Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Is Nigeria losing its social values?

Article from AFRIC Editorial
Africa and the global world, in general, are faced with many social glitches which are problematic in nature and are affecting the societal values in contemporary societies. Aspects like gender-based violence (GBV) are still a phenomenon that various governments are trying to tackle. Women have been regarded as the weaker sex and are often the more susceptible in times of emergencies or crisis. Efforts to curb violation of social values are facing resistance in some African countries including Nigeria. Africa's most populous and number one country in terms of economic growth has again come to the fore concerning the protection of social values. Since a baby factory was uncovered in Nigeria many years ago, the Federal government has been trying to contain the social problem with little success as the number of these illegal homes have surged over the years.

Another unhealthy scenario still in Nigeria is the emergence of what has been coined as ‘torture homes’ disguised as coranic schools.

Baby factory?

The so-called “baby factories” are institutions where young females give birth to children who are then placed for sale on the illegal adoption market. The term 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. Though some of these girls volunteer to be part of these homes, the majority of them are often confined against their will. Freedom becomes a rare word for these girls in most cases because they often have little or no knowledge about their whereabouts. The most deceitful thing about these homes is the fact that they are regularly referred to as private hospitals, maternities, child care centres, this derails the government from being too critical about the activities of the so-called hospital or clinics.

As per a UNESCO report, the first baby home was discovered in Nigeria in 2006, since then, many of such homes have been uncovered across the national territory as part of moves by the government to weed out the vice. It is worth noting that human trafficking, according to reports, occupies the third position as far as crime is concerned in Nigeria after drug trafficking and siphoning of public funds. One intriguing aspect of this trade in babies is its global operations, It goes beyond Nigerian borders to the international scene.

Reasons for such homes

After intense debates about the prevalence of baby farms in Nigeria, pundits concluded that stigmatization of desperate girls with unwanted pregnancies, often put them at the mercy of these homes, who trade their babies for little financial support and to wipe the so-called shame off their brow. In another instance, the start of baby factories in Nigeria originated from the quest to have children by couples with fertility problems. In a country like Nigeria, couples with fertility issues feel relegated and see public adoption of children as a taboo, thus result in an illegal way. All these reasons and many more explain the surge in the number of baby factories or baby farming as demand is increasing. Consequentially, some experts have labelled this as a modern form of organized child trafficking. Earlier reports revealed that these factories are sometimes owned by high ranking personalities who get involved in these heinous acts to amass more wealth.

In 2014, the Nigerian police uncovered one of the biggest and renowned baby factories in Southern Nigeria, owned by a pastor’s wife identified. The name of the church was not disclosed for obvious reason, reports gathered by the Nigerian police revealed that the pastor’s wife had sold children to frantic couples ranging from N 2.5 million and N 6 million depending on how couple desperation. It leaves one with a lot of questions if you consider the price tag per each child. It is also a clear indication that poor couples with fertility issues could not afford a child from the said baby homes, holding other things constant. The exorbitant nature of the financial remuneration is a clear indication that these homes are operated by well-organized syndicates or personalities. The above-mentioned baby farming was carried out in an institution called God’s Gift Clinic and Maternity home Port Harcourt. This, according to a local newspaper Vanguard, is where the pastor’s wife [name withheld] abused young, innocent girls of their children for commercial purposes. The inhumane act was moving smoothly until a report from a US consulate concerning a US-based Nigerian woman who came applying for a visa for her supposed toddler, whose DNA did not match. This is just one example among many.

Being Africa’s most populated nation, many children have become so vulnerable, and often fall in the hands of dubious individuals who exploit their innocence for commercial purposes. Even without knowing the repercussions of her acts, a frustrated young girl would prefer to live in a baby factory than roam the streets and die of hunger and starvation.

Confined women find freedom

In the government’s quest to arrest the surge in baby farming, many frustrated women and girls who were brained washed and brought to these closed homes have regained freedom. In late April 2018, an official revealed that police in Lagos rescued over 160 children from baby factories and two unrecognized orphanages. Also, between September and October 2019, the Nigerian Police was able to free 28 girls and women from supposed baby factories operating in the country where they were promised employment in disguise for sexual exploitation.

One of the women was quoted as saying; “My friend who left [the Southeast] last year, called me to say that someone was looking for house help. I borrowed money to travel to Lagos. One woman came to pick me at the park and brought me here. The next day, I was summoned by our madam, who told me that I would not leave the premises until next year. “Being a newcomer, my customers only came at night to have sex with me. So far, I have slept with seven different men before I discovered I was pregnant. I was told after delivery, I would be paid handsomely and that if I decided to leave after then, I could. My pregnancy is in its second trimester.” “My cellphone was taken away and [I was] given a non-android phone,” the rescued woman lamented, explaining why she could not contact her family at home. This among others are some of the ordeals women go through while in the closed homes. Even though it remains a big challenge for the Federal government due to its intense nature, rescue efforts remain ongoing. The local population have also assisted by reporting suspected cases to authorities.

Apart from trade in babies that have affected Nigeria, another problem to contain is the said Koranic schools or rehabilitation homes which in a real sense are torture homes. In October 2018, authorities uncovered a private Islamic boarding school or rehabilitation centre in President Buhari’s home town of Daura that harbours drug addicts, troublesome children involved in criminal acts, among others. The aim of these was for the children to learn Qoran, for school authorities to counsel the affected children and make them ready for reintegration into society, this prompted parents to send their children into the centres. However, it was later discovered these schools are more of torture centres than Koranic School.

According to reports, these children are subjected to all forms of corporal punishment, while others are even raped by school administrators. One of the victims described life in these centres as ”hell on earth.’ He was treated like an animal.The Nigerian police in October rescued over 70 young men and boys. Before this rescue, hundreds of the captives have been set free from such homes. Though some people came to the knowledge of these so-called Koranic schools or Almajiris as locally called, it is reported to have been common in the Muslim dominated north of the country.

Notwithstanding, the government of president Muhammadou Buhari has vowed to close all schools or centres where such inhumane acts are taking place in the country. It will not, however, be an easy task because these schools are deeply rooted in the culture of Northern dwellers, so it would take time to convince parents not to send their children to the Koranic schools. Most of them are yet to welcome modernization or modern education as their ways are more archaic and conserved. There is a need for increased awareness from grassroots supported by government policies and civil soeties to uproot such practices.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo credit : google image/illustration

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