Recently, in Lagos, a young mother of 22 was reported to have sold her three month old baby for a paltry N50, 000. This is considered expensive going by what is becoming a fad where babies are sold for as little as N20, 000. The case in Lagos is reflective of a pervasive phenomenon that is thriving even with the law specifically prohibiting such practice in place.
Many have blamed this situation on economic recession eliciting the question, can a mother actually sell her own blood no matter the circumstance? A mother’s love for her child comes with exceptional devotion. It is that attitude that drives her and brings out the last strand of her energy to provide for and protect her child. We recall the case handled by the biblical King Solomon who used divine wisdom to locate who the actual mother of the child was.
Mothers, as we know them, starve themselves so that their children can eat. Mothers sell their treasured personal belongings to educate their children. Real mothers brave all odds to ensure the wellbeing and welfare of their children. Again, can a genuine mother accept to trade off her own baby? With the emerging syndrome of child trafficking, we insist that no real mother will deliberately do such harm to her own flesh and blood. Not after the bangs of labour.
What is developing into a disturbing scenario, in our considered opinion, is as a result of moral decay in the society. Young women, students especially, because of excessive crave for material things, indulge in illicit sex that results in pregnancy. Such girls are encouraged by traffickers to keep them for a fee. Others in similar situations decide to trade off the baby to cover up their shame. We know of girls dumping their babies by the road side or such obscure places.
Trafficking in babies is fast becoming a multi-million naira business involving desperate couples who are incapable of having babies of their own, doctors and nurses out to make quick money and others who want such babies for devilish purposes. What is euphemistically referred to as baby factories are, on daily basis, springing up and masquerading as day care centres, orphanages or children’s homes designed to divert the attention of the authorities from the horrendous activities going on in such places. Illicit trade in babies is also giving rise to surrogacy which is illegal in Nigeria.
Available information indicate that the practice is beginning to take international dimension as the crave for hard currencies is driving people to sell babies to people from Europe and the United States of America because many foreigners continue to seek infants here despite the controversy around Nigerian adoptions.
Human trafficking, including selling children, is illegal in Nigeria. There is a law to that effect. But the agency set up to fight the crime, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), in spite of its best efforts, have barely scratched the surface as the cankerworm has continued to fester to the point that almost 10 years ago, a UNESCO report identified the industry as the country’s third most common crime after financial fraud and drug trafficking – and the situation appears to be getting worse, according to campaigners.
Also the United States of America Department of State, on various occasions, have had to alert prospective adoptive parents to the issue of child buying from Nigeria after Nigerian media warned that people were posing as owners of orphanages or homes for unwed mothers to make money. This warning has not stopped the adoption of over 1,600 children from Nigeria by U.S. citizens since 1999.
Curiously, Nigeria has not ratified an internationally recognised set of rules known as The Hague Adoption Convention. The implication of this legal lacuna is that the laws governing adoptions remain murky and complicated. So, when officials of NAPTIP claim that the government is too overstretched by other issues to focus on baby trafficking, this is part of what they mean. Without strong internationally- recognised statutes in place, corruption takes over in the child adoption process.
Ironically, NAPTIP does not have data on the number of domestic adoptions that have taken place. What this entails, in our view, is that this illegality will continue to thrive as the nation is regularly inundated with this disgraceful trade.
We implore the government to, as a matter of urgency, ratify any and every international statute that will strengthen NAPTIP in its operations directed towards putting an end to this unwholesome practice that is skewed against helpless and defenceless children.