« on: November 17, 2008, 02:33:11 PM »
Police raids reveal 'baby farms'
From correspondents in Enugu, Nigeria
November 14, 2008 02:48pm
+ - Print Email Share Add to MySpace Add to Digg Add to del.icio.us Add to Fark Post to Facebook Add to Kwoff What are these? POLICE raids have revealed an alleged network baby "farms" or "factories" in Nigeria, forcing a new look at the scope of people trafficking in the country.
At a hospital in Enugu, a large city in Nigeria's southeast, 20 teenage girls were rescued in May in a police swoop on what was believed to be one of the largest infant trafficking rings in the west African country.
The two-storey building on a dusty street in Enugu's teeming Uwani district now stands deserted, shutters down.
Neighbours had long found something bizarre about the establishment, where there was virtually no activity during the day, they said.
The doctor in charge, who is now on trial, reportedly lured teenagers with unwanted pregnancies by offering to help with abortion.
They would be locked up there until they gave birth, whereupon they would be forced to give up their babies for a token fee of around 20,000 naira ($170).
The babies would then be sold to buyers for anything between 300,000 and 450,000 naira ($2500-$3800) each, according to a state agency fighting human trafficking in Nigeria, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
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But luck ran out for the gynaecologist, said to be in his 50s, when a woman to whom he had sold a day-old infant was caught by Nigeria's Security and Civil Defence Service (NSCDS) while trying to smuggle the child to Lagos, the security agency said.
Statistics on the prevalence of baby breeding are hard to come by, but anti-trafficking campaigners say it is widespread and run by well-organised criminal syndicates.
"We believe the scope is much wider than we know," said Ijeoma Okoronkwo, head of NAPTIP.
"It has been happening over time, but we did not know. The first indication we had about this came in December 2006, when an NGO raised the alarm and told us babies were being exchanged for cash and that there were a number of hospitals involved."
The practice takes varying forms. One is where desperate teenagers with unplanned pregnancies, fearing ostracism by society, get lured to a clinic and are forced to turn over their babies.
The girls are so intimidated many can hardly relate their experience freely.
But one brave victim, an 18-year-old, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, recounted her week-long ordeal when she was trapped inside one of the clinics days before it was raided by police.
"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," said the girl, who was five months pregnant at the time of her ordeal.
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.
Another category of young women, driven by deep poverty, lease out their wombs and volunteer themselves, as regularly as is biologically possible, to produce babies for sale.
"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.
The doctor, whom police named, "had been inviting boys to come and impregnate girls," said Mr Agu.
This was just one of around a dozen centres - masquerading as maternity clinics, foster homes, orphanages or shelters for homeless pregnant girls - unearthed in recent months where babies were swapped for cash, said the NAPTITP boss.
Last month police swooped on a so-called foster home, not far from the Enugu police headquarters, where seven pregnant teenage girls and five workers were rounded up, residents said.
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