A painful return to ‘baby factories’ in southeast

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By Tony Adibe,

Baby factories briefly disappeared from headlines about South-Eastern Nigeria, only to resurface after security forces arrested some secret operators in Enugu and Imo.

Teen mothers rescued from a baby factory in Enugu
Expectant teen mothers rescued from a baby factory in Enugu

Soldiers from the 82nd Division of the Nigerian Army bust a notorious “baby factory” in the Gariki area of Enugu, the capital of Enugu State. The operators made it look like a hospital, sources say. A unit of soldiers raided the location after one of its victims tipped off the army.

The informant who exposed the factory was a young woman, who had managed to escape the “breeding ground”. Soldiers found at least 10 pregnant girls held hostage awaiting childbirth.

According to the source, after the women delivered, their babies were taken from them by the operators of the baby factory and sold. The escaped victim said she had been introduced to a woman identified as a “nurse,” who was to assist her deliver her baby. She gave birth a month later.

Soon after she could stand on her own, she was told to go take a shower. When she returned to the delivery room, her newborn baby had vanished. The “nurse” offered her N120,000 and told her that her baby had been given to a couple who could not have children.

The ‘factory’ operator identified as Chinyere Nome was arrested and handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), and soldiers from 103 Battalion rescued 10 other women locked up inside a high-fenced compound in Gariki, Awkunanaw, Enugu South LGA, Enugu State.

They said no-one coming into the facility left without first giving birth. “Any girl who came in would not be allowed to go outside again until after delivery,” one victim said.

Soldiers used a decoy-a woman who pretended to be pregnant and looking for a nurse to help her get an abortion. The operator opened the door and the soldiers, hidden inside a tinted bus, charged at the building, weapons drawn.

Having gained access into the heavily secured facility, the soldiers saw a mini-clinic and several young women at various stages of pregnancy. Three of the women were within five days of delivery at the time of the rescue.

A source said the operator of the factory sold each baby for between N300,000 to N400,000.

In Enugu State, the Police Command also raided a “baby factory” and arrested nine pregnant girls. The operation, carried out by the 9th Mile Division of the Nigeria Police Force, took the police to a baby factory located within Etiti Amankwo Ngwo of 9th mile, Udi local government Area of Enugu state. The factory is allegedly owned and operated by one Ikechukwu Onoh of Etiti Amakwo Ngwo in Udi LGA of Enugu State.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the State, DSP Ebere Amaraizu, who confirmed the arrest, said the pregnant women and girls later gave their names as: Stella James, 19, from Ohaozara, Ebonyi State; Eze Jennifer, 19, from Obukpa in Nsukka, Enugu; Ugwu Christabel, 17, from Aku Igboetiti, Enugu; Happiness Mbaonu, 17, from Nnewi, Anambra; Ovunna Ifeoma, 20, from Ezza, Ebonyi. Others include Esther Nwankwo, 21, from Nkalagu, Ebonyi; Onyedika Agu, 23, from Isuawa Awgu, Enugu; Blessing James, 23, from Ohafia, Abia; and Chibueze Ujunwa, 24, from Nenwenta Aninri, Enugu. They are said to be helping police investigations.

Amaraizu said the factory owner claimed he “got a provisional approval in October 2007 from ministry of women affairs and social development Enugu State to admit and shelter pregnant women in his hospital called ‘Tex Hospital and maternity home’,” and that the hospital is no longer functional, hence he is now running the home from his house.

“He also admitted that under the authority, he was supposed to inform the social development and women affairs within 24 hours of admitting any pregnant woman.”

Some of the girls claimed that they were raped by unknown persons, but that they found relief in the home. One said she could not report her rape to her parents until her pregnancy set in; they said she was left with two options: be forced to marry an old man or leave the family. Her search for help through a relation directed to the baby factory.

Incessant raids and closure of illegal breeding homes had put a tight squeeze on so-called baby factories in nearby Imo State. The illegal business mushrooms around parts of the state under cover of orphanages, tactically harbouring pregnant teenage girls, who are settled with paltry compensation after they give birth. Operators give out the same babies at higher amounts.

Despite repeated raids, the boom continued to grow. It burst when operatives of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) Imo State Command, arrested and paraded four pregnant teenagers from an orphanage used as baby factory. They also rescued 17 babies.

NSCDC commandant in Imo, Pedro Idiba, in Owerri admitted his men were tipped-off. They stormed the orphanage, known as Jihovah Jireh, located in Orlu at about 9:30am on October 2 and rescued the victims.

Idiba said the names of the teenage girls involved include Onyedikachi Obialor, Oluchi Uzoma, Hope Ndukwu and Ogechi Njoku. The commandant who was unhappy about the development also said that a two-week-old baby delivered by one of girls, Kasarachi, was among the babies rescued from the supposed orphanage.

A search uncovered an expired licence for the orphanage dated 2007 belonging to a local government council staff in Orlu named Cecelia Egemole. The location was used as maternity amongst other purposes, rendering it unhealthy, said Idiba. He also said that a nanny who is an elder sister to the proprietress Felicia Egemole confessed that some of the girls come to the orphanage to deliver their babies and leave them behind.

Also, barely few weeks ago, another ‘baby factory’ located at Orsu LGA of Imo State was also smashed by policemen, where four pregnant teens were rescued. Imo State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Andrew Enwerem said that the recent arrest of the operators of the illegal establishment to clean up illegal orphanages in the state. The government has directed security operatives not to hesitate to flush out such illegal homes in any part of the state.

Governor Rochas Okorocha had in a recent press interaction, stated the resolve of his administration not to condone such inimical practices in the state. A special committee has also been set up to monitor in and around the state to uncover orphanages. But the question remains: Is that enough to stop the return of ‘baby factories’? Only time will tell. (Daily Trust) (Photo credit: The Nation)

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