Early this month, the Police uncovered a baby factory in Adigbe community in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, Western Nigeria. According to media reports, three pregnant girls were rescued from the baby factory located at SOAS Estate. Items recovered from the house included cowries, a calabash containing black soap and white garments. The female operator of the baby factory has since been apprehended. The Abeokuta incident occurred less than two weeks after eight pregnant women were rescued from a baby factory in Ifo Local Government Area of the same state. About three months before the two Ogun State incidents, precisely in January 2014, the Ondo State Command of the Nigeria Immigration Service discovered a baby factory owned by a herbal clinic owner in Ilu-Titun, a village in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State. No fewer than 21 persons, including 11 women at various stages of pregnancy and eight men cohabiting to make babies for the baby factory owner, were arrested from the building belonging to the baby factory owner. The NIS
authorities alleged that the baby factory owner had a branch in Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area of the state. The menace of use of babies for ritual purposes had occurred in Ekiti State on November 18, 2013, when armed bandits suspected to be ritualists invaded a government hospital in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, demanding newborn babies from hospital officials on duty.
Reports say the hospital staff cleverly resisted the bandits but not without sustaining some injuries. While Lagos State Police Command has debunked the existence of baby factory in the state, there have been pockets of arrests of suspects engaging in sale and procurement of babies in the state. The above accounts are evidences that breeding and sale of babies as means of powering notorious crimes of prostitution, human trafficking, rituals and illegal adoption – crimes that were never heard of in the region – are sadly, gradually creeping into the South-west.
For a people reputed to be the bastion of civilization and an epitome of industry in Nigeria, for a people who regard babies as the greatest gifts from God and demonstrate this by the kinds of names and care they give to their children, this obnoxious development is intolerable and must be checked. This explains why all the governors and leaders of thought of the region, especially Ondo and Ogun States, must not only be embarrassed and outraged by the reports of existence of baby factories in the region but must also collaborate to flush it out of the region. The gradual incursion of baby factory into the South-west is not only a signal that no region is free from the crimes but also an indication that the security agencies have to be up and doing to rid the region and the nation of the illicit act.
The nation’s profile in human trafficking is embarrassing and must be checked. The European Union, EU, fingers Nigeria as one of the biggest sources of people trafficked to Europe for forced prostitution. Experts say fear of being caught alone will solve security problems by more than half. They also aver that enforcing laws will substantially solve crimes. Baby factory and allied businesses have continued to thrive in the country because security approach to curbing it is lax, even as the law is hardly applied to bring offenders to justice. One of the ways South-west governors and security agencies in the region can convince Nigerians that the businesses are unwelcome is to prosecute the Ogun and Ondo suspects and bring culpable ones to justice to serve as a deterrent to others. The governors should also collaborate with the security agencies to work out creative ways of not only ensuring that yet-to-be-discovered factories are fished out, but also making sure states where baby factory operators are yet to have presence are not brought into the dragnet. The region’s chastity and good name must be maintained and protected. The civil societies, the media and citizens of the two states should not only be interested in the efforts being made by Ondo and Ogun states to bring the suspected persons to justice but should also update the public on the development for the purpose of transparency and assurance that the process is followed through. There is also a need for South-west governments to deal with the problems from the roots. Giving sex education in schools and sustained massive enlightenment on it on radio and television will deal with the problem of unwanted pregnancies that make young girls victims of baby factory operators. Serious and sustained efforts by all stakeholders to rid the South-west of baby factories and crimes associated with it is a collective business and may just be what other regions where the illicit businesses have been thriving need to wake up and purge the nation of a menace that has put it on the world map for the wrong reasons.