‘Baby Farm’ Girls and the Sale of Children in Nigeria
The rescue by the Nigeria Police of 32 pregnant girls allegedly held by a human trafficking ring in Aba in south-eastern Nigeria has literally shocked the world. But to anyone acquainted with the ‘culture’ of women and child rights abuses in the country, it should not come as a surprise. The police raid has brought to global attention and knowledge new layers of horrific abuses and exploitation of women and children in the country.
According to the report, these girls, between the ages of 15 and 17 years, were locked up and used to ‘produce’ babies, who were then allegedly sold for ritual witchcraft purposes or adoption. Unicef estimates that at least 10 children are sold daily across Nigeria.
This estimation is on target. The sale of children is a painful and unfortunate reality in Nigeria. Particularly in south-eastern Nigeria, this criminal practice is not new. The sale of babies has been going on for some time. But bad governance, corruption in the police and justice system, a failure of human rights, lack of rule of law, selfishness, criminal silence and hypocrisy have all made it difficult and dangerous to tackle and address these atrocious schemes. The babies that are sold are often those delivered by teenagers or those babies of the so called higher caste girls whose fathers are from the lower caste.
- In a region where teenage pregnancy is regarded as a taboo and many girls who get pregnant resort to unsafe abortion or to throwing away their babies after delivery
- In a country where abortion is frowned on by most families, criminalized by the state and inaccessible to most girls, particularly those from poor homes
- In a situation where efforts to decriminalized abortion and improve the reproductive health and rights of women and girls are hampered by the churches and religious dogma
- In a society where childlessness is percieved as a ‘curse’ and childless couples are often desperate to pay or do anything to get a child
- In communities ravaged by poverty, desperation and get-rich-quick mentality
girls who get pregnant often find themselves in a very difficult situation. They are vulnerable and susceptible to abuses and exploitation.
Before now, many girls who became pregnant prefered procuring unsafe abortions from quacks – which often led to their death or to some irreparable health damage – or they threw away the babies after delivery, instead of giving birth and keeping children who would be ostracized and treated as ‘bastards’ and outcasts in the communities.
But today the trend has changed. Teenage pregnancy is no longer such an abomination. Teenage pregnancy is now a big deal and a thriving business. Teenage pregnancy is an income-generating scheme for some unscrupulous elements, syndicates and rings which sadly include the parents of these girls.
This illicit trade has many dimensions involving childless couples and ritualists. In some cases, some childless couples and their scouts prowl the villages and rural communities looking for girls with unwanted pregnancies whom they would pay peanuts to have their babies after delivery. As soon as they track down any girl who is pregnant, they provide her and her family with some money – an advance payment -and gifts, and encourage her to keep the pregnancy and not to abort it. This is after they had agreed on the price of the baby with the parents of the girl. In most cases some middlemen are involved in the negotiation of prices, and they recieve some commission at the end of the business. Usually, male babies cost more than female. The prices of babies range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the bargaining power of both parties and the middlemen. Another dimension involves the hospitals and clinics. Unfortuately many hospitals in the region have become ‘baby farms’. Some smart ‘childless couples’ now connive with hospital authorities to buy babies after delivery. These babies could be those whose mothers died after in the course of delivery or ‘unwanted’ babies of girls who became pregnant by chance – or those commissioned to carry such pregnancies at a fee like the girls recently rescued by the police.
There have been cases where some doctors and nurses reportedly claimed that some babies died immediately after delivery, while in fact, they stole and sold the babies as soon as they were delivered.
The discovery of the baby farm in south-eastern Nigeria is a clear indication of social and moral rot in the society. It underscores the need for cultural renewal and transformation. I hope the Nigerian authorities will take all the necessary measures to stamp out this evil immmediately.