Politics

Reps Move Against Proliferation Of Orphanage Homes

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The House of Representatives recently kicked against the proliferation of orphanage homes in Nigeria and advised governments at all levels to take proactive measures to stem the tide, PHILIP NYAM reports

Before embarking on the Easter break on March 20, the House of Representatives passed a motion sponsored by Hon. Emerengwa Boniface Sunday (PDP, Rivers) condemning abuse and proliferation of orphanage homes in Nigeria. The House also urged the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to interface with all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for immediate and full compliance with the mandate of orphanage homes across the country. It equally mandated the Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to ensure standardisation of orphanage homes and close those under-resourced.

Reasons for the motion

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One of the reasons that compelled the lawmaker to sponsor the motion could be traced to the proliferation of what is called “baby factories” across the country. According to the Reproductive Bio Medicare Online (PBMO), baby factories are institutions where young people give birth to children, who are then placed for sale on the illegal adoption market.

The term also refers to any place where pregnant women and young teenage girls are voluntarily or forcefully impregnated and kept illegally until their babies are born and then sold for monetary gains. In practice, they are usually disguised as hospitals, maternity homes, social welfare homes or orphanages. The first cases of baby factories in Nigeria were reported by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2006.

In the report, human trafficking linked to baby factories was ranked the third most common crime in Nigeria, after drug trafficking and financial fraud. The factories are operated by well-organised criminal syndicates, and, according to Eseadi et al, 2015, they have become prevalent in Nigerian society today. Cristiansson, in 2015, infiltrated these networks with a hidden camera and reported payments of $4000 for a girl and $4400 for a boy – there was even the option of including the placenta in the sale. Since that report was released, there have been series of discoveries. According to Prime Progress, in 2007, a cartel in Rivers State was discovered, leading to the rescue of 19 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 13 girls captive. In 2009, more than six baby factories were shut down in Abia State, freeing countless pregnant young girls. The 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 the 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. In October 2011, 17 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 area of the state. 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 11 babies awaiting sale, apprehending the man responsible for impregnating the girls. In Akwa Ibom, police discovered two baby factories, each housing seven pregnant teenagers and eight pregnant women. Among the victims was a 16-year-old teenager entice

d with the promise of money in exchange for abandoning her baby after delivery. While 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, other stakeholders have argued that poverty remains the primary driving force. Other challenges include young age, vulnerability, and pregnancies out of wedlock. Unfortunately, some of the orphanage homes are exploiting these to their advantage and many believe it will be an uphill task trying to sanitise the system.

The motion

While presenting the motion, Hon. Emerengwa noted that by provisions of sections 14(2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) the primary d

uty of government is to provide security and welfare to the people. He noted that the primary aim for the establishment of orphanage homes is to cater for orphans and ensure their safety and well-being in but said he was disturbed at the increase in the establishment of orphanage homes in Nigeria. His words: “I am aware that the increase in the number of orphans in Nigeria is mainly due to the insecurity in nearly all parts of Nigeria such as kidnapping.

But it is observed that most proprietors of orphanage homes often prioritize profit over their core mandate, turning orphanages into baby factories, where teenage girls are accommodated to produce babies that are sold and used for rituals and other heinous activities. “It is also worrisome that a good number of orphanage homes are being used for human trafficking, whereby innocent girls are being recruited to embark on illegal migration to foreign countries, where they eventually end up either being abused, prostitutes or housemaids.

“These call for urgent demand by the government at all levels to formulate stringent conditions for the establishment of orphanages in the country to prevent and curb the proliferation of orphanage homes. There is also urgent need to clamp all unregistered and or criminally motivated orphanage homes in the country in fulfilment of government primary duty of security and welfare of her citizens.” Seconded by Hon. Agbedi Frederick (PDP, Bayelsa), the motion was voted on, adopted, and referred to the House Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development.

 


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