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BEWARE! There might be a baby factory in your neighbourhood

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Why the trend persists

New born males sold for N900,000, females N800,000

By Ebunoluwa Sessou, Josephine Agbonkhese & Florence Amagiya

Following a tip-off on baby factory, we put a call through to someone in Igando area of Lagos State recently, which revealed some shady deals people do with babies.

The telephone receiver, in a coded language, asked if there was anyone who was interested in the sale of babies. A bucket was used to refer to a newborn male child while a newborn female was referred  to as a trailer. The male child, Weekend Woman, WW, was informed, would cost N900,000 and the female, N800,000.

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While still negotiating,  another call came through on the seller’s other phoneline from a woman in the Diaspora who sounded desperately ready to buy off two babies (male and female) from the seller.

Baby factory, otherwise known as child harvesting in Nigeria, is considered another dimension of human trafficking. An organised criminal network, they come in various forms including maternity homes, orphanages, clinics and small scale factories where pregnant girls live and deliver babies in return for monetary compensation.

The black market for newborn babies has developed in different parts of the country to provide infants to wealthy families who prefer cheaper clandestine methods as a substitute for surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, assisted reproductive technology or adoption through social services. It is also widely alleged that these factories also service ritualists who are in need of newborns.

In the past, these factories were commonly discovered in states like Ondo, Ogun, Imo, Akwa-Ibom, Abia and Anambra. But, today, there are cases of baby factories in Lagos State— some of which were recently uncovered in the Igando area of the state.

The first case of baby factory was published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, in 2006. In 2008, a network of baby factories claiming to be orphanages were discovered in Enugu State by police raids.

In 2013 and 2015, more baby factories were discovered; and this has continued till date.

In this report, Weekend Woman, WW, interrogates the increase in the trend looking at different channels triggering its rise, and also explores possible solutions.

Baby factory and women

Speaking to WW on why majority of the baby factories uncovered over the years happen to be run by women, a neuro-psychiatrist/mental health expert, Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, explained that women are on the front burner of the business because they are natural nurturers and would hardly be suspected.

“When a woman is seen with two or three young girls, people will assume they are her relatives,” she stated.

Kadiri who is also the founder, Pinnacle Medical Services said most of the girls lured into the baby factory trade are being brainwashed into seeing operators of those baby factories as their mothers, so much so that even if they have to take them to a hospital in the case of a complication, the hospital will hardly be able to detect that these girls are not their daughters.

“But a man seen with girls not known to be his children, will cause a stir. So, being a woman serves as an easy cover,” she added.

Effects on victims

According to her, “The menace of baby factory leaves a whole lot of psychological effects on victims. The girls are made to feel helpless, made to believe they cannot get help and care outside, made to feel sad about their lives and all. These leave so much mental harm.

“Worse still, they are deprived of any form of societal interaction as they are not allowed to go anywhere and have no freedom whatsoever. Everything they want is given to them in there, including food, clothing, antenatal care, etc. They bring in midwives and believe me, some of these midwives are not aware of the full details. Most times, these midwives are lied to. The madam (owner of the baby factory) might say: “Come and help me deliver this my sister’s child who got pregnant and was sent out of the house.”

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“Due to what they(victims) have been reduced to, when they eventually deliver their babies and are told the baby died, they will be happy because they do not believe they could fend for the baby in the first instance. But of course, the worst part of their trauma is the fact that men who they do not know, come to sleep with them regularly”, she pointed out.

Between baby factories and adoption

On why people patronise baby factories instead of going through proper procedures for adoption, Kadiri said, “There are a lot of procedures for adopting in orphanages; you’ll go to social welfare and several other ministries, and then sign series of documents. But this one, they will just come, pay, take the baby and go. It’s like traditional birth attendants and general hospitals. At general hospitals, you will be required to register, donate blood, etc. But at traditional birth centres, you don’t go through those processes.”

She continued: “The truth is that the people patronising baby factories are educated like you and I. So, you can see that the problem is about values and morals, more than about the processes involved in adoption. I’ve had people who would say they adopted a child but when you ask them which orphanage, they cannot give you the details. We’ve seen cases where people will give birth to babies and nurses will present them with dead babies; meanwhile, their babies have been sold to somebody else.

“For us, it’s a policy issue. When there are laws that are properly executed and implemented, this menace of baby factory will come to an end. It is such a disheartening menace because baby factories are actually more rampant than we see in the media; they are everywhere in our neighbourhoods. So, what we need are laws that will be properly executed so that people will know what they are doing is wrong. This is important because this illegal trade is a trauma on a whole generation; from the mother who loses a child forever and for the child who is deprived of his or her biological mother.”

Trend and poverty

Asked if the society is doing enough to stop the trend, Kadiri said, “If you want to look at the society, you must not forget that the average Nigerian is hungry. What happens next door does not concern the average Nigerian who lives below $1 per day. How can a hungry man worry himself about an apartment having two or three pregnant girls? The society will not be on the lookout for this. Except there are policies that are fully implemented and executed and except we have stern penalties such as life imprisonment, etc. But as it is now, neighbours will even be helping to hide perpetrators.

“Even when some members of the public discover such apartments, they would rather blackmail the operator than report to law enforcement authorities, “she noted.

Our laws enough to tackle baby factory— FIDA, Lagos Assembly

Perhaps, there is need for new laws to be formulated in order to adequately address this issue. A legal practitioner and Chairperson, International Federation of Women Lawyers, Barr Philomena Nneji, however noted that the existing laws are enough.

According to her, “What we need are effective mechanisms that will ensure effective implementation. There have to be enhanced enforcement mechanisms that will pave way for effective implementation of the law.

“Even if we have millions of new laws and fail to put our feet down to enforce implementation, the situation will remain the same. The main thing needed, like I said earlier, is enhanced enforcement mechanism”, she pointed.

In the same vein, a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Kosofe II, Tunde Braimoh, who is also Chairman, House Committee on Information, Strategy and Security, reiterated that the laws against human trafficking and other ills in the society are enough to address the issue.

He lamented that people who are abreast of information on the issues have failed to help curtail reoccurrence.

“Operation of unapproved orphanage centres is unlawful and people are aware of that. Those who are implementing the laws are not witches or wizards. If they do not have adequate information, there is no way they can take necessary steps to apprehend culprits across the state.”

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His colleague, Victor Akande, representing Ojo Constituency 1, described the situation as unfortunate.

Akande, who is Chairman House Committee on Judiciary, Human Right, Public Petition and LASIEC, lamented that over the years, the situation had not been properly addressed so as to prevent reoccurrence.

“In spite of that, I want to look inwardly to say without fear that Igando is becoming very notorious for unscrupulous activities. We had the kidnap saga and now, the baby factory or baby making industry.

“I want to say that most of the people that started this kind of outfits sent a template to the general populace who are informed.

“The general public did not take a cue from what had happened before. We did not educate the people and those saddled with the responsibility of educating the public and unravelling the situation have refused to do so.

Proper registration of child care centres

Akande further explained that child care centres should be properly registered by government to be able to fish out perpetrators of evil in the society. He said: “There are laws that are meant to curtail those NGOs among other centres that take care of children. It is incumbent on us as lawmakers to make sure that we comb all nooks and cranies of Lagos to be able to fish out bad eggs in the society.

“That is an aspect that should be addressed by the Lagos State House of Assembly. We have called on the Lagos State Government and we have amended some laws to cater for that. But, it is not enough to make laws; we should concentrate on how those laws would be implemented. The Lagos Assembly has tried to put in place those laws for the masses and in turn ease the pain of the masses. Nobody knows how the baby factory came about and I will say, this is a disease that needs to be cured as soon as possible. It is a dilemma that we have not been able to unravel and bring to justice.” But, I can assure you that if all stakeholders involved including the  police intensify their efforts to unravel many of such outlets, our environment will be better for it.”

Akande noted that the implementation of laws should not be left in the hands of the executive alone but that a state police should be put in place. “If we have state police, the executive governor will have control over them and we will better for it.”

LASSRA and proper documentation of immigrants

Braimoh further explained that there is an agency in Lagos that takes care of proper documentation of immigrants in Lagos.

“Lagos State Residents Registration Agency, LASRRA, is an agency that ensures proper documentation of immigrants. People come to Lagos on a daily basis for livelihood and most of the time, accommodation might be their challenge; that is why it is important for them to be informed that LASRRA as a state government establishment has enough facilities to ensure their data are recorded and documented. Most people should be careful so that they will not become victims of baby factories or slave trade. LASRRA is in different local governments in Lagos,” he said.

Vanguard

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