By Uduma Kalu
Child Trafficking in the Eastern part of Nigeria is a lucrative trade. In Nigeria, human trafficking ranks the third most common crime after financial fraud and drug trafficking. At least 10 children are sold every day across the country, according to the UN. Globally, the traffickers earn $33 billion yearly.
In Nigeria, the traffickers are seldom caught, and even when they are, they easily buy their way out. It is rampant in Nigeria but prevalent in the Eastern part of the country, especially child trafficking.
In Surulere Lagos, a childless Yoruba lady, married for five years, facing family discomforts, was told by her lady friend of a baby factory in Aba, Abia state.
The lady went to Aba, met the owners of the baby market and was asked to pay N2m for a male child. She was also given some medicines which made her look pregnant. Her husband thought she was pregnant. Towards the time of delivery, she told her husband she was travelling abroad to have the baby. But she went to Aba where a baby boy was handed over to her after paying the full amount. She returned to Lagos and lives with her husband with the child. The man thinks the boy is his.
Lagos baby factories
Why did she go to far away Aba? In Janet Fajemigbesin Street, in Amuwo Odofin, behind old Durbar Hotel-near Festac, Lagos, teen ladies charge N150,000 and N200,000 per baby. Twins sell for N450,000. They boys who impregnate the girls are paid N10,000 to N20,000. In Lekki, one Mrs. Theresa Marques, 84, owner of an orphanage sold babies for N100,000, N200,000.
Her home served as a baby factory. A medical doctor was also arrested at the Maternity. He was caught in a private room in the hospital with a young lady half naked. He himself was scantily dressed. The woman allegedly harboured young men and women who engaged in sex in order to produce children for her orphanage which were then sold. In 2005, a Lagos-based orphanage suspected of ties to child trafficking network was shut down.
So, aware of these problems, the Lagos lady preferred the Aba market, even though such factory was close to her in Surulere. Babies there were said to be brought from the East, especially, Aba. So, off to Aba she went.
Abia baby factories
Welcome to the booming child trafficking business in the South East, reputed as the largest in Nigeria. To prove this, last May 28, the police raided one of the baby markets, at No 3, Anyamele Street, Off No 10 Nicholas Road , By Brass Junction, Aba, the commercial nerve centre in Abia state. There is no sign-post here but it has a high-rise iron, black gate.
The police command had rescued about 32 teenage expectant mothers from the clinic known as The Cross Foundation, where teenage girls were kept until they were delivered of their babies. The police said the babies were sold and their mothers discharged after being paid N25,000 or N30,000 depending on the sex of the baby.
The second clinic raided there was Double Research Clinic and Laboratory at Iheoji Mgboko in Obingwa LGA, run by one Mr. John Onyemachi, a lab scientist. In all 41, ladies were rescued by the police through the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Mr. Soji Alabi, the Public Relations Officer of the Abia State NSCDC said they arrest owners of such illegal maternity homes in Abia regularly.
“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.”
The case of The Cross Foundation is interesting as it helps to unearth the child trafficking network in the South East.
In 2007, proprietor of the The Cross Foundation, Dr Hycinth Orikara, 1988 University of Nigeria, Nsukka graduate, began his illegal business in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He relocated to Aba after a botched prosecution following an earlier trial for similar crime.
In 2007, Orikara had been arrested for a similar crime alongside one Mrs Ayodele Okeke at 10 Woji Street, Port Harcourt in Rivers State. Note her name. Then his business was recommending pregnant girls to Ayodele. The police charged Orikara to court for child trafficking and running an illegal clinic but did not have a solid case against him and consequently lost the matter in court. The medical doctor was set free and he went to Aba to continue his illegal business.
Last year alone, more than six of such illegal homes were sealed and more than 100 such victims rescued in Aba. Some pastors are involved too. Some of the Orikara girls confessed that they had just been delivered of their babies and that they did not know what became of the infants. The National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) spokesperson, Mr. Arinze Orakuwe, said, “At the moment Abia and Imo states have the highest numbers of such illegal homes in the country.”
Enugu, Ebonyi baby factories
In 2008, Enugu state was thought to be the baby factory headquarters in Nigeria until last May when Aba took over. In May 2008, 20 teenage girls were rescued by the police in Enugu. Neighbours had long found something bizarre about the 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.
They would be 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, according to a state agency fighting human trafficking in Nigeria, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). More arests were amde in Udi street and Abakiliki in Ebonyi State.
How pregnant mothers are sourced
The practice of delivering pregnant mothers 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 intimidated so much that many of them can hardly relate their experience freely. But one brave victim, 18, 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,” the girl, who was five months pregnant at the time of her ordeal said.
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 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 2008 where babies were swapped for cash, said the NAPTITP boss.
The police had also swooped on a so-called foster home, not far from the Enugu police headquarters, where seven teenage pregnant girls and five workers were rounded up, in May, residents said.
Child Trafficking in Port Harcourt, Rivers
Saturday Vanguard has been on the trail of Mrs Precious Ogbonna, a Christian pastor who claimed she gave birth to seven children in 11 months in Owerri, Imo state.
The newspaper, to locate the truth of such strange delivery, had the DNA of the children conducted and the result was that the lady is not the mother of the children. But based on the above details, it is easy to understand that Mrs Ogbonna is not the end of the story. Indeed, the information she provided that she delivered five of the babies in Port Harcourt indicates the length of her network.
According to the story, Precious was delivered in a house located in Ohonda close, Rukpakulsi, Port Harcourt, where a black iron gate, as tall as the building, hides activities there. Run by one Nurse Blessing, detained by the Owerri police, following the Precious revelation, the Port Harcourt clinic is known in the neighbourhood as where babies are delivered.
Earlier, officials of the Rivers State Ministry of Social Welfare uncovered a Home in Sagana Street in the Mile One, Diobu, Port Harcourt. Here, after delivery, the young mothers’ babies were sold fee N20,000 and N50,000 based on the agreed terms. A woman who owned the child trafficking home was handed over to the police for further interrogation. Five pregnant girls were rescued from the home by welfare officials during the early morning raid. The alleged baby trafficking takes place inside a supposed Welfare Home for disabled persons there. The lid was blown off the child trafficking ring by a girl who felt cheated in the deal she allegedly had with the head of the home.
The Nurse Blessing network Imo
A lady told Saturday Vanguard that Nurse Blessing had been doing the business for years now. She charges between N300, 000 and N500,000 for each delivery. “We also gathered that Nurse Blessing got her tutelage from a popular woman in Okigwe; Imo state who treats all kinds of spiritually attacked pregnancies for N1million. The Okigwe woman we gathered had trained several women in the business and Nurse Blessing is one of them,” a source said.
Nurse Blessing was said to deliver pregnant women by massaging, and using warm water on the women’s belly. Is it possible that there is a link between Dr Orikara, Precious and Mrs Ayodele Omosuyi (Okeke?) in Okigwe, Imo state? One Ayodele was earlier linked with the doctor in Port Harcourt, remember.
The Okigwe place the Port Harcourt source referred to is in Ugwuaku, Okigwe, Imo State. Here, the Ayodele Omosuyi Natural Clinic is said to be a refuge for those seeking babies. Its walls, like those in Aba, Port Harcourt and Enugu, are high enough to hide a hugely thriving baby factory, where women, pretending to be heavily pregnant, are delivered of their ‘babies’ at a high cost.
Here, twins go for about N1 million, male babies N500,000, females between N350,000 and N450,000. She takes cash, not cheque. The owner of the baby factory is Mrs. Ayodele Omosuyi, popularly known as Iyawo in the community. It is close to Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, also close to Aba.
The police were allegedly aware of her trade but did nothing until NAPTIP, using soldiers stormed the place. Decayed human bodies that had turned into skeletons were among the things allegedly discovered during the raid. NAPTIP suspects that some of the children and even adults might have been used for rituals at the clinic. It is said that people from all places with exotic cars, some with Federal Government number plates, among other numbers, visit the woman, described as very powerful.
How Ayodele performs her delivery
An Okigwe resident had narrated what he heard from one of her patrons. “She confessed to me that she was in trouble. She said her sister-in-law, who had been scheming for her to be chased away from the family due to her inability to have a baby, suddenly changed after she visited Iyawo.
“She said after taking the substance given to her she started noticing something growing in her womb and that her baby actually moved to the admiration of her sister-in-law and other members of her family. She, however, confessed that it was just that once; that nothing happened again until she visited Iyawo again.
“When it was nine months and time for her to be delivered of her baby, Iyawo had to postpone the delivery date by four months to enable her complete the N1 million fee she was charged for twins.”
How Nurse Blessing, Ayodele operate
Ayodele’s arrest was due to operatives of the State Security Services (SSS) who arrested some women who flew to Enugu, only to return days after with newborn babies. The women were handed over to the NAPTIP, where they revealed how the suspect (Mrs. Omosuyi) assisted them to get the babies. NAPTIP said Ayodele had agents that are paid for each pregnant girl brought to the clinic. The girls are paid between N70,000 and N90,000 after delivery, depending on the sex of the baby.
While girls who successfully deliver are given a token, those who lose their babies are reportedly forced to serve Ayodele for a long time. During this period, male adults were paid to impregnate the girls, who are not allowed to leave the clinic. Four pregnant teenage girls were found during the raid and handed over to NAPTIP. A woman from Switzerland, who is married to a Cameroonian, was also found at the clinic. She claimed that her sister had got her children through the same source.
It was said that the woman administers certain substance on her patients that form a sort of tumour in the womb of the ‘expectant’ mothers, making them believe they were pregnant. The women warned not to go to any hospital or undergo ultra-sound or any sort of scan as they could lose the ‘pregnancy’ or ‘baby’ in the process. This sounds like Mrs Ogbonna’s story as well.
When it is time for ‘delivery,’ another substance is administered on the woman, which gives a false impression of labour. Part of the sex organ is cut as well as the growing tumour to discharge the necessary blood and make it look as though there was actual delivery. A baby is then sneaked in and made to cry. The woman is also made to believe she had been delivered of a baby.
Buying or selling of babies is illegal in Nigeria and can carry a 14-year jail term.