Delta and the booming baby-making industry

Oduke area of Asaba, a surburb in the growing capital of the oil-rich Delta State, is a  no man’s  land, densely populated with all  the characteristics  of squalor and abject  poverty. Indeed,  all the indices of   under-development  are   present in Oduke.

teenagers

Government presence is not felt in the area that  is  populated by the low and medium income earners,  who flood the place to get  cheaper accommodation, compared  to   what  is obtainable  in   the city centre.

However, one  thriving  business in  this seemingly  forgotten area is the nurturing of unwanted pregnancies  to the stage of  delivery, after  which the baby is sold a la baby factory.

Baby  merchants, most of  who come from  the Eastern part of the country, have found Oduke area of Asaba as a safe haven for the illegal trade, maybe, because of its porous security  situation and the kind of lifestyle of residents.

Tucked away from the prying eyes of security operatives, Oduke has  no  traces  of  such   illicit business of nurturing unwanted pregnancies and sales of babies.

The mode of operation by the baby merchants is usually to camp pregnant ladies within the age bracket of 18 to 25 years, cater for them until delivery, and thereafter sell the baby to wealthy  but childless couples  in most cases.

No  fewer than four baby factories have been uncovered in the area by security operatives,  who  usually act on a tip-off. In one of the breakthroughs, a teenage pregnant lady, Blessing Aondoseer  was  the  whistle  blower,  after  her two-week son  was sold off.

The  victim, who  was  tricked  all  the way from  Benue State,  disclosed   how she was  paid only N2,000  from the proceeds of  the sale of  her baby. She  was said  to  have found herself in the unusual terrain,  after her legitimate husband ditched her and her unborn child,  on the grounds  that he could not take full responsibility for the pregnancy.

Blessing, a  product of  a broken home, was  with her mother in Benue State,  when a young man approached her for marriage, promising to take her to the city, where she  would  enjoy  a good life.

Blessing  and  her mother fell  for  the bait. The young man brought her, with about eight months pregnancy to Asaba,  where one Jennifer  Obi  posed  as estate agent, to secure an apartment for them.

Narrating  her ordeal through an interpreter, Blessing further said: “I was married and got pregnant for my husband who could not take responsibility. He brought me back to my parents to take care of  the pregnancy until after delivery.

“But  when I got home, my parents had separated,  I was able to locate my mother,  who could not take care of the pregnancy. Then,  a young man came, having heard the story  about the pregnancy, approached my mother in the name of marriage.

“He  took me from my mother and brought me to the city(Asaba). He did not take me to his people but brought me to this woman, Jennifer Obi. The pregnancy was already eight months old. He said  he would come back for proper marriage, after the delivery.

“As soon  as I delivered the baby, the young man came, connived with the woman to take my baby away. He told me that my baby will  be sent to a special place, so that the baby will not be an obstacle to our marriage, since he was  not the father.

“I resisted, but they threatened  to  abandon me at the maternity, to take care of the bill, hence, I succumbed. They took me to Onitsha, Anambra State. I am a stranger here. As soon as we got  to a place in Onitsha, they said  this is the place. I came down, then,  they  drove  off  immediately  with  the my child.

“So, I ran to my supposed husband,  who gave me N2,000  and brought me back to Asaba, rented a new apartment for me, bought three tubers  of yam, five tubers of sweet potato,  and stayed with me for just three days before disappearing. That was how I started looking for  a way out.”

Blessing’s alarm prompted the arrest of the said Jennifer Obi and one Osita Okafor, who claimed  to be a driver.  They nabbed  by detectives from ‘B’ Division of the State Police Command. Seven other girls, out  of  which,  six  were  pregnant, were also  arrested  in  the house of  Osita Okafor in Oduke.

The pregnant  ladies included;  Joy  Chinwedu, Amaka Emeka Joy, Deborah Ogbona, Ifunanya Agu, Chinechere  Agbo, Ogochukwu  Okwe  and Chioma Emmanuel. The  arrested  girls   allegedly confessed  selling their babies after delivery.

But  most residents of  the area are not in the know of the illicit business going on there,  until security operatives  stormed  there   to raid the suspected factories.

“People around here are not   aware of  what was  happening because, what  we think most of  the time is, how  to  keep body and soul together. Our mentality here is different because,  this place is not developed, so, we least expect such criminal acts,” a  resident said.

Although, there are other places in the capital,  where   baby  factory business is operated, most of them however traced  their  roots to Oduke.

One of  the suspected operators of  baby factory, Uju  Okonkwo, who is a native of Anambra State,  said  she  started the business  at  Oduke before she  moved to Okpanam,  where  one  Ezurum Joseph is  her  accomplice  posing  as  estate  agent.

When the  bubble burst, three ladies with advanced pregnancies,  including 19-year-old Chniyere Udem, 20-year Happiness Igwe,  and 17-year-old Esther Frank, were  rescued from the hideout.

Uju Okonkwo,  who  has been in the business for quite  some time now,  had gathered  her latest victims, promising to reward them handsomely when the babies  were  delivered. She also deceived the ladies (victims) that their babies were not for sale,  but  to be taken to Orphanage  Homes for  proper upbringing.

However, Uju  Okonkwo had been making brisk business from the illicit trade, as she admitted that she recently sold a baby  for N500,000.00,  to  a wealthy Lagos-based couple.

“I started last year,  and it is only one baby that has been adopted to a woman in Lagos. She paid only N500,000.00,” she said,   in futile attempt to deny that she was not a baby merchant, adding that she is a widow with three children.

“I don’t sell  human beings, I send them to Motherless Babies Homes. I saw the pregnant girls, some come on their own because, they don’t have any helper and they don’t want to abort the pregnancies.

“Abortion is not good, that was  my advice to them, that they should deliver the babies and send them to Motherless Babies Homes. So, I give them food, but I don’t run a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) for  now.”

She  said  her accomplice in the illicit trade, Joseph Ezurum, who claimed to be a lawyer, gave her the house where she   accommodated  the pregnant ladies and nurture them to  the delivery stage. Ezurum did not deny the role he played, but added  that he was not aware of  the illicit business.

“I am not advocating for her, the only thing is that, she told me that she had a problem. There is one building I am managing, she asked me for a room where she would  keep her ladies, saying  they wanted to commit abortion but she advised them to keep the pregnancies. I rented a house to her to keep the girls.

“It  is  not  legal,  in the sense that if they are selling the babies but what she told me was that she takes the babies to Motherless Babies Homes, when they are delivered,” Ezurum  said.

Ezurum   displayed  some paraphernalia  that qualified him as  a lawyer, insisting  he  graduated from  the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in 2011,  but was  not admitted into  the law school.

“I enrolled into the faculty and graduated. My admission number is 2005/39/017. I was not called to bar because,  the law school could not admit me.

“When we filled the Council of Education form, my name was among the elligible students, about four courses were waved for us. But  when  a new Dean came in, he nullified the waiver, he said we have to clear the courses and  that there is nothing like waiver.”

“Since then,  I have not been able to clear the papers. I am not claiming to be a lawyer  but I keep all these things around me, I don’t go to court. The wig and all these things were what I will use when we are called  a lawyer…, so I kept them,” he said.

Forty –year-old Chinelo Ezeugo,  who  is  said  to be  a  habitual human trafficker in security  circles, started  her trade from Oduke from where she extended the business to a neighboring suburb, Oko.

Investigations  revealed  that  Ezeugo  kept  five  pregnant  ladies and four kids, when  security operatives came  looking  for  her,  following the sound  of  a whistle blower.

Further  checks  revealed  that most victims, pregnant ladies, were deceived into the illicit  business after their boyfriends got  them pregnant and abandoned them. Precious Ihemine and Blessing Okafor,  who  were  got pregnant  by  their lovers  in a certain village  in Enugu State fell  into  this category.

They found  themselves  in Asaba, while looking for a job to keep body and soul together after  their  respective  parents disowned  them.

They were rescued  from  home allegedly operated by one John Mary Ihezue,  who denied  using the place as a baby factory. He  claimed using the house as   as polythene bag  factory and  computer business,  where he employed  workers  who he said,  earned  legitimate income.

Narrating  her  ordeal, Blessing Okafor said  her parents  chased  her out  of the house when she got pregnant,  and revealed  how  one of  her friends  brought her to Ihezue in Asaba,  where  she could  work  and earn income,  pending  when  she will be delivered of the baby.

“We do nylon work. He (Ihezue) has nylon-making machine and computer business. I got pregnant in my village and the boy responsible for it ran away. I asked his friend,  and he told me that he went to Abuja. This is my first pregnancy,” she said.

For  Precious Ihemine, her sister , who stays in Asaba brought her  to Ihezue as   her  sister’s husband disallowed her from staying with his nuclear family.

“My sister is staying in Asaba and when I got pregnant,  she brought me to this man’s house because,  her  husband refused my staying with them. She asked me to stay with this man, until I’m delivered of  the baby.

“The man responsible for my pregnancy is Emeka, and he denied it and ran away. I was  not  promised any  money after delivering the baby, and I have been in his house since March this year. I do not go for antenatal and no doctor comes around for such care.

“He (Ihezue) cooks for me and I work for him, and he promised to be paying me N15,000 every month  as  salary. He employed us and gave us accommodation,” she said.

Other  suspects, including Ihezue Nkemjika, Imezoma Okeke, Chioma Oje and Nzube Chukwu, whom our correspondent spoke with,  denied involvement in the alleged baby factory business, insisting that they were working in the polythene factory.

Nkemjika told our correspondent that her employer (Ihezue) was her relative, adding that she was about to dispense oil into power generating set before she was arrested.

“I am  not pregnant. The house is my brother’s house and they arrested me in the house when I wanted to put oil in the generator so that I can put it on because boys were not around. I was not making babies, and I am 19 years old,” she said.

Imezoma Okeke also  denied  being pregnant, said that she  came in contact  with Ihezue  while  looking for a job.

“I came to Asaba for water proof  business. I am not pregnant. I came to the house and I saw the pregnant women there. Nobody  directed  me to the place, I came on my own. I saw  a poster in Onitsha,  advertising for workers and I called the phone number and they directed me to Asaba. I  live  in  Onitsha.

“I came to Asaba  and they gave me employment,  but they said  they want to repair the machine,  which they have done. But I have not started work yet. The employment came with accommodation. I stay  with my co-workers and I noticed that some of  them were pregnant,” Imezoma said.

Meanwhile, the man in the eye  of the storm, Mr. John Mary Ihezue, who hails from Ideato Local Government Area of Imo State, said he  was  a care giver and a reverend brother in the catholic church.

He maintained that the polythene  business was his source of income, adding that he uses the proceeds to pay for the rented apartment where he and his workers are staying. He insisted that he was not operating any illegal business.

“We have started production of polythene. We have been working, just that the machine broke down. All the workers are new and we are just trying to start. It is not true that we operate a  Baby Factory where pregnant ladies come and deliver their babies and  we  sell for an agreed price. It is not true.

“I am a reverend  brother in the Catholic church. I am not married. As a brother, we are consecrated to God,  to give our lives wholly and entirely to God. I trained as a reverend brother at Ohum Monastery in Enugu. I was made a brother in1994,” he said.

Asked  why he  was  not serving in any Catholic parish, hospital or school, the suspect,  said, Rome gave him “a sort of concession so that I can live alone and help people. I am somebody  who is a care giver, I love helping people.

“I cannot  boast about it, it  is only God that I am serving, who knows what is in my  mind. I am not married and I am not insane. I know that the only thing that will take me to heaven is doing charity work.

“I don’t think there is anything that can attract me in this world since I am not married. I am not operating anything illegal, it is my home, where I am staying and I have factory from where I generate money to pay the rent.”

He explained that the pregnant ladies came seeking for help and he decided to help them because of his philanthropic gesture, adding: “if  they have nobody to help them, and I have the heart  to help, I think, I can help them.

“For this one (pointing to one of the pregnant ladies), the sister brought her here because her husband could not accommodate her,  as a result of the pregnancy. She begged me to allow her to stay here because,  they know I always help people. She brought her here for me to protect her.”

Meanwhile, a security source,  who  preferred to remain anonymous attributed the growing rate of baby factories in Oduke to the isolated nature of  the area, adding however  that security had been beefed up in the area  since the  recent  discoveries.

“You know, that the place is isolated, and people don’t come around to give information to the police. Also, you will not rule out  the economic situation in the country. People are driven into crime these days,  in order to make ends meet.

“But that is not an excuse before the law because, there are several legitimate ventures that  could yield income to sustain homes. However, those with criminal tendencies and the inordinate desire to get rich can do anything for money, without considering  the security implications.

“As we speak, I know that the State Police Command has beamed its search light on that area,  following  the  recent  discoveries  that baby factory business is thriving in that area,” the source added

Advertisements

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.