Illegal maternity units, known as ‘baby factories,’ are rampant in Nigeria’s black market. The latest police raid rescued ten people, consisting of four children aged between one to four years, four pregnant women and two other women from a separate illegal maternity home on Wednesday, December 2nd, in the Mowe area Ogun State of Africa’s most populous nation. Officers arrested two people suspected to be in charge but continued to track down the leading operator on the run.
The factory was operated by a woman who is now on trial for human trafficking. In many cases, the woman-in-charge hired men to impregnate women and sell babies for profit against their will. According to Abang Robert from Caprecon Development and Peace Initiative, some traffickers let their victims leave after giving birth. These traffickers believe that if girls stay too long, they could develop a plan to expose the trade. “It doesn’t matter whether you are six weeks or six months pregnant,” a survivor under the name Roda told Al Jazeera, “If any of the men want you, you can’t say no.” Three days later, after Roda gave birth, she was blindfolded and taken back to the north.
The ‘baby factories’ are often small, illegal facilities masquerading as private medical clinics or orphanages that carry out women’s impregnation and conduct the negotiations and sale of babies. Babies who are not sold are usually forced into child labour, trafficked into prostitution or used as a ritual sacrifice, BBC reports.
Police raids on these units are quite common in Nigeria, particularly in the south. Other raids of 2020 include a mission in February that rescued 24 babies and four expectant mothers described as “frail and malnourished” in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt and a mission in September that rescued 19 women and girls that had been kidnapped. UNESCO first coined the term’ baby factory’ in a 2006 policy paper revealing that these facilities were found in Abia, Lagos and Ebonyi states. ‘Baby factories’ now stand as the third most common crime in Nigeria.
The dehumanizing rape culture that haunts women from puberty to the end of their child-bearing years, coupled with the malicious ambition for profit off of newborn babies, will continue to scar generations of women throughout Nigeria and Western Africa. There must be a serious effort to defeat the unethical and immoral denial of women’s rights and women’s physical and emotional traumatization from all ages. Nigeria boasts one of the largest economies as a producer of oil in Africa. Still, it is also a nation that houses the highest number of people living under extreme poverty conditions compared to anywhere else in the world. “Displaced persons in Madinatu are really struggling to survive, as they are not getting enough food supply from the government and that is why it is easy for traffickers to exploit those who are desperate for jobs,” Yusuf Chiroma, head of the Borno Community Coalition, a group of aid workers assisting survivors of the Boko Haram insurgency through skills acquisition programs said.
Al Jazeera reports that there are currently half a dozen cases going through the court system; not enough perpetrators are held accountable for the rampant baby harvesting that ensues.
In 2007, 19 girls were rescued, and in 2008, over 20 teenagers were rescued from Enugu state. In 2009, over six baby factories were uncovered, and in early 2010, 77 teenage girls were rescued from Abia state. In mid-2011, 32 pregnant girls, whose babies were then up for sale, were rescued. In 2018, 160 girls were rescued from a camp in Lagos. These small scale raids save women and their offspring from a life of abuse, and each life counts. However, these raids have not been sufficient to stifle the mass rape and selling of newborns. Strict prevention measures and nation-wide operations need to be carried out to end the business of baby harvesting.
Human rights campaigners are running “sensitization campaigns” to educate displaced persons about the dangers of human trafficking and spot the signs of it inside the IDP camp. Extreme poverty, lack of education and guidance, and the perversion of cultural traditions and religious rituals are several potential root causes that allow baby harvesting and women’s abduction to increase.
In 2013, the Federal Government in Nigeria stated promises of training programs for teachers and guidance counsellors, establishing counselling clinics and career resource centres to curb baby factories.
These promises have become a mockery to the perpetrators as an alarming number of baby factories continue to operate. Recommendations for the present-day situation must incorporate the government and local NGOs’ collaboration to create practical solutions such as employment opportunities and food security. Women who are rescued from facilities must be offered physical care and mental health resources to assist in the reintegration into society socially and economically. A military strategy must be created to face this enemy for women. Physical facilities need to be torn down, liberating all women and children. Those who operate baby factories from abduction, rape, and selling the babies must be arrested to the full extent of the law, and penalties must be severe. Those who perpetrate crimes against humanity, whether Boko Haram or organized crime, are not afraid of the Nigerian government, the judicial system or the military and military strategy. This is precisely why the number of rapes increases exponentially, the number of murders by terrorists has increased in 2020 alone and the nation cannot seem to protect their people.
Whether there is a small demographic of girls who willingly sell their babies or women who are raped and have their babies stolen from them, the Nigerian government has failed to protect women and thus endangers the very future of their nation.
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