MONDAY EDITORIAL

Strict rules must be enforced to contain the spread of ‘baby factories’

The disclosure last week by the Imo State government that there were no fewer than 250 illegal orphanages, most of which serve as ‘baby factories’ is not only disturbing, it is an issue that should alert critical stakeholders in the country to a looming danger. The Special Assistant to the Imo State governor on Non-Governmental Organisations and Allied Matters, Mr Simeon Nwulu said out of 272 homes across the state, only 15 were genuine. “The rate at which children are being marketed and sold like ordinary articles of trade is alarming,” he said. “At a peanut, the destiny of a child is destroyed and most of these adopters are not well-to-do to take care of these children.”

 It is rather depressing that despite the growing outcry against human trafficking, the number of illegal orphanages has continued to be on the rise in different parts of the country. The perpetrators of this illicit act either hire some poverty- stricken girls or lure others into their ‘factories’ with the intention of getting them impregnated for the sole aim of producing children for ignoble purposes. In April this year, no fewer than 100 girls and 62 boys were rescued and taken to government approved homes for care and protection in Lagos State.

The tradition of perpetrators of this evil act is to get the girls impregnated and hold them captive until they give birth to babies and then pay them off. The size of money they get is dependent on the sex of the children. So lucrative is the business that some unmarried pregnant girls have also become victims of this misdemeanour as they are lured into these ‘factories’ with a promise of better health care only to have their babies snatched from them after birth. Tragically, some of the children produced under these terrible circumstances are used for different purposes including rituals, trafficking to Europe for prostitution, child labour or sold to some couples seeking children for adoption.

To show the extent of its spread, a United Nations report which put the output of global child trafficking business at US$33 billion annually named Nigeria as one of the most notorious countries where this illicit business is being perpetrated, pointing out that at least 10 babies are sold each day in Nigeria. Yet as long as there is no diligent prosecution of culprits of this social menace, Nigeria will continue to grapple with this problem.

We expect that in view of this festering sore, a special unit of police solely mandated with the task of handling human trafficking by combing the nooks and crannies of the country should have been established with strong determination to fish out operators of ‘baby factories’ and illegal orphanages. If this is done, and culprits are diligently prosecuted and brought to justice in a swift manner, it will serve as a deterrent to others who engage in the nefarious trade.

 However, we are mindful that there are operators of licensed orphanages and couples who follow laid down procedures in adopting children and they should be encouraged. But those who take advantage of the increasing number of childless parents by engaging in all manner of motherless babies’ homes in a desperate quest for quick money should be exposed and decisively dealt with. They pose a threat to the health of our society.

In the same vein, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) must step up its supervisory and monitoring efforts on these orphanages by working hand- in- hand with security agencies, social welfare departments and the civil society. The approving authorities should equally raise the standard of establishing orphanages with a view to ensuring that every prospective operator meets some minimal conditions before they are licensed.