By Ishola Balogun
For quite some time now, a new wave of making money through selling of new born babies and child trafficking is currently sweeping across parts of the country. The racket of keeping young girls and boys to produce children and then sell to desperate buyers is fast gaining prominence not only in the South-East but also in South West.
Operators of the homes and their syndicates usually scout for females with unwanted pregnancies and lure teenagers to their herbal clinic for delivery. Some keep young girls (teenagers) and allow their male syndicates to impregnate them and hold them in hostage throughtout the gestation period. Thereafter, the owner of the home settles them with cash and administers the babies to desperate childless women who patronise her herbal clinic to seek for fruits of the womb at higher costs.
Investigations revealed that the patrons of these homes are high-heeled and well-to-do couples who visited mostly at night in sleek automobiles.
Recently, a London based couple travelled to Nigeria where the woman received fertility treatment at a maternity home. She returned to the clinic months later and she was sedated. When she regained consciousness, she was handed a baby and told she had given birth.
On her return to London, the authorities raised concerns. The child was taken into care and a DNA test proved the child was not related to the couple. The London police then launched legal proceedings to get custody of the baby arguing that the couple’s story was a ‘charade.’
After weeks of litigation, the court ruled that the couple were victims of the ‘most appalling scam’. The couple was said to have been deeply bothered about their predicament so much that the judge was impressed by their sense of humanity. They were recently awarded the custody of the child. The police authority also agreed to return the baby to them within seven days.
This is not an isolated case. A recent report also showed that Mr Adenuga Shoyibo, a Nigerian based in America was arrested and charged for alleged child trafficking. The couple claimed the babies were theirs, disclosing that the twins were born at a traditional home in Port Harcourt 15 years after they got married and after they paid N1.8million.
In another development, two suspected Cameroonian ladies, Ngala Nungu and Mrs. Mende Cecilia were arrested by men of the Nigeria Immigration Service at the Calabar Seaport for allegedly stealing a five-day old baby girl recently. Nungu claimed she delivered the baby at Okitipupa in Ondo State through the help of a lady who specialised in herbal medicine.
In Port Harcourt, Aba, Osisioma, Okigwe, Imo in Umuaka, Owerri, the activities thrive and despite various clampdowns by the security agents on some of these homes, the business thrives with the clintele visiting the homes from various parts of the country and outside even at nights and odd hours in sleek cars to get babies.
Recently, one James Ezuma who claimed to be a medical doctor was nabbed by the police in Owerri, Imo State, for operating baby factories. Not less than 16 innocent girls were set free by the police with many of them at various stages of pregnancy. The rich businessman was said to have no fewer than 10 exotic cars – a Jaguar, two Chrysler cars, a Lincoln Navigator, a Honda Jeep, a Nissan Quest, a Pathfinder Sports Utility Vehicle and three unidentified others.
According to reports, conservative estimates indicate that Ezuma’s land in Owerri valued at hundreds of millions of naira, with different structures at different stages of completion worth over N20 million.
An18-count charge has been slammed against him in court. His medical licence may have been seized by the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, for improper conduct.
Apart from billionaire Ezuma, other operators of these baby factories are smiling to their banks satisfying their clintele from different parts of the country for different purposes. In Umuaka, Njaba Local Government area of Imo state, there are orphanages said to be involved in the alleged baby-making business. In recent past, men of the State Security Agencies, SSS, uncovered child-manufacturing factory at both Umuaka and Umuguma, Owerri West of the state.
However, some believed that the increase in the trade could have been because those arrested in the past have not been appropriately punished but probably left off the hook after some time.
Some individuals who spoke to Saturday Vanguard maintained that they don’t deserve to be punished since they help to satisfy someone’s need.
The security operatives have also raided quite a number of baby factories in the oil city of Port Harcourt and arrested proprietors of the homes setting free over 100 of pregnant girls.
Recently, no fewer than eight pregnant girls were rescued by the Ogun State Police Command as it uncovered a baby-making factory in Akute in Ifo Local Government Area of the state. In January, another 24 suspects were arrested in Ilu-Titun in Okitipupa council area of Ondo State by the state command of the Nigeria Immigration Service.
Why the business is thriving
Mrs Oshotimehin, who works in a charity home in Lagos stated that the development is caused by young girls who ran away from their homes to avoid the stigma of early and unplanned pregnancies. “Young girls run to such homes to avoid the stigma attached to pregnancies outside marriage. So, they stay away from home for some time, delivered the babies and then returned home with pittance,” she said.
She also rationalised that the problem of infertility in women was a major cause of the desperate move for seeking babies from such homes. “You know after long years of marriage, if there is no child, the woman will be so desperate especially to keep her marriage and also to avoid societal stigma.”
The 55-year old woman advised that desperate couples should rather take the option of adoption in order not to run foul of the child-trafficking law.
Relaying the process of adoption in most states of the federation, she stated that the prospective couples will pay prescribed fees upon successful interview with the Director of Social Welfare after the application is considered. “After the interview and if the director is satisfied, you must show evidence of procuring the requirements for the baby or babies depending on the age of adoption.Then there will be administative processing and screening which will be followed by a mandatory pre-counselling session, post counselling on parenting, collection of child from registered orphanages and legalization at the family court after three months,” she sated.