by Wobia Akani
While some may choose to see it as the fulfilment of a family’s dreams and the satisfaction of a woman’s or even a man’s hearts’ desires, it is what it is and nothing more pretentious than that – Child trafficking.
On a grand scale in Nigeria today, there is a form of human trafficking going on to which many have turned a blind eye. It is the exchange of unwanted and abandoned (sometimes wanted but stolen) children (mostly infants) for large sums of money, a transaction usually orchestrated by a go between, usually the birth attendant who negotiates between the birth mother/parents and the would be foster parents without any formal documentation.
Where a purchaser is not readily available, the go between keeps the child, fostering him/her until such a time as when the child can be sold or put to some use that is profitable to the go-between, sometimes as maids/house servants or even sex slaves.
This offence is largely on the incline because there are lots of young unmarried ladies getting pregnant, in the absence of proper sexuality education and the need to conceal the “shame” of unwed motherhood on the one hand, and the fact that there are impatient couples who have been married for sometime and have not been able to conceive children. Sounds like it’s all cut and dried, like one is trading in horseflesh yes?
But these are human beings we are discussing and it contravenes the NAPTIP Act 2003, the Abolition of Slavery Act 1956 and above all, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
While I am sympathetic to the cause of childless couples who would give anything to have a child of their own, buying a child under the guise of adoption is completely illegal. They are not the same things.
Adoption is a legal process wherein a child’s legal rights and duties are transferred from its natural parents and conferred on its adoptive parents. The adoptive process effectively terminates whatever obligations a child would have owed to his natural parents. What the baby buyers have failed to realise is that where there is no proper adoption, it may one day get to a head where the birth parents of the child could return to claim him, and accuse the foster parents of having stolen their baby. The foster parents cannot expect the law to aid them as there is no legal documentation of their rights over that child.
Barely a week ago, I came across an elderly woman with a 5 month old baby who she claimed to be her grandchild. After prolonged investigations and several twists in her tale, it turned out that she was a birth attendant in a church where a girl had delivered the baby and run away. The child’s birth had not been registered, neither did the state have any idea of the existence of that child. On being confronted with the fact that she was a child trafficker, she denied being one, but confessed to having taken deliveries in the church for over 30 years. The interesting part of the drama was the discovery that one of the other children she said were her biological children turned out to be a baby that had been abandoned with her, but when the birth mother returned to claim her child, the birth attendant demanded the sum of five hundred thousand naira only, a sum the girl’s family could not afford. While the police has been made aware of this situation, it appears that nothing much has been done.
As adults, our first responsibility is to our country and those around us. It is questionable that a woman who was not visibly pregnant suddenly turns up with a child, claiming to have put to bed. And nobody asks any questions. A pregnant girl disappears from home and returns later without a baby and no one asks the obvious questions. There is always the need to take an interest in our society. Report any suspicious situations to the appropriate authorities – the police, the State Child Welfare agency, or the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
The sudden appearance of a child in your neighbourhood could also indicate another’s agony, perhaps that child has been stolen. It is always better to err on the side of caution and let the law enforcement agents do their job.
To those seeking to adopt, there are appropriate channels and processes to be followed to ensure a smooth adoption process. A potential adoptive parent can contact the state welfare services, applying therein and undergoing the necessary scrutiny to ensure that they are fit enough to raise a child.
It is also in the interest of the adoptive parents to follow due process as it confers such other rights over the child as would be lacking in the case of foster parents. Please do not say the child is receiving the best care possible and turn a blind eye. All may not be as it seems. Let us protect our children from child abuse, molestation and trafficking.