•Couples who sell their kids to make ends meet
By Esther Onyegbula
These are, indeed, times when odd happenings throw you off balance. And you begin to wonder, what could prompt a mother or a father to sell his or her child? Or how do parents who sell their children explain the motive? Or at what point do illiteracy, hunger, lack or greed become so grave that selling your child becomes an option?
Two weeks ago, a 30-year-old man, Edet Essien Inyang, a native of Akwa Ibom State but who resides in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State, allegedly took his two children to Murray Street with a price tag.
Edet Essien, who was said to have planned to sell the two kids for N350, 000, broken into the son for N200, 000 and daughter for N150, 000, said, “I wanted to sell my kids to raise money and save myself from the poverty and hardship I am going through”.
But for concerned residents who delayed Inyang while they invited the police at Atakpa Police Station to arrest him, only God knows what would have been the fate of those kids. Currently, Inyang is being investigated by Akwa Ibom State Police Command Criminal Investigation Department.
Another parent, 23-year-old Chinonye Oparaocha, who allegedly conspired with a nurse at an undisclosed hospital to sell her baby for N850, 000 barely six hours after delivery in Owerri, Imo State, was arrested.
Oparaocha was arrested alongside five others, Confidence Anyanwu (28); Duru Christian (38); George Iyowuna (38) and William Cynthia (44), in connection with the transaction two months after she had sold the baby.
Describing the suspects’ action as absurd and irritating, Imo State Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Ladodo, said it took coordinated intelligence by his men for the baby to be recovered.
Narrating the incident, Ladodo said that, on February 8, 2019, at an undisclosed clinic on Nekede Road in Owerri West LGA, Oparaocha was delivered of a baby boy.
“The woman immediately conspired with one Confidence Anyanwu, a nurse and native of Umuhu Okwuato in the Aboh Mbaise LGA, in company with her husband, Amanze Anyanwu (at large), and carried the six hours old baby to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where one Duru Christian was standing by. At Port Harcourt, Christian, in company with Iyowuna, met them and took custody of the baby”, he stated.
“George Iyowuna met them at their hideout, took the baby boy and handed him over to a prospective buyer, William Cynthia, and her husband, who eventually paid the sum of N850, 000.
Also read: Paternity Fraud: Three out of 10 Nigerian men are not biological fathers of their children
“On April 13, operatives of the Scorpion Squad of the command, after diligent investigation, arrested these five suspects, including the mother of the baby and the nurse, who delivered her of the baby”.
In the case of Ugorji Nkemakolam, and his wife, Happiness, who were arrested by the Abia State Police Command for allegedly selling their two-month-old baby girl for N300, 000, they claimed that hardship forced them to do so.
Happiness said, “My husband and I decided to sell our baby because of hardship. We have four children and my husband is not working. When I was pregnant, there was no money for me to go for antenatal and feeding was even a problem. That is why we decided to sell our baby. It was the auxiliary nurse who delivered me of my baby that linked us with a lady who, in turn, helped us to sell the baby for N300, 000”.
The husband, Ugorji, noted that he had been jobless since they relocated to his Isialangwa village from Port Harcourt.
“I agreed with my wife to sell our baby to raise money for my family. I was operating Keke on hire purchase in Port Harcourt”, he said.
“But when I could not meet up with the payment, the owner collected it from me. So we relocated to my village in Isialangwa and, since then, I have not got any other job and I have nobody to help us because I am an orphan.
“It was my village people who informed the police that I sold my baby because I couldn’t give them a proper account of the baby when they discovered that my wife had delivered”.
Another couple, Mr. Ifeanyi Elijah and his wife, Emmaculata, sold their baby, Chinecherem, for N400, 000, a few hours after delivery on January 26, 2018.
The couple, who were residents of Irete in Imo State but indigenes of Amakpu- Umuba, Abia State, were apprehended alongside suspects identified as Grace Mezu, Fedalia Ariri and Amarachi Obiekwe.
It was alleged that the couple sold the baby to Obiekwe through Mezu and Ariri.
The newborn baby was recovered on February 17, 2018 in Lagos State, a month after she was sold.
Then-Public Relations Officer of Imo State Police Command, Andrew Enwerem, disclosed that the couple had given birth to seven children, but the whereabouts of two others, outside of the baby, were unknown.
Debt as a factor
For some couples, debt is enough reason to sell their children.
Explaining why she sold her baby, 29-year-old Chidinma Richard, who was arrested by operatives of the Inspector General of Police Monitoring Team in Rivers State, said she had fallen sick during pregnancy and borrowed money to treat herself, adding that the husband was a wheelbarrow pusher.
Chidinma stated that her husband, Benson, earlier did not accept her advice to sell the baby, saying he, however, changed his mind after seeing the reality of their situation.
“I am from Isiala Mbano, Imo State. I was arrested by the police because I sold my day-old baby. I sold him for N250, 000 through one Ugonma”, she narrated.
“I sold the child because of our condition. I have given birth to four children. One died because of our situation. We are left with two children now. I never wanted to give birth to another child after two children but this one happened by mistake. When I gave birth to this one, I told my husband that we should sell him. My intention was for us to use the money to settle our debt and then relocate to Umuahia in Abia State.
“All these happened because my husband is not working, we have been living in my village and I wanted us to relocate. When I got pregnant again, I was involved in an accident and I borrowed money to treat myself and meet some other needs. When they took the baby, I cried, but I had no alternative.”
Stealing, selling kids
Some couples also go as far as stealing other peoples’ babies and selling them to buyers after which the kids are trafficked.
Last year, the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of Imo State Police Command arrested a couple, Ifeanyi Anyanwu and Amarachi Anyanwu, for allegedly stealing and selling a two-year-old boy, Ikechukwu Nwachukwu, for N500,000.
The couple allegedly stole the child on August 28, 2018 from his parents in Umuozu-Uguiri in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of the state.
Prior to the incident, Ifeanyi and Amarachi had allegedly sold their first child on credit to a man in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
Imo State Commissioner of Police at that time, Chris Ezike, alleged that the couple kidnapped and sold Nwachukwu for N500, 000 to one Ifeanyinwa Duru.
Duru allegedly resold the boy to one Mrs. Chidinma Emmanuel for N700, 000. Duru and Emmanuel were nabbed in Aba, Abia State, and the child rescued.
Another couple, identified as Ugochukwu and Glory Nwachukwu, sold three different babies including their own four months old child, for N600, 000.
It was learned that the couple conspired and lured one Jovita Aloka of Irette in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State to Naze in Owerri North where they tactically disposed her of her two children, Adaugo Oliver, three years, and Daniel Oliver, six months and sold them to unknown persons.
According to Ugochukwu, who was arrested alongside his wife by operatives of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of Imo State Police Command on August 20, 2018 at Umuokai Owerri -Nta in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State, “I discussed with my wife before selling the (own) child. I sold the child for N400, 000.
“My reason is that I wanted to join the Army and I did not have money to process it. The bill they gave to me was too high and I went to the point of selling my properties and still could not make it.
“What I did was to use the remaining money to buy a motorcycle and start fishery business”.
Investigations revealed that the sale of infants happens in different parts of the country but the act particularly thrives in the eastern and southern parts where it is operated by individuals or syndicates who use orphanages as cover-up to sell newborns.
Last month, Kenneth Ofoke, who was arrested for alleged child theft, revealed that he had made over N.7million, selling stolen babies in Benin, Lagos, Enugu and Port Harcourt.
Ofoke, who hails from Ohrza village in Izzza Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, was among suspected criminals paraded by Edo State Commissioner of Police, CP, Dan Malam Mohammed, in Benin-City on April 24.
“The first was seven weeks male twin who I sold for N500, 000. The second was three years old baby boy named Wisdom, I collected N30, 000”, he said.
“A two-year-old baby girl was given out for N200, 000 and I was waiting to receive some money from ‘madam’ when the police arrested me on March 26, 2019.
“I am a professional bricklayer. I used the proceeds to pay my house rent and bought some household property in Benin-City.
“The possibility of recovering the children and reuniting them with their biological parents is very slim as some of the buyers were from Lagos, Enugu and Port-Harcourt where an orphanage is being used as a spot for the illicit trade.”
Recounting how she got into the business of buying and selling children, a 48-year-old suspected member of a syndicate that trafficked in children, Eucharia Jaja, revealed that she trafficked four children out of Nigeria within 12 months.
According to the mother of four, who was arrested alongside a couple who sold their one-day-old baby by the Inspector General of Police Monitoring Team in Rivers, “it was a traditional birth attendant named Rose Onyia, now late, who introduced me into this business”.
The suspect went on, “She (birth attendant) also introduced me to other associates. I have sold about four children within the last one year that I joined the business.
“We don’t get babies every time; it is not something you get every time. My husband does not know much about the business because he is a tailor.
“What I do is to tell him to drive me sometimes when I want to go and deliver a baby. It is only twice he drove me. I am a nurse before I joined the business.
“We search for vulnerable pregnant mothers, married and unmarried, harbour them for months and then take them to illegal maternity homes for delivery. After delivery, we pay them off and sell the children to waiting buyers.
“I was arrested after I bought a baby boy from Rose Onyia at Omuagwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rives State for N550, 000. I sold the baby to a client in Lagos”.
The many battles of law enforcement agencies
In a bid to curb the trend of selling babies, the police and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) have rescued several babies and also continued to arrest suspects.
For instance, last year, NAPTIP arrested 11 persons in different parts of Anambra State for child trafficking, abduction and sale of children.
The suspects allegedly belonged to a syndicate that specialized in the kidnapping and sale of babies across the country.
Three kids, aged between eight months and four years, were recovered during the operation.
A two-year-old girl, reportedly stolen from Lagos, and a four-year-old boy, who was allegedly stolen from his parents in Gudaba, Abuja, were among the kids rescued. The two-year-old was stolen from Okpoko in Anambra State and recovered in Lagos.
One of the suspects arrested in connection with the case, Rosemary Okafor, 30, confessed to selling one of her four children (newborn baby) to one woman, simply identified as Madam Pink, for N350, 000. She said she sold the baby to be able to train the other three in school.
Also few weeks ago, NAPTIP declared two women wanted over their alleged involvement in the trafficking of a three-month-old baby from Lagos to Banjul. “Two women, Andy Emerald Bassey Pastor and Anthony Ibeneme Edith Omon, have been declared wanted by NAPTIP over their alleged involvement in the trafficking of a three-month-old baby from Lagos to Banjul”, the statement said.
“Anyone with useful information about their whereabouts which will aid the on-going investigations should please contact NAPTIP on 07030000203”.
Meanwhile only a few of the suspects eventually get prosecuted and jailed because of corruption and the complicated nature of the nation’s judicial system.
Why people sell their children —Expert
Reacting to the selling of children by couples, the Executive Director, International Center for Human Rights, Nonviolence and Safety Awareness, Ene Sarah Unobe, said there are several reasons that would make a woman give up her child away or sell the child.
Her words, “For instance, the circumstance of that baby’s birth is one reason. If it brings sorrow to her or the child is a product of rape, incest or defilement, she won’t like to have the baby.
“Or if she cannot abort the baby, especially when she didn’t discover she was pregnant in time, so she has no choice but to give birth to the child. But the child will become a memorial of pain and shame, so what she does is to give that child out because she doesn’t want to have anything to do with the father of the child or to do with a rapist.
“Like the women raped by Boko Haram members and they got pregnant, some women wouldn’t want to have anything to do with the children.
“Also it could be economic problem; when you have two or three children and you don’t want to have the fourth child and you are pregnant. At the end you realise you can’t even feed the two or three children but now you have number four. “They believe selling the child could help the child ‘end up in a better place than this house’.
“They don’t see the danger that the child could be used for rituals but prefer to believe that he could end up like Moses in Pharaoh’s house and become a prince there.
“Some of them have the mentality that ‘yes, I have two or three children; I can put them for adoption or sell them to a rich man’. So the hope of the child getting a better life, greener pasture could make them sell the child.
“Also some couple see it as an opportunity to pay the debt they owe. They could use their children as mortgage. Also in the spiritual aspect, a spiritualist can tell them that ‘this child will bring bad luck or that she’s a witch, his destiny is this and that; why not sell him off’. They are told that the children have bad luck and ‘if you sell them, you can have good luck but if you continue to keep them, nothing good can come out of your life because they are evil children’. So some could take them out and sell them because they are made to believe that their destiny may be bad.
“Government needs to urgently address the issue of unemployment, especially when there is a system of modern slavery because of the high poverty rate and insecurity. A lot of women become widows; children become orphans, so there are serious poverty issues.
“These are consequences of insecurity, terrorism and poverty. Before now we didn’t have issues of insecurity or we had it but it wasn’t as much as this. Insecurity has given birth to socioeconomic problems.
“So women, who are supposed to farm in their farmland to feed their children, cannot do so because their farmland has been destroyed and government is not giving them alternative or an option.
“The situation makes them live under the bridge and vulnerable to rape. So, government must look at the issue of providing employment.
“They should create a ministry where children will be taken from women who cannot fend for the children for adoption; if these women cannot do legal adoption, they will go through an illegal means by selling their children off for money because they believe they are selling the children off based on the child’s destiny to someone who will be able to take of the children than them”.