…Why trading in children is common in some parts of the country
By Lolo Ayaba
These are indeed interesting times. A perilous time in which happenings across the globe are indication that humans may truly be racing towards the endtime.
It’s hard to understand what on earth will prompt a parent to sell his or her child as though selling a goat in the market. How would parents who sell their children explain the motive behind the decision to trade their flesh and blood?
And at what point does illiteracy, hunger, lack or greed aggravate living, to the extent that embarking on such absurd venture becomes an option?
Two weeks ago a 30-year-old man, Edet Essien Inyang, an indigene of Akwa Ibom State who resides in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State took his two children to Murray Street with a price tag to sell them to prospective buyers.
According to Edet Essien, who was willing to sale his two kids for N350, 000; the son for N200, 000 while his daughter for N150, 000, “I want to sell my kids to raise money and save myself from poverty and hardship.
But for a concerned Nigerians who delayed Inyang while they invited the Police at Atakpa Police Station, to arrest him only God knows what would have been the fate of those kids. Currently, Inyang is being investigated by the State Criminal Investigation department at the command’s headquarters.
Also, 23-year-old Chinonye Oparaocha, who conspired with a nurse at an undisclosed hospital to trade a baby for N850, 000 barely six hours after delivery in Owerri Imo state, was arrested in the state.
Oparaocha was arrested alongside five others, Confidence Anyanwu, (28); Duru Christian, (38); George Iyowuna, (38), and William Cynthia, (44) who were involved in the crime, two months after she sold her baby.
Describing the crime as absurd and irritating, the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Police Command, Rabiu Ladodo, said it took coordinated intelligence from his men, for the baby to be recovered and the suspects arrested.
According to Ladodo, on February 8, 2019, at an undisclosed clinic on Nekede Road in the Owerri West LGA, one Chinonye Oparaocha was delivered of a baby boy. “The woman immediately conspired with one Confidence Anyanwu, a nurse and native of Umuhu Okwuato in the Aboh Mbaise LGA, in company with her husband, Amanze Anyanwu (at large), and carried the six hours old baby to Port Harcourt in Rivers State, where one Duru Christian, was standing by. At Port Harcourt, Christian in company with Iyowuna, met them and took custody of the baby.
Ladodo said, “George Iyowuna met them at their hideout, took the baby boy and handed him over to a prospective buyer, William Cynthia and her husband, who eventually paid the sum of N850, 000.
However on April 13, operatives of the Scorpion Squad of the command, after diligent investigation, arrested these five suspects, including the mother of the baby and the nurse, who took the delivery of the baby.
Unlike Edet and Oparaocha, who single handedly took the decision to trade their kids, most couples who engage in this trade do so with other accomplices.
Mr. Nkemakolam Ugorji, and his wife Mrs. Happiness Nkemakolam fall into this category.
The couple who were arrested by the Abia State Police Command for trading their two-month-old baby girl for N300, 000 claimed that they did so because she was HIV positive even when they could not back the HIV claim with a medical report.
According to Mrs. Happiness Nkemakolam “My husband and I decided to sell our baby because of hardship. We have four children and my husband is not working. When I was pregnant there was no money for me to go for antenatal and feeding was even a problem for us. That was why we decided to sell our baby. It was the auxiliary nurse who delivered me of my baby that linked them to the lady, who in turn helped them to sell the baby for N300, 000.
Mr Ugorji noted that he had been jobless since they relocated to his Isiala Ngwa village from Port Harcourt. I agreed with my wife to sell our baby to raise money for my family. I was riding Keke on hire purchase in Port Harcourt, but when I could not meet up with the payment, the owner collected it from me, so we relocated to my village in Isiala Ngwa and since then I have not got any other job and I have nobody to help us because I am an orphan. It was my village people, who informed the police that I sold my baby because I couldn’t give them a proper account of my baby when they discovered that my wife had delivered”
Another couple, Mr. Ifeanyi and his wife Emmaculata Elijah, sold baby, Chinecherem, for N400, 000, a few hours after delivery on January 26, 2018. The couple who were residents of Irete in Imo state but indigenes of Amakpu- Umuba, Abia State, were apprehended alongside Grace Mezu, Fidelia Ariri, and Amarachi Obiekwe.
It was learned that a few hours after giving birth to the girl the couple sold her to Obiekwe, through Mezu and Ariri. However the newborn baby was recovered on February 17, 2018 in Lagos State, a month after she was sold.
The then Police Public Relations Officer Imo State Police Command, Andrew Enwerem, disclosed that the couple Ifeanyi and Emmaculata Elijah had given birth to seven children, but the whereabouts of two were still unknown.
For some couples being in to much debt is enough reason to trade their child. Explaining why they sold their baby, 29-year-old Chidinma Richard who was arrested by operatives of the Inspector General of Police Monitoring Team in Rivers State said she had fallen sick during pregnancy and borrowed money to treat herself, adding that the husband is a wheelbarrow pusher. Chidinma disclosed that her husband, Benson, earlier did not accept her advice to sell the baby, saying he changed his mind after seeing the reality of their situation. “I am from Isiala Mbano, Imo State. I was arrested by the police because I sold my day-old baby. I sold him for N250, 000 through one Ugonma. I sold the child because of our condition. I have given birth to four children. One died because of our situation. We are left with two children now. I never wanted to give birth to another child after two children but this one happened by mistake. When I gave birth to this one, I told my husband that we should sell him. My intention was for us to use the money to settle our debt and then relocate to Umuahia in Abia State. All these happened because my husband is not working, we have been living in my village and I wanted us to relocate. When I got pregnant again, I was involved in an accident so I borrowed money to treat myself and meet other needs. When they took the baby, I cried, but I had no alternative.”
Stealing and trading on other people’s children
Apart from trading their children, some couples go as far as stealing other people’s children and selling them to prospective buyers who end up trafficking the kids to cities.
Last year, the Anti-Kidnapping unit of the Imo State Police Command arrested a couple, Ifeanyi Anyanwu and Amarachi Ugorji, for allegedly stealing and selling a two-year-old boy, Ikechukwu Nwachukwu, for N500,000. The couple allegedly stole the child on August 28 from his parents in Umuozu-Uguiri in the Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of the state.
Prior to the incident, Anyanwu and Ugorji had sold their first child on credit to a man in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
During investigation, the then Commissioner of Police Imo State Police Command, Chris Ezike revealed that the couple kidnapped and sold Nwachukwu for N500, 000 to one Ifeanyinwa Duru. Duru resold the boy to one Mrs. Chidinma Emmanuel, for N700, 000. However the couple, Duru and Emmanuel were nabbed in Aba, Abia State, and the child rescued unhurt.
Like Ifeanyi Anyanwu and Amarachi Ugorji, another couple identified as Ugochukwu Nwachukwu and Glory sold three different babies including their four months old child, for N600, 000. It was learned that the couple conspired and lured Jovita Aloka of Irette in Owerri west local government of Imo state to Naze Owerri North local government of Imo state where they tactically disposed her of her two children Adaugo Oliver, 3 years and Daniel Oliver 6 months and sold them to unknown persons.
According to Ugochukwu Nwachukwu who was arrested alongside his wife Glory Nwachukwu by operatives of Anti Kidnapping Unit of the Imo State Police Command on 20 August 2018 at Umuokai Owerri -Nta in Isiala Ngwa South Local government area of Abia state, “I discussed with my wife before selling the child. I sold the child N400, 000. “My reason is that I wanted to join the Army and I did not have money to process it. The bill they gave to me was high and I went to the point of selling my properties after that I could not make it. “What I did was to use the remaining money to buy a motorcycle and start fishery business.
Orphanages involved in the crime.
Some orphanages and maternity homes also engage in this trade.
Investigations have revealed that the sale of infants happen in different places across the country but the act thrives more in the eastern and southern parts where it is operated by individuals, or a tight criminal syndicates most times who use orphanages as cover up to sell newborns.
Last month, Kenneth Ofoke who was arrested for alleged child theft revealed that he has made over N.7million, selling stolen babies in Benin, Lagos, Enugu and Port-Harcourt.
Kenneth Ofoke who hails from Ohrza village in Izzza local government area of Ebonyi State was among other suspected criminals paraded by the Commissioner of Police in Edo State, CP Dan Malam Mohammed in Benin City on Wednesday 24 April.
According to him, “The first was seven weeks male twins I sold for N500,000.00. The second was three years old baby boy named Wisdom, I collected N30, 000.00.
“A two-year-old baby girl was given out for N200,000.00 and I was waiting to receive some money from ‘madam’ when police arrested me on March 26, 2019.” he stated.
I am a professional bricklayer, I used the proceeds to pay my house rent, and bought some household property in Benin City.
The possibility of recovering the children and reuniting them with their biological parents is very lean as some of the buyers were from Lagos, Enugu and Port-Harcourt where, an orphanage is being used as a spot for the illicit trade.”
Recounting how she got into the business of buying and selling children a 48-year-old member of a syndicate that trafficks children, Eucharia Jaja revealed she had trafficked four children out of Nigeria within the last 12 months.
According to the mother of four, Eucharia, who was arrested alongside a couple who sold their one day old baby by Inspector General of Police Monitoring Team in Rivers, “it was a traditional birth attendant named Rose Onyia who is now late, that introduced me into this business. She also introduced me to other associates. I have sold about four children within the last one year that I joined the business. “We don’t get babies every time; it is not something you get every time. My husband does not know much about the business because he is a tailor. “What I do is to tell him to drive me sometimes when I want to go and deliver a baby. It is only twice he drove me. I am a nurse before I joined the business”.
“We search for vulnerable pregnant mothers, married and unmarried, harbor them for months and then take them to illegal maternity homes for delivery. After delivery we pay them off and then sell the child to waiting buyers. I was arrested after I bought a baby boy from Rose Onyia at Omuagwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rives State, at the rate of N550, 000. I sold the baby to a client in Lagos”, she added.
How law enforcement agencies battle to curb the trend
In a bid to curb the ugly trend and clamp down on baby factory the Nigeria Police Force and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) have rescued several babies and also continued to arrest and prosecute several people involved in this despicable act.
Over the years hundreds of people have been arrested by the police but only a few of them eventually get prosecuted and jailed because of corruption and the complicated nature of judicial system.
However, last year, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) arrested eleven persons in different parts of Anambra state for child trafficking, abduction and sale. The suspects belonged to a criminal syndicate that specialized in kidnapping and sale of babies across the country. Three kids aged between 8 months and 4 years were recovered during the operation. A two year old girl, reportedly stolen from Lagos and another four-year old boy who was allegedly stolen from his parents in Gudaba, Abuja were among the kids rescued. The 2-year old was stolen from Okpoko in Anambra State and was recovered in Lagos.
One of the suspects Rosemary Okafor, 30, confessed to selling one of her 4 children (Newborn baby) to one woman simply identified as Madam Pink at the cost of N350, 000. She said she sold the baby to be able to train the other three in school.
Also few weeks back, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) delacared two women wanted over their alleged involvement in the Trafficking of a 3-month old baby from Lagos to Banjul. According to the statement released by the agency, which read: NAPTIP wishes to inform the general public that the two women- Andy Emerald Bassey Pastor and Anthony – Ibeneme Edith Omon, whose pictures are below have been declared wanted by NAPTIP over their alleged involvement in the Trafficking of a 3-month old baby from Lagos to Banjul.
Anyone with useful information about their whereabouts which will aid the on-going investigations should please contact NAPTIP on 07030000203.
Reacting to the trading of children by couples, the Executive Director, International Center for Human Rights, Nonviolence and Safety Awareness, Barrister Ene Sarah Unobe said there are several reasons that would warrant a woman to give away or sell her child which include the circumstances of that baby’s birth that is, if it brings sorrow to her. “If the child is a product of rape incest or defilement, they won’t like to have that baby and if they cannot abort the baby especially when they didn’t discover they were pregnant on time, so they have no choice but to give birth to the child. But the child will become a memorial of pain and shame, so what they do is to give that child out because they don’t want to have anything to do with the father of the child or to do with a rapist or it will be an infectious child, a product of an infective relationship or product of rape. That could be the reason why they give up that child so as to erase the memory. Like the women being raped by Boko Haram members, how will they want to feed that child, some wouldn’t want and some would.
That’s one of the reasons or circumstance that would make a woman give up or sell her child.”
“Also, it could be economic problem. When you have two or three children and you don’t want to have the fourth child and you are pregnant, at the end you realise you can’t even feed the two to three children. They believe selling the child could help the child end up in a better place than their house. They don’t realise that the child could be used for rituals but prefer to believe that it could end up like Moses in Pharaoh’s house and become a prince there. Some of them have the mentality that yes I have two or three children; I can put them for adoption or sell them to rich man. So the hope of the child getting a better life, greener pasture could make them sell their child. Also some couple see it as an opportunity to pay the debt they owe. They could use their children as mortgage. Also in the spiritual aspect, a spiritualist can tell them that this child will bring them bad luck or that she’s a witch, their destiny is this and that why not sell them off. They are told that their children have bad luck and if they sell them they can have good luck but if they continue to keep them nothing good can come out of their life because they are evil children. Spiritual reason is also another reason why parents sell their children because they have been told that the children will amount to nothing.”
“The government needs to urgently address the issue of unemployment. Especially when there is the system of modern slavery because of the high poverty rate and insecurity. A lot of women are made widows, children are made orphans, so there is serious poverty issues. These are consequences of insecurity, terrorism and poverty. Before now we don’t have issues of insecurity or we had it but it wasn’t as much as this. Insecurity has given birth to social economic problem. So women that are supposed to farm in their homeland to feed their children cannot do so because their farmland has been destroyed and the government is not giving them alternative or an option. Which makes them live under the bridge and make them vulnerable to rape.”
Above all, she opines that Government must take a critical look at the issue of providing employment. They should create a ministry where children will be taken from women who cannot fend for their children, for adoption. This will discourage women from engaging in illegal adoption of children.