Nigerian government and police officials implicated in Lagos orphanage child trafficking

Date: 2005-03-08
Source: aiainc.org

Lagos horror orphanage–Rev Gift John speaks
Bones found in my home, by proprietress of horror orphanage

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye
Daily Sun

Investigations into allegations of criminal activities at an orphanage home in Lagos will move a step further today as detectives handling the case have been told that the Lagos State Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Culture, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele will show up with the bones recovered from the horror home.

But the proprietress of the home, Mrs. Gift John told Daily Sun in a full scale interview that what the commissioner has are bones of cows and goats, unless he goes to a cemetry to dig up human bones.

Mrs John in the interview revealed how she had been having dealings with the officials of the Ministry and how things fell apart between her and the Ministry.

She said that a lawyer who was close to the commissioner had paid and collected a baby at the home. But the lawyer returned the baby half dead and demanded for a replacement with another child, or have a refund of her money.

"I refused to replace the child, and the Commissioner intervened, asking me to replace the child, I still refused. Then the lawyer said that she would deal with me". Mrs. John said.

Meanwhile the police have refuted a report in a National Daily that a Deputy Superintendent of Police was detained over the matter.

According to them, the only officer who visited the State Criminal Investigations Department had come there to give them information which the detectives needed and she left immediately.

The police are in possession of documents signed by officials of the ministry which they said showed that they had been involved in child trafficking.

Below is the text of the interview with Mrs. Gift John:

Genesis of my problem

In June 2003, one Bose Owolabi came to the orphanage with two children as a destitute and she said she wanted help. I discovered she was pregnant and I wanted to send her away. She pleaded with me saying that since the place was an orphanage, I should let her stay. I told her no, that I would only keep her if she brings her mother. If I wanted to do something funny, would I have sent for her mother? The mother came once and never returned. I gave her a rehabilitation form and took her to a juvenile centre at Alakara where she told them that she would like to give the baby to the government.

She gave birth to the baby on November 2, 2003. The baby was adopted on the 10th of November 2003.

Before the baby was adopted, Bose said that I should tell whoever wanted to adopt her baby to help her with some money to do her business, which I did. The adopters gave her N70,000.

Bose started misbehaving in February 2004 and when I confronted her, she ran away and resurfaced on the 12th of January, 2005 to claim her baby. Why did it take her one year to claim her baby?

I learnt that an apostle in her church saw a vision and said what she did was bad. The apostle came to the orphanage on the 12th of January 2005 and detained me for eight days at Ayobo Police Station. The Apostle said he was prepared to die if I don’t produce the child. He further said that he would ensure that my house and orphanage were closed down which had been done.

Is an apostle not supposed to be a peace maker? Nigerians should help me ask him what his interest is? Or is he the owner of the child? The apostle wrote several false petitions to the ministry claiming that I was involved in selling human parts, illegal operation, killing babies etc.

May I use this opportunity to say that I am registered legally, and we dispose babies properly at the Isolo mortuary. I have never sold human parts in my life.

Based on the allegations, the ministry set up a 3-man panel. I took them around the orphanage premises and they never sent for me after that.

Basically, I see this ugly incident as witch-hunting because I had earlier had cause to disagree with the ministry.

A female lawyer once came to adopt a child at the orphanage. But to my surprise, she returned the baby half dead, asking for a replacement or a refund of her money.

I told her that I could not grant her request because the child had been abused. I used the money she paid to rehabilitate the baby. People at the ministry called me to replace the child for her but I refused. Since then, my relationship with the ministry has not been cordial.

When Bose’s issue came up, they saw it as an opportunity to deal with me. As it were now I am ready to give the lawyer her money. The ministry people even asked me to carry the orphanage to my village.

Commissioner’s visit

He came on the 23rd of February. We had closed around 5.30pm and I retired to my home which is the second wing of the duplex. The first wing occupy the orphanage. When the commissioner came, the gateman did not know who he was. He stood outside for minutes. He was annoyed that the gateman kept him waiting so he sent for about 200 OPC men. I didn’t know that it was the commissioner. I thought it was the apostle, so I stayed put in my room.

Disappearing act

(Bursts into laughter) I am a child of God. I learnt that they said OPC asked for me. The blood of Jesus is greater than any OPC charm. For crying out loud, I was in my room, inside my apartment and the OPC members brought down my door.

They also said I was half-dressed. For Christ’s sake, my personal room is my private room! I could as well have been naked. I was half-dressed and was sitting in a pensive mood wondering what was going on. I did not expect them to bring down my door. I was very scared, that was why I didn’t come out.

I had been harassed severally and was sick and tired of it all. My husband came back from work to meet over 200 policemen and 200 OPC men at our gate. He didn’t know what was happening. How did they expect him to enter the house with armed men surrounding it. As he wanted to reverse, they arrested him.

Human bones and dead bodies

I have never burnt any body in my life. Mind you, the refuse dump the commissioner inspected is a public one, where everybody dumps refuse. The bones, he saw were probably cow bones, because two of my daughters got married between November and January. We killed cows and goats.

There is no way I could have burnt babies and OPC would not have arrested me. Mind you, I am not Yoruba, so it was not as if they were covering me up. The street is well guarded by men of the OPC and two OPC members are stationed right in front of my home. So the allegations of burning babies is very malicious and wicked. I only hope that they do not go to pick up bones in the mortuary as evidence. This is all a gang up. Also, how come the commissioner took pictures of my house and orphanage and could not take pictures of the bones he discovered. Or if he took the pictures, why did he not release it to the press. I only saw him pointing to the refuse dump and scattering it with a stick.

Luring of pregnant teenage girls

Look, every orphanage harbours these girls. Do your investigations. They don’t have anywhere else to go. So we take care of them and they give up their kids for adoption. To say that I lure them is very wicked. Their mothers or even boyfriends bring them to us. And we lecture them on laws guiding adoption. I take good care of these girls and register them in the hospital. The two hospitals we use are Samaria and Raphel hospital, both are at Okota. I agree that an orphanage is not supposed to keep pregnant girls, but what do I do, when they come to me. The motto of my orphanage is, "Don’t kill, we care." And we try to live up to that.

Nobody is looking at the fact that we prevent abortion. They are saying that I am involved in human trafficking. Why should I? God has blessed me and given me my own children.

Slaughter slab

What they are referring to as a slaughter slab is a clinical bed in the balcony. I have a qualified nurse that takes care of emergencies. Some of these girls come in at the point of delivery. The mid-wife helps when it is too late for us to take them to the hospital. The last girl that delivered at the orphanage was taken to Samaria hospital. All these girls have files there. We register them for ante natal and give them all the medications necessary. Why would I want to slaughter children? God’s gift to humanity?

Please help me beg the commissioner

Towards the end of the interview, Mrs. John’s eyes became misty. She said: " Please help me get some Yoruba people to beg the Commissioner. I know that they are out to deal with me and would go to any extent. My hands are clean." See my husband and my staff have been here for 10 days."

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