanity. Narrating what she went through when nine policemen invaded the hospital in June 2010, to seize the baby, Mrs. Musa said it was “bizarre, unthinkable and worrisome”.
According to her, “this atrocity was meted out to me and my new born baby, Queen Elizabeth, at Norwich Park Hospital at about 3 a.m. on June 12, 2010”. She went on: “Regrettable, painful and inhuman as it were, the action of the police did not only cause pandemonium, discomfort, unnecessary tension, and embarrassment to the patients and staff of the hospital, it also revealed a Haringey that is devilish in character and lacking in human feeling, amateurish in style, brutish in operation, and dastardly in her acts of executing a hidden agenda that runs counter to westernized forms of civility in police modus operandi. It is unbelievable that a country like the U.K,highly respected as an icon of democracy with commendable human right records, could stoop so low to authorise the police to perpetrate acts that are antithetical and inimical to the cause she goes all out to protect.
“My joy of safe delivery was cut short; as i was physically manhandled, emotionally battered, and psychologically traumatised by the ill-treatment from the British police .While recuperating from the pains of labour, I was awakened by the unwelcomed guests whom I would never forget in a hurry. Nine hefty looking police personnel, who by the suicidal nature of their mission(to take away my new born baby, as they told me in unmistakeable terms) would be best described as “kill joy”, Naturally, I, like every other woman, would prefer being killed to letting it (baby) go easily, hence, I held on and closely to it too. Unperturbed that the baby could be dangerously hurt, considering its age–less than few hours old- and capitalising on the weakness, unstable, and feeble state of mine who is left with little or no strength, after much exertion of energy during labour, the devil-may-care personnel of the Haringey police station applied every force at their disposal, unleashing terror on my helpless self and bruised me all over until they over powered me and took my baby.
“My request for their reasons and the authority empowering them to dispossess me of my new born baby was denied, rebuffed, and rejected with brazen arrogance in these words, `We did not need to show you or give you either’. The hospital staff insisted that the baby should not leave the hospital premises. To ensure a fulfilled mission and that i was completely debilitated and knocked down, the police removed the child from where i could sight it, and placed it in the intensive care unit downstairs all alone. This is sheer wickedness.
“My family has done practically nothing to deserve this painful and unwarranted suppression. Barely three months earlier (08-04-2010), five of my children were, without cogent reasons, abducted by eight policemen from Haringey; and while the case for their release was still being battled, nine policemen, again, in an unprovoked attack, swooped on me and my new born baby in the hospital, seizing the baby, thereby denying it of its right to natural love, breastfeeding and care by its biological parents. This is injustice of the highest order.
“As deprived , wounded, and bleeding as my family is, I request a thorough investigation of this issue by the British police ,with a view to ameliorating the situation and returning my children to me and in good health too. I state in unmistakeable and categorical terms that I and my husband are capable, loving, caring, and very competent to adequately cater and provide for our children without any external assistance or recourse to public funds. We need them returned to us as nobody can take care of them better than us.”
In a position insinuating that the Haringey social service was avoiding being confronted in the family court, on the seizure of the children, because it has no concrete evidence of its claim of the mother being a sex worker, one Maurice Kirk cited at least one instance when the social service personnel secretly obtained an interim care order (ICO) from the court on the issue. The said instance, according to Kirk, was on September 5, 2010 when, whereas himself (Kirk) and the Musas were in the court premises, the Haringey council procured the ICO in their absence. Kirk stated: “On August 30 (2010), Mrs. Justice Hogg had specifically ordered that the case be heard on September 5 (2010) with the sole intention for the parents to bring further evidence and for the (Haringey) council to produce the documents upon which they relied.
I arrived the court (on Sept. 5) and spent the first hour trying to establish where the case was being heard as no one knew. Separate from me and unknown to me, the totally distraught parents were doing the same from 9.30 onwards.
“I eventually demanded a judge and a hearing be convened or there was going to be ‘trouble’. Staff clearly indicated something unusual was going on.
“At 4p.m., District Judge Berry informed the three of us that the case was already over!
It transpired that the case had taken place in the very same building without any of us being told and obtaining, for the fourth time, a further one month detention order (IC0) by the simple use of a telephone call from the council to the court”.
After the alleged court abuse, Kirk stated that they went to Hornsey police station, near Haringey council, where the police had first held the children but the police refused to disclose their custody records or copy interview tapes needed for the hearing in the Holborn family courts.
The Musas, according to him, were being blackmailed to leave the UK without their kids.
Kirk also said he and the “frustrated parents went to the Nigerian High Commission in the UK on September 6, 2010, to establish what progress, if any, had happened since the parents had first contacted them in June 2010.
“We were assured by the Nigerian High Commission representative that it was fully aware of the seriousness of the separation of young children from their parents and ‘all that could be done was being done’. We obtained no documentation, however, to support their apparent answer that the council was ignoring the commission’s concerns”, he added.
“On September 7 (2010) we, three, decided to visit the Haringey council to examine the children’s medical records upon which the council relied for the ‘snatch’ being lawful.
The parents were not just refused, they were denied any information as to whether the children were even still alive!”
`Prisoners in hell’
Kirk is not the only person in the UK protesting the seizure of the Musa children. Peter Bellett, in a letter dated October 28, 2011, to the Nigerian High Commissioner in the UK, implored the High Commissioner to “use the powers of your good office and do everything that needs to be done including taking this matter to the highest government level to ensure that this family are reunited and sent back to their homeland without delay”.
Bellett added: “The Musas do not want to remain in the UK and have refused the offer from Haringey Council of an application for British passports. They cannot return to Nigeria without their children; so they are virtually prisoners in a hell created by forces beyond their control”.
In the House of Representatives resolution on the Musas, entitled, “Saving Mrs. Gloria Musa and her six children from Haringey British Police”, and dated October 25, 2011, it noted: “Sometime in June last year, the Haringey British Police stormed the peaceful home of the Musas and forcefully took custody of their five growing children to an undisclosed destination, without any concrete evidence against them”.
The House said it was aware that series of paternity tests have been conducted and evidence has been brought forward that confirms the paternity of all six children in favour of Mr. and Mrs. Musa.
It expressed worry that this
“Nigerian family has been subjected to the worst psychological crisis, and are currently in a state of mental trauma from the way their case has been handled by the British Police and since June 2010 till date, Mr. and Mrs. Musa have had no contact with their children”.
The House urged the Nigerian government to persuade the British government to try the Musas in a court of competent jurisdiction if need be, and ensure that justice is done.
It also called on the British government to ensure that the Musas are re-united with their kids until evidence shows any wrong doing on the part of the couple.