Anyone who hears about Nigeria’s “baby factories” would think it is government’s policy to sustain our high population as the tag creates impressions of facilities turning out babies round the clock. CHRISTIANA NWAOGU writes that the light punishment, if any, that operators of these illegal facilities get on the few occasions that they are caught, encourages the practice that is assuming a nationwide scope.
In Nigeria today, the sale of babies has become a booming trade with international dimensions. Contrary to the believe that baby factories are federal government’s policy to sustain high population, baby factories produce babies that are for sale to the highest bidders. The operators care more about profit than the motive of the buyers. To many rights activists, calling the illegal facilities that masquerade as hospitals and orphanages baby factories, give them a coating of legality. This is because, with the number of facilities security agencies are busting, it is obvious that we have more challenges with these illegalities than are public.
As a matter of fact, operators of baby factories have moved from giving out orphans for adoption, to setting up homes where they “harvest babies”, from teenagers, with unwanted pregnancies, or those who have been coerced to bear children for sale to those who can afford the exorbitant fees.
A source said it was initially set up with the view to giving shelter and care to abandoned and motherless babies, but it has since metamorphosed into a camp where young girls are assembled and put in the family way and the fruits of their labour are sold to desperados
LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that most of these facilities as testified by victims and beneficiaries, have “medical facilities” for deliveries and virile young men who impregnate the hired girls.
Disturbingly, not only are the facilities illegal, they have also often mentioned in cases of abduction, stealing of babies and child trafficking. They are mostly managed by quacks who claim medical qualifications, or nurses who have abandoned formal practice for the underworld.
Revelations has it that child trafficking and selling of babies are on the rise in the country, particularly in the Southeast and South/south region. These traffickers hide under the cloak of native maternity operations to arrange babies for baby seekers while the young ladies are believed to have found a solution ground for unwanted babies, hence, their decisions to dump them in the clinics for onward sale or birth arrangement to desperate women.
On Monday, September 4, 2022, operatives of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police (CP) Monitoring Unit, apparently acting on a tip-off, raided an illegal orphanage home, Saint Francis of Assisi Orphanage Home, located at Aluu community in Ikwerre local government area of Rivers State.
The home, operated by Reverend Sister Maureen Wechinwu, a former member of a Catholic congregation, ‘Our Lady of Victory Ministries’ also known as ‘Victory Noll Sisters.’ The congregation, which has its headquarters in the United States of America, was founded in 1922 by a Catholic priest, Fr. John J. Sigstein, had fifteen children in captivity.
Parading the illegal operator at the Police headquarters in Port Harcourt on September 5, 2022, the Commissioner of Police, Eboka Friday, accused her of abduction and child-trafficking. Eboka also accused the ex -Catholic Nun of changing the surnames of some of the children, especially those below nine years to her own surname, Wechinwu.
Barely a month ago, two women identified as Christiana D’ivoire Iyama and Margaret Ogwu, were arrested by men of Ogun state police commandfor running a baby factory.
According to the command’s spokesman, SP Abimbola Oyeyemi, in a press statement made available to newsmen in Abeokuta, the suspects were arrested following information received by police at Agbado divisional headquarters
Only few months ago, another baby factory in a detention camp in the Ikotun area of Lagos was uncovered by the police command in the state after weeks of close monitoring and utilisation of intelligence reports.
In fact, Police officers who invaded the facility rescued 19 pregnant girls (between the ages of 15 and 28 years) and a day-old baby. The policemen were able to arrest the caregivers, nurse to the captors and the operators of the hotels in which the pregnant girls were hidden.
Also, 24 pregnant women , including 11 children were also 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 the law specifically prohibiting such practice in place.
Sometime ago, the Imo State Police Command, following a timely 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.
Interestingly, even 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 a 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.
In fact, the illegal trade in babies in Nigeria seem to be assuming an international dimension as a 42-year-old Cameroonian teacher, Evelyn Atemkeng, not too long ago was arrested in Calabar, Cross River State with a three-day-old baby she allegedly bought for N 1.2 million.
Concerned Nigerians are worried that the country’s profile and reputation for baby factories is steadily on the rise , and that if nothing is done to halt the satanic trade, in the days ahead, the country may earn the unenviable title of ‘World’s capital for baby factories.’