In a shocking operation that exposed the grim underbelly of Nigeria's illegal baby trade, the Nigerian Army bravely rescued 21 pregnant teenagers from a clandestine baby factory in the Ohafia local government area of Abia state. Unravelling the web of deceit, the factory was traced back to a certain Mrs Nma Achumba, who operated under the deceptive guise of a registered Charity Home with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
This daring operation by the Nigerian Army is just one of many efforts by security operatives to unveil the sinister world of baby factories thriving in Nigeria. But what exactly are these baby factories? What drives their existence, and what sinister purpose do they serve?
Exploring the Dark world of baby factories
The term "baby factory" first gained prominence in a 2006 policy paper by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It shed light on the alarming prevalence of such facilities, particularly in states like Abia, Lagos, and Ebonyi. These baby factories often disguise themselves as private healthcare clinics or orphanage homes, harbouring young women under the pretence of offering care and support.
However, these factories are far from the safe havens they claim to be. Instead, they serve as hubs for human trafficking, abuse, and sexual violence, exploiting vulnerable women for profit. Pregnant women and other females are forcibly confined and provided with maternal care during pregnancy, only to be paid off to abandon their newborns. These innocent infants are sold to desperate couples or other buyers yearning for children. Shockingly, those women who willingly enter this illicit trade but are not yet pregnant are coerced into sexual relationships with men hired by the baby factory operators to impregnate them.
A disturbing pattern of exploitation
The prevalence of baby factories in Nigeria needs urgent attention. In past years, numerous instances have come to light, exposing the horrifying reality of this dark trade. In 2007, a cartel in Rivers state was discovered, leading to the rescue of nineteen girls. The following year, a network of baby factories masquerading as orphanages was uncovered in Enugu state, resulting in the rescue of seven teenagers. Even an 80-year-old woman was found running a home in the same state, holding thirteen girls captive.
The horrors continued in 2009, when more than six baby factories were shut down in Abia state, freeing countless pregnant young girls. Subsequently, subsequent years witnessed similar raids, with over 77 teenage girls rescued in the same Abia state between January and March 2010. The rescue missions continued, as 33 pregnant girls were saved from an illegal facility in Abia state between May and June 2011. In the same year, police raids dismantled two baby factories in Enugu state, with two hospitals also exposed for their involvement.
The ruthless pursuit of profit knows no bounds. In October 2011, seventeen pregnant teenagers were liberated from a sachet water production factory converted into an illegal baby harvesting facility in Anambra state. The following year, another baby factory was exposed in Ihiala, Anambra state, again bringing the truth to light. The shocking revelations continued in May 2013 when police rescued 26 teenage girls from a woman operating a baby factory disguised as a maternity home and drinking water factory in the remote village of Umuaka, Imo state. The police also saved eleven babies awaiting sale, apprehending the man responsible for impregnating the girls.
This deplorable trend extended to Akwa Ibom
In Akwa Ibom, police discovered two baby factories, each housing seven pregnant teenagers and eight pregnant women. The victims were finally rescued from their dire circumstances. Among the victims was a 16-year-old teenager enticed with the promise of money in exchange for abandoning her baby after delivery. These are just a few of the countless cases of baby farms and trafficking plaguing the country.
Trapped in the depths of desperation
While some women willingly participate in these horrific schemes, countless others have fallen victim to deceit and manipulation. Miriam, for example, was living in an Internally Displaced Person camp in Borno state when she was offered a job in Enugu. Along with her cousin, she eagerly embarked on what they believed to be a journey to better lives. Little did they know, their lives were about to take a harrowing turn.
Upon arrival, Miriam and her cousin were handed over to a woman named "Mma," who took them to a compound filled with young girls, some already pregnant. Confined to rooms, they were subjected to nightly abuse by different men. Shockingly, these innocent girls became pregnant within a month and were subjected to continuous rape, even as their pregnancies became visible.
Miriam's nightmare peaked three days after giving birth when she was blindfolded and forcibly separated from her child. Given a paltry sum of N20,000 for her journey back home, she was callously sent away, forever scarred by the horrors she had endured. Tragically, her cousin suffered the same fate.
The market for innocence
The flourishing existence of baby factories over the years is a stark reminder of the harrowing market for infants. These innocent souls are treated as commodities, traded and sold to fulfil the desperate desires of those unable to conceive or to seek illegal means to expand their families.
Understanding the roots: Poverty, tradition, and cultural Challenges
UNESCO has identified poverty, perversion of cultural traditions, manipulation of religious rituals, and harmful social realities as factors contributing to the growth of baby factories. While poverty remains the primary driving force, other challenges include young age, vulnerability, and pregnancies out of wedlock.
Nigeria's most precious resource: Our children
Children are a nation's most valuable asset, embodying its future and potential. Therefore, the proliferation of baby factories and trafficking cannot persist, as it will continue to erode Nigeria's invaluable human resources. Alleviating poverty, comprehensive orientation programs, and a reformed legal framework must be implemented to curb the occurrence of trafficking and other illegal activities within the country.
It is high time we shine a light on these shady practices, unveiling the truth for all to see. Nigeria must unite in the fight against this abhorrent trade, safeguarding the future of our nation and the innocent lives hanging in the balance.