Home News Addresing child adoption laws, proliferation of “baby factories” in Nigeria

Addresing child adoption laws, proliferation of “baby factories” in Nigeria


by Justina Auta

The issue of child adoption and the need to have a child that a couple can call their own has been a nightmare to many families in Nigeria.

This is because, for many reasons, some couples are unable to have their own biological children and resort to other options such as adoption or fostering so as to have children they can call theirs.

In Nigeria, adoption is governed by two laws, the Child’s Right Act (2003) which incorporates the rights and responsibilities of children, and the Adoption Law of the state where one seeks to adopt the child from.

Adoption is a legal process pursuant to state statute in which a child’s legal rights and duties toward his/her biological parents are terminated and similar rights and duties toward adoptive parents are substituted.

It is also an order vesting the parental rights and duties relating to a child in the adopters, made on application by an authourised court.

For adoption to take place, the court is vested with powers to grant an adoption order, depending on the type of adoption taking place. The court also has the right to cancel an adoption process if it thinks or get reports that the adoptive parents applied undue duress.

In Nigeria, adoption procedures and rules differ from state to state, for example, adoptive parents must foster children for at least three months in Lagos, but must foster for at least one year in Akwa Ibom, while Abuja allows adoption only if one parent is a Nigerian.

The laws in most parts of the country provide that an application for an adoption must be made in the prescribed form and submitted to the registrar of a competent court.

Section 116 of the Child Rights Law of Lagos State 2015 makes provision for adoption application, made in prescribed form and accompanied with: the marriage certificate or a sworn declaration of marriage, the birth certificate or sworn declaration of age of each applicants and two passport photographs of each applicant, as well as a medical certificate of fitness of the applicants from a government hospital.

In practice, the adopter cannot make this application to the court on his or her own without the consent of the government welfare agency or department.

In Lagos State, the government department responsible for such a process is the Ministry for Youth and Social Development.

On receipt of the application, the court will give an order of investigation to be conducted by Social Welfare Officers, supervision officers, and any other persons as the court may determine to assess the suitability or otherwise of the applicant as an adopter.

Observers, however, note that the quest for children further compounds the pressure from family and friends, as well as high expectations from the society which force some couples to engage in acts contrary to the law.

Some observers say it is such pressure and the “somewhat unfriendly” adoption laws in some states that prompts “child harvesting”, popularly called “baby factories,’’ which is fast becoming a lucrative business for those offering to solve the eagerly will-be parents who desperately seek babies.

Mrs Ngozi David, a business woman living in Abuja who said she got married 25 years ago but never had even miscarriage, said “I am now used to the derogatory names referred to me by my friends, inlaws and some family members.

“I have been to many hospitals in search of the fruit of the womb but did not succeed, I also visited many Churches and even some Muslim clerics but yet to get an answer.

“I applied to adopt a child some years ago but when I didn’t get after eight months, I decided not to pursue it and went for prayers to different worship centres. I don’t even know what to do again: just waiting for God’s time.”

David’s story is not far from Mrs Justina Agbo, a civil servant residing in Abuja, who said she got married 15 years ago and has no child yet.

Agbo said that even though her inlaws have been helping her in that regard, she is always moody, sad, and feels rejected.

She added that in 2019, she even contacted someone who said he would link her up with a “baby factory” to book for a baby boy at N300,000, but was later advised by a friend not to go ahead with the plan.

On why she didn’t go for adoption, she said “I learnt that the process is cumbersome and takes years. I am just waiting for God’s time.”

Mrs Patience Gying, a Counselor, says people now see “baby factories” as a lucrative business where they can easily get paid to make some girls pregnant.

This, according to her, they do without thinking about the fate of the innocent child sold for a plate of pudding.

She said that the practice negates the Child Rights Law and the reasons for setting up homes to carter for the needs of prospective persons wishing to adopt or foster children legally.

Gying said some of those arrested in the past for engaging in “baby factory” business said they did that because of economic hardship, the desperation by couples to get babies and greed for money.

A lot of the girls rescued from such factories were school dropouts, young women who were denied access to education or sent away from their homes for various reasons.

Abject poverty is the major reason young mothers give up their babies in exchange for money, while others do so due to societal shame and the lack of support or the lack of knowledge about what or where to get help after getting pregnant the wrong way.

Unfortunately, the baby trade business is also promoted by some medical practioners, proprietors of motherless babies’ homes and even relations of girls who become pregnant out of wedlock due to societal shame.

Even though the nefarious activity continued unhindered in the past, the government, security agencies and community members have started to beam their searchlights on such acts.

In September 2019, the police command in Lagos State rescued 19 pregnant young women and four children during raids on four “baby factories” in the state.

It was reported that two suspects were arrested during the raid, but the principal suspect absconded after she got wind of the raids.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, said in a statement that a manhunt was launched for the suspect, explaining that the suspects were operating as nurses at the baby factories when they had no any formal medical training.

The police PRO stated that the suspect and her accomplices usually trick their victims from different states of the federation with promises of employment opportunities in Lagos, but abduct them for the purpose of getting them pregnant and selling their babies.

Elkana said “on Sept. 19, 2019, around 4 p.m., acting on the strength of information from a reliable source, detectives from the Isheri Osun Police Station, led by the Divisional Police Officer, CSP Chike Ibe, stormed a building at No. 14, Adisa Street, Ayanwale area, Ikotun, Lagos, suspected to be used for child trafficking.

“Nineteen pregnant women from the ages of 15 to 28 were rescued and four kids were also rescued.

“They were rescued from four different locations – No. 32, Owosho Street, Governor Road, Ikotun; No. 29, Olugbeyohun Street, Olakunle bus stop, Abaranje; No. 4/6, Anomo Street, Abaranje; and No. 14, Adisa Street, Ayanwale area, Ikotun.

“The pregnant women were brought in from Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Abia and Imo states.

“Two suspects, Happiness Ukwuoma, 40; and Sherifat Ipeya, 54, were arrested in connection with the case, natives of Imo and Lagos states and did not receive any formal medical training, but operated as nurses.

“The Command has launched a manhunt for the principal suspect, Madam
Oluchi, from Mbano, Imo State. She is a mother of five.

“The young women were tricked with employment as domestic workers in
Lagos and abducted by the suspects for the purpose of getting them pregnant and selling their babies for between N300,000 and N500,000, depending on the sex.”

Elkana stated that the state’s Commissioner of Police, Zubairu Muazu, had visited the scene and ordered the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department to take over the case, adding that the Command had been working with other agencies and stakeholders to rehabilitate and resettle the pregnant women and the babies.

He added that investigation was ongoing and the suspects would be charged to court.

This is one of such stories happening in some parts of the country.

When some couples and families are seeking for children to genuinely adopt and take care of just like every normal family, some greedy individuals are thinking of how to make money out of it.

While adoption is legal and couples are allowed to do so, the laws guiding it are stringent, just to make sure that such children are well catered for.

Mrs Agnes Utah-Hart, the Director, Gender Development Department, Federal Capital Territory, explained that the delay in adoption process is to ensure that the applicants are thoroughly accessed and scrutinised.

Utah-Hart says the measure is also to ensure that only those that are suitable and capable are given the opportunity to adopt.

She noted that the stages of adoption or fostering in the Federal Capital Territory
(FCT) include a handwritten application letter, application form, birth certificate or declaration of age.

Others requirements are: recent passport photographs of the prospective adopter, evidence of income, medical fitness, letter of consent and other legal process.

“The application is submitted to the secretary, Social Development Secretariat, who in turn, minute it to the Director, who minutes it to the Deputy Director and there is a team that does home visitation as part of adoption process and it is very important.

“We visit the homes and access the readiness of the applicant that wants to
pick the child. After that, there is an adoption committee — the FCT Adoption Committee to look at the application based on merit and availability of children.’’

According to her, at least 500 persons apply for adoption and fostering
annually within the FCT.

She said some applicants fail to complete the adoption process to the legalisation stage, which is the final phase, while some complain about the waiting period of 12 months as stipulated in Section 121 of the Child Rights Law, “but it is normal.”

A legal practioner and children activist, Ms Grace Auta, said Section 30 of the Child’s Rights Act specifically deals with selling of children and anyone guilty of such is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison.

Auta added that “any payment to facilitate adoption process is also against the law and anyone that contravenes this is liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N30,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.’’

She said that “no matter how long or complex child adoption process might be, the joy and fulfillment given to a child, abandoned by a biological mother, into a welcome and loving home erodes all questions

“The child, who knows only the warmth and care of his or her adoptive parents grows with the notion that they truly are his/her parents, hence the need for adopters to patiently pursue the process to its logical conclusion, since it is a worthy cause.” (NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria


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