Recently, 24 pregnant women and 11 children were rescued from a ‘baby’ factory in Calabar by operation Akpakwu, a security outfit set up by the Cross River State government. In Lagos too, a young mother of 22 was reported to have sold her three month old baby boy for a paltry N170, 000. This is considered expensive going by what is becoming a fad where baby girls are sold for as little as N70, 000. The case in Lagos is reflective of a pervasive phenomenon that is thriving even with a law in place specifically prohibiting such practice.
Not too long ago, the Imo State Police Command, following a tip-off, clamped down on a baby factory disguised by the operator as a ‘motherless Baby’s home. The girls, numbering 18, who were impregnated by boys on contract were at various stages of pregnancy.
The police in Ogun state, acting on a tip-off, also raided a baby factory in Akute area of the state. Worthy of mention also is the recent clamp down by the ‘’B’’ Division, State Police Command, Asaba on a housewife, Mrs. Rosemary Edeh, for allegedly stealing a five-year-old girl left in the custody of a house-help at Okwe. Still in Delta, a man who connived with a matron who delivered his wife of an ‘’unwanted’’ baby was nabbed alongside the matron and buyer by the police in Warri.
The illegal trade in babies in Nigeria seem to be assuming an international dimension as a 42-year-old Cameroonian teacher, Evelyn Atemkeng, was arrested in Calabar, Cross River State with a three-day-old baby she allegedly bought for N 1.2 million.
This newspaper is worried that Nigeria’s profile as a haven for baby factories is steadily on the rise , and that if nothing is done, the country may earn the unenviable title of ‘World’s capital for baby factories.’
While many have blamed this situation on economy, the question to ask is, can a mother actually sell her own blood no matter the circumstance? A mother’s love for her child comes with exceptional devotion. Real mothers brave all odds to ensure the wellbeing and welfare of their children. 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.
In our considered opinion, what is developing into a disturbing scenario 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. 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 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. Sadly, this is happening years after 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.
We are shocked to hear that while some security operatives view these factories as ATM’s, NAPTIP on the other hand, 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 and other security agencies in their operations directed towards putting an end to this unwholesome practice that is skewed against helpless and defenceless children.