A syndicate which specializes in luring pregnant teenage girls eager to deliver their babies under cover, just to sell the newborns to ritualists and childless couples thereafter was smashed in Asaba, capital of oil rich Delta State.Few weeks ago, the United States embassy in Nigeria called the attention of the authorities after a DNA results revealed that a couple, who were seeking a visa with their supposed “twin babies”, were not the biological parents.

Subsequent investigation led to the discovery of a booming baby factory in Port Harcourt, River State where the couple bought the children for N1,800,000 (US$ 11,342).

While these cases may just be a tip of the iceberg given the widespread nature of this activity, observers are also concerned that child theft is assuming frightening dimensions, making it an important issue of public discourse.

There have also been stories of baby swapping or outright theft of infants in hospital maternity wards, baby sales by mothers and phony motherless baby homes and orphanages.

In a situation which renders Nigerian children increasingly vulnerable, infants are often exposed to maltreatment or child labour as roadside hawkers or house helps.

Aside from being exposed to the ills of trafficking, prostitution and baby mothering, in extreme cases, they become victims of ritual killings.
Recently the chilling confession of a Lagos couple who ensnared helpless, hapless and defenseless children is a disturbing pointer to this trend.

Almost every other day, baby factories are discovered in different parts of Nigeria and strange as it may sound, these facilities have been around for some time.

They are not easily discovered and for good reason. To a casual observer, the facades where these ills are committed look like every other house on the street and have their father and mother figures.

As unbelievable as it may sound, baby factories are business outfits in every sense of the word. The only difference is that what they produce as commodities turn out to be human beings.

While some pray and wait for God’s appointed time, an increasing number of people eager for children attempt to realize their dream by visiting spiritual houses, diviners and their shrines. Others too desperate to wait for God or spiritualists go to drastic measures of buying children.

It is astonishing that there could be people willing to use children as objects of trade and others willing to buy them in a country which boasts of a child rights’ law and other related regulations to defend their welfare.

Perhaps bizarre is the word to describe these things happening in a country where policies aimed at promoting the wellbeing of children have been formulated and reviewed to ensure the survival, development and protection of the average Nigerian child.

Nigeria is a signatory to international and continental conventions on the rights of the child. The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and its AU derivative are cases in point.

The country in partnership with development agencies, has also introduced some measures to develop health care services for mothers and children, while developing strategies for their enhanced welfare.

Nevertheless, Ms Jean Gough, UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria, could not have put it better when she underscored the need for collective responsibility for children’s protection, implying involvement by the community, all levels of government, traditional and religious spheres as well as civil society and the media.

“All children are entitled to protection, as enshrined in the Child’s Rights Act,” she said.

As was expected child rights activists have been swift in condemning the booming trend of the sale of babies and the operation of baby factories, which some described as modern day slavery.

Mrs. Yemisi Wada, proprietress of Haven for the Nigerian Child foundation (HFNCF), an NGO dedicated to rehabilitating street children could not agree more. She warned that unless Nigeria was able to keep track of baby dealers wherever they may be, these violations will be a regular feature on the lives of infants.

Corruption is also bound to compound every problem in Nigeria. The level of fraud in the country is so high that there is a common saying to the effect that “everything and everyone (including human beings) has a price”. When even babies are not spared, future generations are in trouble.

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