South-East Of Baby Selling Factories

Filed in Business by on July 26, 2013

3-babiesBabies allegedly rescued from a baby factory in Aba, Abia state

When news broke a week ago that men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) smashed a clinic that specialises in sales of babies in Enugu state, many Nigerians were amused in a particular way because the news was almost familiar, particularly coming from the South-eastern region of Nigeria. At the last count, over 80 teenage girls carrying pregnancies of babies ‘worth over N300 million,’ have been rescued in the region in the last two months. CHIBISI OHAKAH looks at the menace and its linkages in the region, the motivating factors for some of the victims, as well as the seeming ineffectiveness of the regulatory agencies in Nigeria.

Virtually every state in the south eastern part of Nigeria has come into the news this year over the prevalence of baby making/selling factories, yet many of the stories have the same features: the young ladies involved are usually teens, and testimonies of their motivation hover from poverty to the wobbling promises of the ‘factory,’ owners; the ‘factory’ owners’ claims are either those of benevolent maternity owners or philanthropic Nigerians helping indigent, female pregnancy victims; the busters and other relevant government agencies seem to have the idea of the existence of the illegal baby making/selling factories long before busting them.

It is not as if the business is peculiar to the region alone. Lagos state for one is very notorious for phony maternities and recurring stories of “the baby I took home was not the one I delivered,” “the nurse gave me injection and I woke up to be told my baby is dead and buried,” and of male babies being sold, on weekly basis, for as much as N2 million. Beyond Lagos and its environs, there are pockets of instances in other parts of Nigeria where commercial baby making factories exist. However, as a league, or prospering industry of some sort, South East and South South Nigeria seem to be the new haven for baby making/selling illegal factories. The young girls from the area seem not to give any qualms to carrying a baby for nine months essentially for the purpose of selling the baby to make money.
Enugu

In May 2008, 20 teenage girls were rescued by the police in Enugu. It was from a two-storey building where there was virtually no activity during the day. The doctor in charge reportedly lured teenagers with unwanted pregnancies by offering to help with abortion.

According to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) who stormed the building, the pregnant girls were locked up there until they gave birth, whereupon they would be forced to give up their babies for N20, 000. The babies would then be sold to buyers for N300, 000 and N450, 000 each.

On July 12, men of the NSCDC stormed the premises of the pretentious proprietor of Moonlight Maternity Home, said to be specialized in sales of unwanted babies in Enugu state. The proprietor, 74 year-old, Dr Ben Agbo and a nurse working with him were arrested. A three-day old baby about to be delivered to a buyer was recovered from them.

The proprietor confessed that he had been in business for the past nine years, and that he sees himself performing humanitarian service. Asked to explain the whereabouts of the mother of the baby, he said she had gone to seek assistance and was yet to return.
Imo

On May 22, 2013, the police in Imo state, stormed one Ahamefula Motherless Babies Home located in Njaba local government area, said to the be owned by one Madam One Thousand. About 17 pale looking, unkempt teenage, pregnant were rescued. Some reports put the number of the rescued teenagers at 26. Meanwhile, about 11 children in the home, waiting sale were equally rescued. The ages of the expectant mothers were put at between 14 and 17, and their confessions showed that they had been serially raped by one 23 year old local ostensibly hired for the purpose of impregnating them.

The state Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Musa Mohammed Katsina, said the proprietor, of the home, who vamoosed into thin air, ran her organised crime under the guise of an advertised but non-existent sachet water ‘factory.’ The hearty and gregarious sperm donour, named Oyinbo, reportedly confessed to owning 17 of the pregnancies. Dumb founded governor of Imo state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, promptly sealed off the home, took over care of the girls and made stringent pronouncement against baby factories in the state

A week after the Njaba discovery, security operatives in Imo state rescued a set of 14 pregnant teenagers in a building located at Umuguma, near the state capital Owerri. The baby factory is said to owned and run by a member of the Cherubim and Seraphim Christian sect, simply identified as Pastor Chinedu. The man reportedly hired an uncompleted building in the community and quartered the pregnant girls in the unhealthy environment.
Abia

Abia state arguably holds the flag as the largest depot of baby factories in Nigeria. Shortly before the burst of the Imo state baby factory, Police arrested one Ngozi Nwonu, the proprietor of ‘one of those orphanage homes’ – as an observer put it – in Isiala Ngwa local government, Abia state. Nwonu and her crew were running a home where girls were impregnated and the new babies sold off. Confessions of the victims, corroborated by those of the staff of the home, indicated that while the mothers of kids were given N10,000 each for giving up their children, the owners of the home made fortunes selling each child for as much as N450,000 or more.

On May 28, Abia state Police Command rescued of 32 pregnant girls between the ages of 15 and 17 when they stormed the premises of the Cross Foundation located at No 3, Anyamele Street, off No 10 Nicholas Road Aba. The state police commissioner, Mr. Bala Hassan, said the proprietor of the ‘Foundation’ confessed that he normally “sells the babies to people who may use them for rituals or other purposes.”

Some of the girls told police they had been offered to sell their babies for between N25, 000 and N30, 000 naira depending on the sex of the baby. The ‘Foundation’ will in turn resell the babies for between N500, 000 and N1 million. Abia baby factories

From another ‘factory’ named Double Research Clinic and Laboratory, located at Iheoji Mgboko in Obingwa LGA, run by one Mr. John Onyemachi, a lab scientist, about 41 ladies were rescued by men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Public Relations Officer of the Abia State NSCDC Mr. Soji Alabi, said ‘baby factories’ are common in the region.

“It is something that has been on-going over the years. Every community in Abia State is known to have one or so of such ‘baby factories’ as they are called. Teenage girls who get pregnant out of wedlock head there to get rid of their babies. Some of these so-called maternity homes even have agents who go about hunting for young girls to exploit.”

Anambra
Off the Onitsha-Owerri Expressway, somewhere in the suburb of Ihiala – a town popular with the defunct Biafran Airport at Uli, – one massive compound with high walls is popular, and always a beehive of activity. Teenage girls and flashy cars go in and out daily. From outside, it is difficult to see what goes on at Spormil Hospital and Maternity and/or Iheanyi Ezuma Foundation, both located inside the complex. However, checks revealed that the compound is a factory of sort that churns out special products – babies – for sale.

Director of Child Development in the Anambra state ministry of women affairs and social development, Mr. Emeka Ejide, confirmed upon invading the complex that the Foundation is registered as a Non-Government Organization, (NGO) “but the latest discovery is not in the certificate given to the office.”

A police team from the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID), swooped on the facility on Friday, October 14, 2011. About 30 teenage pregnant girls lived inside the compound. Three of them claimed to be students of former Alvan Ikoku College of Education (now Federal College of Education, Owerri,) while others were secondary schools dropouts. The proprietress of the Foundation and her crew were arrested.

The police also stormed another baby factory, named Divine Mercy Motherless Babies’ Home, in Obosi, near Onitsha, but the promoters escaped with over 20 pregnant girls and eight babies before the arrival of the police.
How pregnant teenagers are sourced

NAPTITP identifies categories of teenage mothers. There are desperate teenagers with unplanned pregnancies. For fear of what the society, especially family, would say, they search for safe places to dispose of their babies and return to normal life without suspicion. Such teenagers accept whatever they can get and quit the scene.

Evidence suggest that the existence of the baby factories are fairly known to female students in higher institutions, and even among adult women in the society, such that the information of what to do or where to go and not often far when there is a teen victim

There is also another category, those who willingly get pregnant essentially for the commercial value of the baby. Convinced about where to go and the price of the baby, the girls get pregnant and place themselves under the cover provided by the baby factory for the period it lasts. Driven by poverty, the young girls lease out their wombs and volunteer themselves, as regularly as is biologically possible, to produce babies for sale.

Confessions from some of the girls, when rescued, showed that fellow girls in the schools, and or neighbours usually come up with the information on where (baby factory) to go get help when the unwanted pregnancy occurs.

For some of the girls, it gradually becomes ‘normal’ business: they often return to the baby factory when they run out of the money they received the last time. And how do they get pregnant? Some of them are raped while inside the baby factories: some are forced to have sex with the proprietors or hired boys from within or outside of the ‘factory.’

“The moment I stepped in there, I was given an injection, I passed out and next thing I woke up and realised I had been raped,” a rescued victim, who was five months pregnant at the time of her ordeal told NAPTIP officials.

When she asked if she could telephone her family to let them know of her whereabouts, the doctor slapped her on the face. She was shoved into a room where 19 other girls were kept; all had been through a similar experience. She said the doctor raped her again the following day. A week later police swooped on the clinic.

“When we raided the hospital, we found four women who had been staying at the clinic for up to three years, to breed babies,” NSDCS boss for Enugu state commandant Desmond Agu said. He further said the doctor/proprietor confessed he often hired boys to come and impregnate girls .
Government connection
Despite the orchestra of government agencies busting the baby factories, facts suggests that indeed most of them operate with the knowledge or connivance of government authorities in the states. This suspicion is more in the Imo state cases. Residents of the state insist that government officials aid and abet the baby trading business.

According to the sources, who pleaded not to be named, officials and departments of the ministry of women affairs and child development, responsible for child adoptions, act as middlemen between baby factories’ operators and buyers. This discovery is said to have informed Governor Rochas Okorocha’s directive that all child adoptions will henceforth be approved by him.

A source confessed that his aunty was charged N350, 000 for the adoption of a male child. “They collected the money upfront and gave her a date to come for the baby,” the source said.

Corroborating this development, one of the teenagers rescued from the baby factory at Umuaka, near Owerri said, “Once we deliver our babies, some people will come here to take the babies away. If we ask, they will tell us they are government people.” The victim named Ogechi, who was about five months pregnant when they were rescued, had two other kids between ages three and four, who she said were to be taken by some government officials before they were rescued by the police.

But the commissioner for women affairs and child development, Mrs. Ann Dozie, denied the allegation of government of connivance and illegal adoptions. “I don’t move about the state to know who is adopting children illegally, but in my ministry, we follow laid down procedures. But, if anyone is doing anything behind me, I do not know,” she said.

Responding ostensibly to checkmate the government leg in baby making and selling business in Anambra state, wife of the state governor, Mrs. Margaret Peter Obi, announced a clampdown on motherless babies homes in the state. During the 2013 Children’s Day event at the Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka, she warned motherless babies’ homes in the state and those indulging in any form of illegal adoption of babies and outright selling of babies in any disguise to pack and leave without further delay.

She said the state government is working hand in gloves with the National Agency for The Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters, NAPTIP on issues relating to children. Buying or selling of babies is illegal in Nigeria and can carry a 14-year jail term.
Reactions

The South-east zonal chairman of the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS), Dr. Peter Emeka Katchy attributes the springing up of baby factories a new life style which is alien to the cultures of the people and religions.

An Associate Professor of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Katchy said those alien cultural values are gradually taking over the customs and traditions, which resulted in moral debasement and latitude in sexual behaviour of young girls.

He said Christianity never- encouraged baby trafficking or’ surrogate motherhood, or selling of any baby. “In fact, Christianity forbids the contracting of a poor young girl to become pregnant and deliver the baby to an infertile man or a barren woman who might have misused herself at a young age”.

The professor blamed the vogue for adoption as a solution to infertility and assuaging the feeling of barrenness of infertile women and impotency. He also blames poverty in the land and crave for money and material things among the young girls.

“Abject poverty has created opportunity for this new vogue to thrive by young girls becoming pregnant as surrogate mothers only for their babies to be sold on delivery by available modern trained infertile mother, encourage baby trafficking and slave trade in pretence to modernity, whereas it is an aberration in Igbo culture which has made the people of Southeast lose their value,” he said

In his own reaction, the chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri, said the proprietors of baby making homes are desecrating the land, stating that that all forms of atrocities will no longer be tolerated in the state either in Igbo land.

The Monarch said the sale of babies and ritual practices are forbidden in Igbo land and anyone caught perpetrating such acts is not fit to live among the people.

“We are worried by recent happenings in the state. How can someone keep young girls and boys to produce children which will be sold like livestock? It is forbidden by our tradition and these ones will be severely punished to serve as deterrent to others,” he said.

“Our tradition does not condone the mindless killing of innocent people or kidnapping and human trafficking and those that have been caught even after serving their jails terms if found guilty by the law courts, still remain banished from Imo state and the entire Igbo nation.

“What is happening across the country is a result of the disrespect of the traditions and values of the people because no tradition, be that of the Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo or any other ethnic group condones atrocity and terrorism. We need to revive our cultures and return to the traditional ways of doing things.”

Child trafficking and baby making businesses are indications that there is a booming market for them. Unless and until the market is smashed and those promoting the illegal trade severely dealt with, the nation will continue to witness ugly cases such as the extant ones, while those who evidently see anything wrong with human commodification will continue to profit from the misery of often unsuspecting victims.

The ministries of women affairs and departments of social welfare in the various ministries of health, etc across the country are often not helping matters. Corruption seem to have eaten so deep in the civil service that what the larger members of the public consider against the baby factories are not considered by the secondary benefactors in the ministries

Government at all levels should, as a matter of priority, ensure that individuals and organisations who run orphanages and motherless babies homes are licensed and adequately monitored. By so doing, those who run such outfits for commercial purposes only will find it difficult to operate successfully.

Human trafficking is ranked the third most common crime after economic fraud and drug trafficking in the country, according to UNESCO.

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