When Rose Ogidi (not real name) , a 14- year – old Junior Secondary School student of one of the schools in the South East was travelling home on a weekend , little did she know that she would fall into the hands of kidnappers who would take her to a ‘Baby making factory,’ where she would subsequently be impregnated. And thereafter, subjected to the spectrum of rigours that women usually endure, from conception through pregnancy to delivery and nursing of a baby.
On that fateful Friday evening, Rose, who is the only child of her parents, waited for a vehicle that should have conveyed her home when, suddenly, a vehicle screeched to a halt, perhaps from the pit of hell, for her to board . Hardly had she sat, when those devil-sent men blew some powdery substance into the air that sent her to sleep, almost immediately. She woke up not knowing where she was. But in her anxiety, she discovered that she was surrounded by three hefty men. Fully overwhelmed by the presence of those men, Rose became a sex tool for their animalistic desires, for several months until she became pregnant and gave birth. The child was collected from her, almost immediately and sold out for ritual purposes .
These cruel act continued until she gave birth to three children in succession who were all collected from her the moment she gave birth to them. She never breast- fed those children and could not tell their sexes.
Another is the case of Julina Emos who, on discovering she was pregnant, ran away from home to a ‘Baby-making factory’ tucked away somewhere in a remote village near Aba, in Abia state . The place was introduced to her by one of her friends. She ran away because of the stigma of having a child outside wedlock and the fear of the anger that would come upon her from the parents and the older siblings . Based on the agreement between her and the Madam who owned the factory, the moment she gave birth, the child was collected from her and a sum of seventy thousand naira was given to her, She thereafter left the place to continue with her normal life.
What happened to the child she carried for nine months and gave birth to successfully, she has no idea till date.
These are few accounts of events in ‘Baby-making factories‘ and it seems to be a thriving business as many, especially women , medical practitioners and Non -Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are venturing into the racket.
A baby-making factory, as the name implies, is a place where young girls are encouraged, induced or forced to become pregnant and after they must have given birth, the newborn babies would be collected or sold out for assorted rituals.
Investigations revealed that those running this illegal baby factories sell each baby between N500,000 and N600,000 depending on the sex of the child.
The sad thing is that most of these newborn babies were sold to people who would, in turn, use them to make money and not couples who would nurture and take adequate care of them.
In the past seven years, many baby-making factories have been discovered in states like Abia, Imo, Rivers, Cross River ,Enugu and Lagos, among others.
The first baby-making factory to be uncovered in Nigeria was in Enugu in 2008, when a group of baby factories claiming to be orphanages was revealed in the state during police raids.
In 2011, the Nigerian police raided two more hospitals, thereby dismantling two baby factories. In June , 32 pregnant girls were rescued in Aba, Abia from a hospital in that state.
In October of the same year, 17 pregnant girls, according to some sources, were rescued in one hospital in Ihiala Anambra.
The most recent was in Ondo state where the State Police Command, in one of the local government areas, arrested 21 people, including pregnant women ; nursing mothers and five children. They were found in a building allegedly owned by one Mrs. Happiness Ogundeji.
Speaking in an interview, the Principal Partner, Sterling Partnership, Mrs Boma Ozobia , described the situation as an unwelcome development, which could be ascribed to a systemic failure in the adoption process.
Mrs Ozobia wondered the reason ordinarily law-abiding citizens would be compelled to pay exorbitant sums of money to facilitate human trafficking. And other criminal activities in order to fulfill their legitimate desire to adopt a child.
She said: ‘Perhaps we need to review the legal framework and make the necessary adjustments to enable citizens adopt or foster children without resorting to crime. Where are the bottlenecks? Is the process too long drawn out and complicated? Is it simply a lack of information?
“The relevant laws and regulations governing child-adoption vary from one state to another. And this may well be part of the problem,” Mrs Ozobia noted.
‘On the other hand, the fact that some of us are prepared to rent out our wombs and sell our off springs in this way, appears to indicate an absence of values and mercenary mindset that is most worrying. It is also an indictment on our current standard of education for those not privileged to attend better schools, which are invariably mostly privately-owned now and too expensive for the average Nigerian,” she added.
Continuing, Mrs Ozobia said: “The average young person capable of working out the most basic arithmetic would logically opt to take on a role as a domestic worker rather than subject herself to the danger and physical trauma of pregnancy for the measly sum of N90,000 or thereabouts as has been reported. This equates to N10,000 per month if we take into consideration the fact that the average human gestational period is nine months.
‘Anecdotal evidence suggests that the demand for domestic workers that is dominated by migrants from Benin Republic and Togo presumably because Nigerians are largely reluctant to fill this gap. On average, domestic workers are paid in excess of N10,000 per month so that would seem to me a less dangerous and more honourable occupation. My personal philosophy is that there is dignity in labour and I would encourage young people to work at whatever job presents itself, rather than allow themselves to be exploited in this way’, she added.
On her part, Rev. Mrs Nkem Okoro of Guiding Light Assembly, Lagos, described a typical baby-making factory as an act of covetousness, adding that some Nigerians are not contended with what they have. According to her, the quest to make quick money has pushed many into all kinds of illegal business.
“It is unrighteousness both on the side of those who run the factory, the kidnappers, those who impregnate the girls and the young pregnant women who voluntarily run to those factories to deliver and sell off their new born babies ‘, she added.
On the side of the young girls who were forced to get pregnant and deliver in such factories, she said they may remain emotionally-traumatized all through their lives.
And for the young pregnant girls who decide to sell off their newborns because of money, she noted that they will forever live with guilt and regret.
‘’When the chips are down, by then it would have been too late because they will continue to imagine where their sold babies are; such situations can result to mental disorder and forgetfulness. If you visit psychiatric hospitals you will discover that more women suffer mental problem than men, and it may not be unconnected with their life style when they were younger,’’ Rev Okoro added.
She, however, attributed the increase in ‘baby-factory’ operations in the country to high rate of youth unemployment and poverty in the society. This, she said, consolidated by the failure of successive in the country and administrations in the affected states to put adequate measures in place to empower the youths by creating meaningful employment.
Alternatively, Rev Okoro appealed to governors in states where illegal selling of babies is prevalent to collaborate with security operatives to fish out those behind the trade and rehabilitate the rescued minors and teenagers.
Also, she stressed the need for parents to bring up their children with the fear of God so that they will not depart from it when they grow up.
“Parents should teach their children the fear of God , a teenage girl who has the fear of God in her would not engage in activities that would lead to unwanted pregnancy and there is no young man that has the fear of God in him that will accept money so as to impregnate a girl,” she noted.
Examining the health implications, a gynecologist and a Senior Research Fellow at the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Oliver Ezechi, explained that young pregnant women who gave birth under such conditions may not have proper antenatal care as they are restricted from moving around and performing sufficient exercise, which is crucial during pregnancy.
To him, pregnant woman who did not attend proper ante-natal care stands the risk of contacting life-threatening infection as well as the new-born baby.
“Besides, they may not be properly-fed and that may affect the development of the baby while in the womb and after the baby has been delivered,” he explained.
The medical practitioner, however, called on the government to take decisive steps to curb the growing menace of baby factories in some parts of the country.
No doubt, not all the children produced at these baby factories are used for ritual purposes.
Mrs. Agnes Oko, a business woman in Lagos, told this reporter that she decided to patronize a baby factory after several years of fruitless search for a child of her own. “Having married for over a decade and having been ridiculed by friends and in-laws , who kept on threatening to marry another wife for their son, it was obvious that l needed to do something to save my marriage and regain social dignity,” she narrated.
Mrs. Oko, who now has three children all doing well, explained that she would not go through the normal process of adopting babies legally because of the need to cover up the tracks of the origin of such children who must necessarily be integrated into the family as biological children of the Okos.
Besides, she noted that the process of child-adoption from government and the various registered and approved institutions like the convent centers is too rigorous and demanding for couples who are in their 50s to cope with.
According to her, some of these establishments and government institutions stipulate age limits for the couples. In some cases, if you are more than 50 years, they will not accept your application.
Another factor that is encouraging the booming trade of baby factories is the huge cost required in seeking medical assistance to have children of their own. Whereas there is great advancement in medical sciences whereby barren couples could be helped through the Invitro fertilization process, a few couples can hardly afford the cost .
A couple , Mr. and Mrs. Banji Adekambi, who are currently going through the process in a Lagos hospital, told this reporter that they have spent over N1million in the process. According to them, the cost is not easily affordable, although it is more dignifying to do so than ‘to buy’ children from factories or people who must have done one wrong or the other to get these children.
“We choose to go through the medical procedure because of our conscience and dignity. We do not think it is proper to get children from baby factories because some of their mothers are rape victims and all that”, they added.
The couple also noted that the desire to avoid the rigorous demands by several child-adoption agencies also encouraged them to go through the medical procedure despite the cost and the challenge of waiting.
Incidentally, virtually every organization identified in the baby-factory saga has always claimed to be duly registered by the government. In fact, the factories were registered as NGOs, and as a result, are at liberty to carry out their activities.
In one instance, the suspected operator of one of the factories in Abia state took the police to court, and indeed, obtained judgment in his favour. The police was, thereafter, restrained from prosecuting him. The Police were also ordered to vacate his premises. Although the case is still on appeal, the question is whether the NGO was registered to take delivery of teenage pregnancies? It is also doubtful that these NGOs are within the ambit of their registered objectives.
In the light of this, it is recommended that government should , accordingly, tighten and monitor the registration of NGOs and also ensure their proper monitoring.
Mr. John Ogundare, a lawyer, argued that the place of NGOs in the baby-factory menace could be traced to the quest by NGOs to make quick money, especially now that foreign sponsorship of NGOs in the country has been on the decline. He urged government to closely monitor the NGOs and regularly review their operations.
“I think that government should take a very closer look at the NGOs, some of them just want to make money fast , since external funding is hard to come by these days,” he stated.
He noted further that government should strive to punish those involved in the crime .
“What happens now is that some of the suspects compromise the system and get freedom from punishment. The implication is that there is no deterrence as the chain continues. By the time offenders, especially those who own the premises or those who impregnate the girls, are punished, the crime will reduce,” he stressed.
Given the growing trend in the society today, given that the patronage of baby factories is not limited to the poor as notable men and women in the society who wish to have children of their own are also involved , the concerned authorities of government should take another look at child-adoption laws in the country. This is to ensure that the laws encourage and are more friendly for honest couples to cope with.
It is also important for government to liberalize the education of the girl- child in the country, for example, with free education for girls, baby-factories will have less willing girls to donate their wombs for such illegal acts.
The point must also be made that it is lack of self- worth that usually inspires a girl to donate her womb to carry pregnancy and thereafter sell the baby.
According to experts, government should also mount serious campaigns across the country and among youth groups to educate them on the dangers of teenage pregnancy, the shame of selling their wombs for unwanted pregnancies and the need to honour their bodies since they would eventually get married.
Perhaps, Mrs. Ozobia’s advice comes handy in this report. “We need to review the legal frame work and make the necessary adjustments to enable citizens adopt or foster children without resorting to crime,” she added.
Finally, government should equally seek ways of helping couples wishing to go through medical procedures to have their own children. The current cost is exhorbitant for the poor, hence requires to be subsidized.