Hideous BusinessJune 23, 2008 13:48, 2,204 views
Many Nigerian doctors now engage in illegal sale of babies, taking advantage of helplessness of pregnant girls and the desperation of childless couples.
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
All passengers had settled on their luxury bus seats, expecting to embark on the tortuous nine-hour Enugu-Lagos trip. That Monday, 9 June, 2008, Mrs. Bene Aguocha was one of those who wanted to take off to Lagos from the Holy Ghost Park, Enugu.
As usual, every one on the bus was craning his or her neck, preening at the vast range of wares on display by hawkers, who were pressing their noses and faces on the bodywork and windows of the bus. Items on sale were ukwa, ugba, abacha, tapioca, achala, pear, kolanuts, akutu, walnuts, groundnuts, garden eggs and banana, most of which are food and fruits indigenous to the south-east. These wares make travellers salivate and look forward to such trips, especially after leaving home for a long time.
Beyond these, there were also the antics of medicine hawkers displaying local herbs, ranging from cough concoctions, lotions for treatment of scabies, to aphrodisiacs. Street urchins, dancing vigorously to ear-splitting music, provided entertainment. Despite the raucous atmosphere of the park, anxiety of how the journey would end always settles on all travellers like a brooding hen. These are the bad roads that could break the spine or damage vehicles, and the menace of bandits who could snuff life out of travellers with no more effort than killing a moth. That day, Mrs. Aguocha’s apprehension at that Enugu park was more complicated. Beyond the bad road, the possibility of the vehicle developing a fault on the way without a refund of her transport fare and being attacked by robbers, the woman was afraid of what would happen if the bundle she was carrying, a day-old-baby, was detected. To banish fear from her mind, she made a sign of the cross, even as she listlessly shook her leg and sang a false lullaby. However, her prayer was not answered by the Almighty who prefers justice. An eagle-eyed female official of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, accosted and questioned Aguocha why she was travelling with a day-old baby. The official asked her to prove ownership of the baby. She started stammering, even as her shaky palms became wet with sweat. Aguocha found it difficult looking at her accuser straight in the face. Earlier, as revealed by the Enugu State Commandant of the NSCDC, Mr. Desmond Agu, his men got wind of a lady who was about to make a trip to Lagos with a day-old baby that was not hers. When caught, the woman confessed that she bought the baby from one Dr. Kenneth Akunne, also known as Dr. Chukwu Uzoma, for N340,000. Akunne allegedly operates a maternity home at 3-6, Anyaegbunam Street, Uwani, Enugu. Consequently, security men swooped on Akunne’s hospital and stumbled on 22 pregnant girls whose ages ranged between 15 and 18 years. Sources close to the magazine disclosed that Dr. Akunne had a private clinic at Inyi Street, Ashara Layout area of the city, which was once closed down for a similar offence. That year, his certificate of practice was said to have been withdrawn by the Nigerian Medical Association(NMA). In recent times, cases of sale of babies have been increasing alarmingly. On the part of the buyers, they were driven by the desperation of childlessness, ritual for money, foreign welfare opportunities, and (cheap) child labour. For those who sell their own babies, a pattern has, in recent times, developed. They were driven to this madness by the excruciating economic climate, culture, rejection by their sugar daddies and the fear of what the future holds. The matter became so serious that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons, NAPTIP, raised an alarm on the increasing cases of Nigerian medical personnel, parents and illegal children homes selling babies. Mrs. Carol Ndaguba, Executive Secretary, linked this to the rate of poverty in the country. She urged all states to sign the Child Rights Act to protect children. She revealed that her agency had received reports on the sales of babies going on, especially in the South East, and added that she had put her men on full alert. That Nigerians sell babies, in the words of analysts, shows that these are desperate times. At moments of great upheavals like famine, war, draught, earthquake, the reasoning faculty of many people would take a flight such that they indulge in terrible practices for survival. According to Joel Alebiosu, an Ibadan-based sociologist, that is why certain individuals indulge in self-castration, cannibalism and selling of their own children. He quoted what happened in imperial China, where the eunuchs, who were close to the rulers, had access to free food, shelter, clothing and power, even as their ‘complete’ compatriots wallowed in povety. Apart from many Chinese submitting themselves for castration, there were thousands of others who indulged in self-castration.“If you doubt that economic reason or the need for survival can drive people to cannibalistic level,” Omorogbe told TheNEWS, “I refer you to what the Cable News Network founder, Ted Turner, said recently that there would be catastrophe if global warming is not addressed by world leaders. In the words of Turner: ‘Not doing it will be catastrophic. We’ll be 8 degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals.’” Omorogbe told this magazine, therefore, that the same desperation that drove people to castrate themselves and cannibals to eat human flesh is the same expediency that could “make a woman sell the bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh and for a doctor to be a facilitator”. True. Investigations revealed that sale of babies is booming among medical doctors and nurses with their large number of customers. TheNEWS reliably gathered that a baby girl now goes for N250,000, N300,000 or N400,000, depending on how a buyer could bargain or how well the doctor could exploit the desperation of the prospective buyer. Dr. Akunne, who had turned his Hippocratic oath upside down, claimed that he was running a non-governmental organisation. But Agu, Enugu State Commandant of the NSCDC, said the medical doctor should tell that to the marines. Even residents of Anyaegbunam Street said Akunne’s maternity home had been notorious for child trafficking for the past three years. This medium gathered that there were two young lady canvassers who lured girls, mostly students and house maids, to the home on commission basis. Two bouncers were also on the payroll of the doctor to deter girls that may wish to abscond. TheNEWS further gathered that the 20 pregnant girls found in Akunne’s hospital confessed that he used to have unprotected sex with them.
There was, however, a curious twist to the drama when cops from Uwani Police Station arrived to intimidate officers of the NSCDC, asking why they did not consult them–the police–before taking action. This raised a question whether the police were not on the payroll of the baby sellers, an allegation denied by the police authorities in the state, which intervened in the conflict. Also on 6 June 2008, an 80-year-old grandmother, Mrs. Grace Erondu, was paraded in Abuja for allegedly conspiring with some other persons to engage in child trafficking, the handmaiden of baby sales. Among the 13 girls, aged between 19 and 26, found in her custody in Umuahia, 11 of them were at various stages of pregnancy. Two of them were delivered of babies, but did not know their babies’ whereabouts.
Miss Mary Ibe, a victim who hails from Afikpo Local Government area of Ebonyi State, lamented: “The person who directed me there said there were doctors and nurses there to take care of us. I went there one Sunday in April. When I got there, I was told that three people delivered all boys and the children were taken away.” On 29 May 2008, Jabuken Hospital, located at Umode in Osisionia council area in Aba, Abia State, was raided by the police. Although the proprietress, Mrs. Ijeoma Ibekwe, had voted with her feet, the cops arrested two men and nine girls and six of them, between 15 and 20 years of age, were in different stages of pregnancy. The pregnant girls included Chinonye Isaiah,19, from Ovim–Isikwuato Local Government Area in Abia State; Chinelo Okoro,15, from Umualuwakum Mbano, Imo State; Nkechi Njoku, 20, from Asa-Nnesu LGA, Abia; Odiwomma Okafor,17, from Obowo, Imo State; Ndidi Monday,15, from Uruan-Iyan, Cross River State; and Blessing Achurumba,15, from Ala-Oji, Abia. Others were Goodnews Jombo, 26, from Obingwa LGA, Abia State; Ogochukwu Onwumere, 23, from Umuorie-Aku, Ikwano LGA, Abia; and Amarachi Njoku, 17, a native of Agbor in Delta State. The men were Joshua Ibekwe, 28, Umuajameze Umuopara and Levi Ibekwe, 31.
Investigations revealed that the hospital was not only unregistered, but an antenatal home where unmarried girls and victims of unwanted pregnancy were camped. Through contacts, Ijeoma allegedly recruited the girls into her hideout from rural areas and among salesgirls and house-helps in big towns across the country. Other recruitment grounds include post-primary and tertiary institutions, where female students are afraid of the great taboo in most Igbo cultures on unwanted pregnancy. Affluent Ijeoma, fondly called mummy by her clients, was reported to call the shots in the camp. She partially undertakes the inmates’ upkeep. At her expense, she provides them with orthodox and traditional modes of antenatal care. Thus, their relationship gets chummier. To consummate her ploy, she plays midwife during labour and delivers them of babies free of charge.
Ijeoma, a hard-nosed businesswoman, would, thereafter move to recoup her antenatal and postnatal bills by selling babies in her care. She allegedly did this by negotiating with ritualists, child traffickers and adopters through sale at huge prices. A source told TheNEWS that she would give part of the money to the girls to make them keep quiet. But nemesis caught up with Ijeoma recently. Levi Ibekwe, a deportee and one of the male suspects in the custody of the Abia State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Umuahia, disclosed to the magazine that Ijeoma was his wife. Levi revealed that trouble ensued when his cousin, Miss Ahuruchi Peace Iroegbu, reported to the police that her own mother and his wife conspired to sell her baby. Asked if he was aware of the ‘business’ between his wife and Ahuruchi’s mother, Levi said: ”I don’t know anything about the business. But anything the police can do to recover the baby is my concern.” Close sources, however, alleged that he had a record of criminality. They revealed that his wife was using him as a child trafficking mule. Meanwhile, the police are still looking for Ijeoma and Ahuruchi’s mother. In Aba town and its environs, most unsuccessful doctors, midwives and homoeopaths have thrown medical ethics to the wind and indulge in gross misuse of their registered medical outfits. Prior to police discovery, some of the babies belonging to the girls had been sold. Also, Lillian Achomba, 42, was arrested at Umukpeyi Nvosi, in Isiala, Ngwa South LGA of Abia State. She was arraigned before an Umuahia magistrate’s court in March for running a unisex camp, with 43 young girls and 11 robust boys for premarital procreation for commercial interest. When the camp was raided on a tip-off, about 31 girls were already heavily pregnant. Yearly, Lillian acquires about 40 babies for sale, which yields copius amounts of cash.
On 4 December 2007, some policemen from Aba Central Police Station arrested Dr. Orikara Hyacinth, 42, at 3 Brass Street, off Owerri/Aba Road. They also arrested Mrs. Ayodele Okeke, 38, at 10 Woji Street, Port-Harcourt in Rivers State. Mrs. Okeke runs an unregistered maternity home without even a signpost. It was alleged that Orikara was trafficking in new-born babies as well as recommending pregnant girls to Ayodele. When the police swooped on the maternity home, a one-day-old baby was discovered with one Madam Jennieve Orjie, a 39-year-old indigene of Calabar, Cross River State. Under police interrogation, she claimed maternal ownership of the baby, believed to have been abandoned by a girl on a safe run. However, to unravel the riddle, a DNA test was carried out at the Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba, which proved that the claimant had no blood relationship with the baby. Jennieve was prosecuted alongside Ayodele and Orikara. So strong is the interest in this trade that is has become attractive to the most unlikely people. In May, an Aba-based pastor was handcuffed for keeping and offering antenatal care to 15 pregnant girls in a hideout adjacent to his ‘divine’ house of God. He explained that he engaged the pregnant girls to work for him on his private farm. On investigation, it was uncovered that the pastor had no farm. Sources revealed that the pastor was exploiting contacts of branches of his church across the globe to perpetuate this illicit trade.
Discreet checks conducted by this medium revealed some factors promoting human trafficking in the state. Across the Igbo ethnic nation, it was gathered that most victims of unwanted pregnancy are faced with rejection by their parents. Lack of parental love and care also count. An average contemporary girl is materialistic, thus, most girls become prey in the hands of randy men in both rural and urban areas. When impregnated, the philanderers turn their back on them. Nemesis also caught up with one Dr. James Babatunde Adeyemi in August 2007 in Calabar. As reported by TheNEWS last year, his Mambo Clinic, located at 12 Atamuro Street, Calabar, was invaded by the police, upon information that the doctor indulged in illegal abortion, baby sale and sundry vices. Adeyemi was arrested for allegedly selling one David Joseph Edem, the son of a 17-year-old girl, Miss Sarah Joseph Edem, to a woman based in Sapele, Delta State. The buyer, identified as Helen, curiously absconded from police custody.
Distraught Sarah told TheNEWS in Ikot Ansa, a suburb of Calabar, that sometime in 2006, she was pregnant and after confronting her boyfriends, none of them was willing to accept responsibility for the pregnancy and to avoid the trouble of her mother and elder sisters, she concealed it for about four months. The pregnancy was discovered by her elder, whom she said was furious. As an apprentice with Rainbow Garment, a fashion designing firm, the pregnancy was going to put paid to her acquisition of the trade, since she had dropped out of school. Her elder sister, Imaobong, concerned that the N10,000 paid for her to learn the trade would be wasted, decided to pay another N10,000 to have the pregnancy terminated. ”When Imaobong discovered that I was pregnant, she was furious with me. She, however, calmed down and decided that I should have the pregnancy ternminated. Somebody directed us to Dr. Adeyemi, who demanded for N10,000, which we paid. But the doctor said the pregnancy had escaped to my back so he could not trace it. He advised that I should keep attending prenatal care for him to study the pregnancy to know what to do,” she said. She kept visiting the hospital to have the pregnancy removed, but the doctor only kept asking her to repeat her visits until the pregnancy became too advanced and thus risky to abort. She then accepted her fate as her mother too was against the idea of an abortion from the start. With the idea of an abortion shelved, the doctor opted to be ‘monitoring” the progress of the pregnancy, so that he would know when she would put to bed. “I did not attend antenatal in his clinic, but occasionally, he would send for me to ask how I was doing. Because I did not have money to go to hospital, my sister took me to a midwife at RCC Road where I delivered on the 29th of April 2007,” Sarah said. A few days after delivery, Adeyemi called Imaobong to “find out about my patient”. He was informed that the girl had delivered and was in the house. On Friday, 5 May 2007, Adeyemi visited their home in the company of a nurse with the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH. “The nurse gave Imaobong N200 to buy me drugs when my sister went out. Adeyemi took me to a corner of the house and told me to come to see him on Sunday in his hospital. That I should not allow anyone to know that I was going to see him,” said Sarah.
She said Adeyemi repeated the visit to further instruct her to ensure she showed up in the hospital. As agreed that Sunday, she went to see Adeyemi. “After my sister had left for church with Emem, our last born, and my mother was off to her farm in Odukpani, I went to Mambo to see Adeyemi,” she explained. Her stay in hospital took her far into the night. Her absence agitated the minds of her siblings. Later that evening, Imaobong received a call from someone claiming to be the step-sister to the boy who impregnated Sarah. The caller, Imaobong said, told her that Sarah was with her in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, and that she was the step-sister to the boy who impregnated Sarah and would now take care of David. “I was mad. Who is that boy that throughout Sarah’s pregnancy never showed up. It is now that he knows Sarah should be taken to his step-sister. I warned the woman to return Sarah immediately or I would raise an alarm,” she told TheNEWS last year. The caller, Imaobong said, hung up and when she called back, she refused to answer the phone. Meanwhile, Sarah said, when she got to the hospital, Adeyemi gave her some drugs to take which made her feel dizzy. “After taking the drugs, he drove me in his car to White House Street where Mary Okon lives and collected the baby in the car and handed him over to the nurse. I was feeling too weak and confused and could not do or say anything,” she narrated. Back to the hospital, Adeyemi, she said, gave her the key to his office to go in there and wait. “After I waited for a long time in his office, he did not come. I decided to come out when my head cleared a little. When he came back, he was very angry and ordered me to go inside the office and he locked me up,” Sarah said tearfully. The girl was locked up in the office until the following day. According to her, the doctor wrote a letter, a copy of which she was given. That copy was later dispatched to her sisters in Ikot Ansa. The letter pleaded for forgiveness from her mother and sisters for handing over “David to his father’s step-sister to take care of since we cannot take care of him alone”.
Imaobong got the letter and became furious. She went with her mother to Mambo Clinic where they met Adeyemi and two ladies. Her mother, she disclosed, started screaming. Sarah said the doctor pleaded with her mother to stop screaming and that David had been taken to the motherless babies home and he would soon go and bring him. He claimed that the women in charge of the home went for a burial and would be back two days later. “When my mother heard this, she fainted,” Imaobong told TheNEWS. Imaobong, who said she missed that year’s Universities Matriculation Examination because of the matter, said they went back two days later but Adeyemi was nowhere to be found. They then reported the matter to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, which advised them to go to the police. At the police station, they were directed to the anti-human trafficking unit.
Meanwhile, a nurse at Calabar’s General Hospital had observed the suspicious movement of two women and called the attention of a doctor to them. The women claimed they wanted to “spend the night in the hospital”. This allegedly raised the suspicion of the doctor, as one of them had a new-born baby wrapped around her waist like a woman who had just put to bed. When the doctor examined them, it was discovered that none of them had just put to bed. They were subsequently accosted and handed over to the police at the Akim Police station. There they were said to have made some useful statements to the effect that they bought the baby from a medical doctor and were at the hospital to “procure” another baby to take to their husbands since they had been without children after 30 years of marriage. They were able, however, to bolt after the confessional statement, but without the baby as he was with the doctor.
When Adeyemi was invited by the police, he said Sarah came crawling to him to assist in taking care of the baby since she was not able to care for the baby alone. When asked to get the baby from his wife’s friend, he could not. He was subsequently taken into custody by the police. He was held for over five days before he was released him on bail. When contacted in his hospital, Adeyemi said he had no time to talk to the “press because the matter, as you have said, is an allegation. The matter is with the police and if you want to know what happened get my statement from the police. Now please leave my office as I have patients to attend to.” The Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association, Dr Ikpeme Ikpeme said that a panel would be set up to investigate the case against Dr Adeyemi. Several months after, nothing has been heard of the investigation and Dr Adeyemi is still in practice. When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer for the Cross River Command, ASP Thomas Okpene said: “The man was asked to be released on bail by AIG Zone Six. When the Commissioner asked for the file because of the shoddy way the case was handled, it was reported that the AIG had given instruction that he should be taken on bail.”
Residents of the state are worried that if Adeyemi is allowed to continue to practice without any sanction, he would inflict more damage. Other cases abound. In May 2005, the Nigerian Newsday, a weekly newspaper owned by the Nasarawa State government, reported how a medical doctor in a private medical clinic in Kaduna delivered pregnant ladies of babies that he sold to sterile couples. He sold each baby for N20,000. On 19 October 2003, one of a set of twin baby boys was allegedly stolen during a Caesarean operation in which the mother, late Mrs. Chinwendu Ukwuoma, died of alleged negligence and recklessness at Jeno Hospital, Trans Ekulu, Enugu. Two medical doctors – J.E.N. Okonkwo and Christian Ogbuokiri – are being accused of negligence, recklessness and collusion in the theft of the baby boy. The case is before the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council for disciplinary action.
Part of the charges read: “Dr. J.E.N Okonkwo, as the proprietor and the medical practitioner in charge of the said JENO HOSPITAL, failed to issue any standing order or guidelines for the management of handling of emergency situations such as the admission and management of Mrs. Chinwendu Ukwuoma in your absence, and consequently led to the mismanagement of the said Mrs. Chinwendu Ukwuoma in your said hospital. “That you, Dr. Christian Ogbuokiri proceeded to carry out Caesarian section on the said patient without ordering necessary laboratory investigations and also ensuring that duly cross-matched blood or any blood at all was available in the theatre for the use of the patient in case of need in the course of surgery, “And that by the said fact you have conducted yourself infamously in a professional respect contrary to Rule 10 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Medical and Dental Practitioners in Nigeria (1995 edition) and … CAP 221 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.”But the father, Okechukwu Ukwuoma, with the assistance of NAPTIP, on 9 November 2007, four years after, recovered the child from one Mrs. Yashi in Trans Ekulu, Enugu metropolis. She was detained by NAPTIP and later released. Mr. Ukwuoma was, however, anxious about her possible escape. In a petition to NAPTIP, Enugu Zonal Office, counsel to Ukwuoma, M.O. Udeh Esq argued: “It is not even safe to grant her bail because she may jump bail. The safest way out of the situation is to arraign the woman before a court, and it will be left with the court to decide the issue of her bail, in view of the fact that she has not supplied any reliable clue to explain how she came in possession of the stolen child.”
However, in a chat with the magazine, the Zonal Director of NAPTIP South-East, Enugu, Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo said that the Agency is empowered to arrest and release on bail suspects in the course of investigation. She however explained that NAPTIP would not be compromised on the matter. “The aim is to unravel the true parent. We are very much interested in how the boy was removed from his parents.” According to her, investigation is on in collaboration with the state Ministry for Women Affairs, Police and other security agencies involved. If found guilty, Mrs. Yashi would face imprisonment for 14 years without the option of fine for contravening Rule IX (e) of the Offences and Punishment Act 2003 establishing NAPTIP which frowns at depriving any parent of possession of any person under the age of 18 years. The case of JENO Hospital revealed how medical personnel, through abuse of their responsibilities, engage in child trafficking.
There are many reasons that Nigerians now engage in selling and buying of children. One of these is the poor economy. Many parents are so poor that, to make ends meet they sell their own children. Consequently, the children end up as child labourers in cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester, according to The Telegraph of London. In January 2005, David Harrison, an undercover reporter with The Telegraph, came to Nigeria and was offered several children for sale by their Nigerian parents. That is, two boys, aged three and five, for £5,000 or £2,500 for one; and a 10-month-old baby for £2,000. Teenage girls, including pregnant ones were, according to the newspaper, willing to sell their babies for less than £1,000. “One international trafficker, tracked down in Lagos,” as Telegraphy reported, “claimed to be buying up to 500 children a year.”
Apart from using the children for domestic work up to 18 hours a day, cleaning, cooking and looking after other young children, the foreign newspaper reported further that they are subjected to physical and sexual abuse. That month, as Telegraphy reported, campaigners urged the government to take urgent action to end this 21st century slavery. “These children are being abused under our noses in our own country,” Chris Beddoe, the director of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, a British-based coalition of international charities, told the newspaper. “It is totally unacceptable. We need urgent action to identify these children as they enter the UK, find those who are being abused and offer proper protection to those who escape or are freed from their abusers.” Vernon Coaker, the Home Office Minister responsible for the prevention of trafficking, described child traffickers as “evil” and said anybody who could buy and sell babies was “sick”. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, a British non- governmental organisation, revealed that 330 children, including 14 aged under 12, many of them from Africa, had been trafficked to Britain over the past 12 months.
The Telegraph revealed the modus operandi. That is, the traffickers use a network of corrupt officials and co-traffickers to obtain passports and visas, often giving the children new names. Many of the young victims are flown directly from Lagos in Nigeria to London airports. Others are taken, via other West African states such as Ghana and Benin, to “transit” cities, including Paris. A growing number of the African slave children arrive in Britain unaccompanied, as asylum seekers, or with “private foster parents”. The newspaper quoted Debbie Ariyo, the executive director of the London-based charity, Africans United Against Child Abuse: “This trade is a disgrace. These children are not going to loving homes. They are being cynically used by adults as slave labour and to defraud the state and then when they get older and have served their purpose and no longer attract benefits, they are thrown out on to the streets with no papers even to prove who they are. These are damaged, traumatise children and we have to end this misery.” Campaigners said that many of the slave children – psychologically and often physically damaged at 18 – were thrown out of the houses of their “owners”.
According to the United Nations Human Development survey, 70 per cent of Nigerians live below the International Poverty Line of one US dollar per day and it is the child that is the most affected by this economic downturn. Infant mortality is pegged at 77 deaths out of every 1000 live births, while maternal mortality is 704 deaths out of every 100,000 live births. Only about 10 per cent of the population have access to essential drugs, while more than five million adults are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. Another motivation for Nigerians who buy babies is to have access to British welfare facilities. The most recent of such cases was in April this year when Nigerian-born Peace Sandberg, 40, paid £150 for a three-month-old boy in this country. With a forged birth certificate with which she obtained a visa for the baby from the British High Commission, she flew into London.
Hours after arriving at the Heathrow airport, Sandberg claimed she returned to Nigeria in December 2006 to give birth and wanted to own her own flat. But Sandberg, a support worker for Kensington Housing Trust, was recognised by Lizette Reddy, a housing officer at Ealing council’s homeless persons unit. Sandberg’s plan, therefore, fell flat. Also, Mrs Ijeoma Okoronkwo of South-East zone of NAPTIP told this magazine that about 20 offenders have been successfully prosecuted across the country and are currently serving various jail terms. She said that NAPTIP is doing well, stressing that the awareness on child trafficking is being taken to all nooks and crannies of the country and people are becoming very conscious of the crime. Out of the 20 convictions in the land, two were from the South-East zone; one person each from Anambra and Ebonyi states. There are seven cases in court, she revealed, lamenting that criminally minded people are taking advantage of childless couples to engage in the nefarious trade. Mrs Okoronkwo argued that people are reluctant to go to motherless babies homes for child adoption probably because of cultural or legal implications, and pointed out the need for re-orientation of the populace on formal adoption. According to her, Nigeria is a source state, transit and destination place for child and human trafficking.
Child Rights Act, 2003, section 30 states: “No person shall buy, sell, hire, dispose of or otherwise deal in a child. A child shall not be used for the purpose of begging for alms, guiding beggars, prostitution, pornography, domestic or sexual labour or for any unlawful or immoral purpose, or as a slave, or practices similar to slavery such as trafficking of the child, debt bondage, serfdom, forced or compulsory labour, hawking or for any purpose that deprives the child of the opportunity to be in school. A person who contravenes this section shall be liable to 10 years imprisonment.” Observes believe, however, that the federal government could take a cue from the Delta State government which, in April, presented the Child Rights Bill to the state legislature. In the words of Governor Uduaghan, the bill was to “protect our children from any harmful and unacceptable practices that will compromise their future…” Will the Umar Yar’Adua administration do something about this? Nigerians are expecting.
–Reported by Emma Una, George Okpara and Jude Orji.