The proliferation of ‘baby factories’ has become a very big challenge in Nigeria. The “baby factories’ are illegal private maternity homes that house pregnant girls and offer their babies for sale. Over the years, the law enforcement agents have made efforts to bust such syndicates in some states of the federation.
Last week, the police in Anambra State raided a place called Cool Joint Bar at Otolo Nnewi and rescued four pregnant girls aged between 18 and 21. The operation followed an investigation into an attempted theft of a four-year-old child in the area recently. The principal suspect, who reportedly hails from Ohaozara in Ebonyi State, allegedly masterminded the attempted theft of the child by two male suspects earlier in the month. It was in the course of investigating the attempted theft that the police stumbled on the baby factory.
In January this year, there was a similar raid on a suspected baby factory at Oba in Idemili Local Government Area of Anambra State by the police. Ten suspects, including five pregnant women, were arrested in that raid. Five newborn babies and three other children were also rescued. According to the police, the rescued children would be handed over to the state’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Children and Women Affairs for proper care.
Behind the upsurge in baby factories is the urge to make quick money by some Nigerians. Apparently, our value system has collapsed and the quest to make money by fair or foul means has taken greater hold of the society. Sponsors of these baby factories sell the babies to childless couples while the young girls who are lured to produce the babies are given some paltry monetary compensation.
Last December, for instance, the police raided a baby factory in Mowe, Ogun State and rescued 10 people, including four pregnant women, four children and two other women. The owner of the facility hired men to impregnate the women and then sell off their babies for profit.
This was also the case with the recent discovery of such factories in Abia, Lagos, Ogun and some other states. In 2008, the police rescued over 20 girls in Enugu. In 2010, they rescued 77 teenage girls from Abia State just as 160 girls were rescued in Lagos in 2018.
Besides, the traffickers easily exploit the acute poverty, unemployment and hunger in the country to deceive and lure these women to their illegal facilities. As at the fourth quarter of 2020, the rate of unemployment had risen to 33.3 per cent from 27.1 per cent which it was in the second quarter of 2020. Most people are merely struggling to make ends meet.
In September 2019, the police raided a baby factory in Lagos and rescued 19 pregnant women. The women were reportedly lured to Lagos from different parts of the country with a promise of employment. Rather than the promised employment, the women were allegedly held against their will and raped. With the upsurge in ritual killings in the country, it is also possible that some evil-minded people also buy some of these babies for ritual purposes.
Though the crime is more prevalent in Nigeria, the country is not the only place the practice occurs. Such facilities have also been discovered in places like China. In January 2015, for instance, the police raided a baby factory in eastern China’s Shandong Province and rescued 37 newborn children. Some of these children had been infected with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases. Like in Nigeria, the women would give birth and give out their babies in exchange for money.
The practice is akin to modern day slavery. Members of the society should give information to the police when they notice any such activity anywhere in the country. Parents should be watchful and protect their children from the growing menace. This is an ill-wind that blows no one any good.
Civil society groups and anti-human trafficking agencies should intensify efforts to educate and sensitise the populace on the operational methods of traffickers and baby factory operators and the inherent dangers. The Federal Government promised in 2013 to train teachers and guidance counsellors on ways of curbing baby factories. It is not certain how far the government has gone in fulfilling the promise. Government must also create employment opportunities for vulnerable people and find a way to reintegrate victims economically into the society. Also, government should make adoption of babies easy, so that children couple would embrace it to have their children instead of patronising baby factories. By and large, we condemn the heinous practice because it is against the rights of those children, women and the laws of the land. We urge the security agents to apprehend the culprits and prosecute them diligently. Those found guilty should be made to face the full weight of the law.