Last Friday, police in the city of Enugu in south-eastern Nigeria raided a maternity hospital suspected to be a ‘baby farm.’ The authorities were tipped off by a pregnant teenage girl who managed to escape from the clinic, where she was being held hostage along with seven other pregnant women awaiting delivery. Several of their captors were arrested, but the suspected leaders of the child-trafficking ring remain at large.
This is the latest in dozens of investigations over the past few years that have revealed a network of Nigerian clinics and orphanages involved in breeding babies for sale. The most high-profile raid occurred in June of this year when 20 teenage girls were rescued from a hospital reported to be engaged in the illegal trafficking of infants. The doctor in charge, who is now facing trial, insists he was running a foster home to help unmarried pregnant girls give their babies up for adoption. But the women report they were lured to his clinic by offers to help them abort their unwanted pregnancies, then locked up until they gave birth. The young women were paid the equivalent of about $170 to give up their babies; the infants were in turn sold to childless couples for anywhere between $2,500 and $3,800 each.
An investigation by undercover Nigerian journalists shows that sale of babies is rampant in many Nigerian cities and run by well-organized criminal rings. In some cases, young women, driven by poverty, voluntarily lease out their wombs to produce babies for trafficking. In other cases, they are detained against their will and forced to sell their children at birth. The babies are not just sold to adoptive parents, but are also used for child labor, sexual abuse or prostitution, and possible sale of body parts for use in witchcraft rituals or for organ harvesting.
In 2003, the Nigerian government passed an anti-trafficking law which makes the buying or selling of babies illegal in Nigeria and carries a 14-year jail term. Although the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, or NAPTID, monitors trafficking cases, human trafficking remains the third largest crime in Nigeria after economic fraud and the drug trade.
A Nigerian blogger responded to news of the latest ‘baby farm’ raid by saying, “Good job to all those involved in bringing an end to this shameless business. I understand that times are hard, but to use human being as breeders, is beyond immoral.”
WIDE ANGLE’s Dying to Leave explored the worldwide boom in human trafficking.