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Baby bonanza: When parents sell their children

There are likely more cases of parents selling off their children than what is reported, but why does the disturbing trend persist? Daily Trust takes…

There are likely more cases of parents selling off their children than what is reported, but why does the disturbing trend persist? Daily Trust takes a look. 

One of the most recent cases of a parent selling off a child was that of Abraham Udoh, 52, who, arrested on July 24 2017 in Cross River State, reportedly confessed to selling his two-year-old son without the knowledge of his wife. During interrogation, he said he committed the act because he needed money. His confession ties in to what sociologist Bilar Luka said, yet different because the latter was referring to women. 

Luka pointed out that from a sociological point of view, certain factors prompt mothers to sell off their children. One major reason is mental illness or disorders that make some women prone to such negative activity. “This is usually carried out by the less-privileged who do not have a means of livelihood.” He said. “When it is a mental illness, and it is discovered in some families, a grandmother or any other close relative collects the baby or child from the mother, in order to protect him or her.”

The sociologist said that selling off children is most common among mothers who unwillingly gave birth to a child. Aside others, Internally Displaced Persons are a perfect example of such. Despite the harsh conditions they live in, away from their home, they are obligated to nurse and bring up a child.

Another incident was reported in April this year, still in Cross River State, where a couple this time, George-Sunday Udoh and wife, Victoria George-Sunday, sold their six-year-old daughter, Favour Udoh, at N400,000.

Reports said the couple decided to sell their child to enable them rent a house. They had initially placed the little girl for sale at N1.5m, and haggled with their supposed customer who was an undercover policeman, that their daughter could do house chores.

Spokesperson, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) Josiah Emerole explained that child trafficking can only be defined under the context of the Palermo protocols definition, which says, the recruitment, transportation, harbouring of persons, which includes a child, through deceit, abduction, and other means, even if it is through a parent who has given a child forcefully away, for exploitation, is trafficking. 

Emerole pointed out that the only problem now is that parents don’t know the magnitude of exploitation that their child is going to go through when they decide to give away. “For instance, somebody approaches you and wants to take your child to work as a domestic help and promises to send the child to school. Parents agree, based on their vulnerability. Unfortunately, what we see today is that people go to a rural community, meet a family and make promises. They collect other children in the same way and distribute to different homes. Each place that person (trafficker) goes, he or she negotiates for transportation of that child, including a year’s salary of the child in the name of remitting to the children’s’ parents. So, the person who gives this money thinks he has paid for the child, and so misuses and exploits that individual. That is what the law is saying, that you cannot exploit such children. The Trafficking in Persons Act says that ‘you cannot use a child that is under twelve years old for domestic purpose in your home, or you would be liable’. When NAPTIP comes after you, you will be arrested and taken to court. If you have a child that is below eighteen, he or she must be allowed to develop properly and not made to do work that is beyond his or her capacity. The child must also be allowed to go to school like other children. This means that there must be something you are paying the child as remuneration. Where all these things are missing and you are caught, you would answer for it.”

Emerole said when NAPTIP gets reported cases of child trafficking, their officers go after the persons responsible. But a hindrance is that they work mostly based on intelligence and reports sent to them. If they do not receive reports of such matters, it becomes a problem, because the operations of traffickers are clandestine. Nobody knows when or where such transaction is going to happen. 

So what does the law say about this? Barrister Abdullahi Gaji stressed that it is illegal for anybody to sell his or her child. “As a matter of fact, there is a law, which is Child Labour and Trafficking Act. It is funded by the United Nations and Nigeria is a member. Anybody who is found wanting, either in child trafficking or labour would have committed a criminal offence which attracts fourteen years imprisonment,” he said, adding that anybody that sells her child for money commits a criminal offence which attracts imprisonment. 

The legal practitioner added that the law protects children more than adults and frowns against parents selling their children. He described it as a very serious criminal offence which does not even have an option of fine. Both the parent who sold the child and the buyer are all liable to serving jail terms. 

About 11 cases of children being sold off by their parents has been reported from 2016 till date across the country. Last year, a 17-year-old mother, Miss TessyObianua, was reported to have sold her baby to a couple in Onitsha, Anambra State, who were desperately in need of a child, with the help of a child trafficker, Mrs. Okoye.The bargain was for N500, 000, but N30, 000 was paid and new clothes and shoes were bought for the mother of the baby. Another incident was in April this year in Katsina State, where a 43-year-old nurse with Federal Medical Centre (FMC) was reported to have sold a four-month-old baby with the mother, Aisha Idris, 18, for N200,000. 

Yet another reported incident in Nnewi, Anambra State, involved a 24-year-old mother, Oluchi Emeobi, who conspired with her friend Nchedoch Richard, 26, to sell the former’s two-month-old baby to a woman popularly known as First Lady, in order to buy a motorcycle. So the possibility of many more unreported cases cannot be dismissed. 

Mother of three, Dr. Lizzy Ben-Iheanacho, Director, Research and Documentation, National Council for Arts and Culture said mothers selling their own children has always been a condemnable act and described it as “the height of human depravity for people to resort to trafficking their own flesh, or anybody for that matter. It shows the debasement of humanity and human instinct. In biblical stories, there was a time when there was so much famine in Samaria that women took to eating their own children. That would show you the height of it, for a woman to kill her own child so she would survive.”

Dr. Ben-Iheanacho noted that humanity has always resorted to treating the vulnerable unkindly at times where there is a struggle for survival. “For a man and woman to get to a point where they see their offspring as a commercial item means that you have severed any human connection to that child. And women have always been the most emotionally entangled with their children, which makes it all the more horrifying that we are witnessing such in our time. It calls for every one of us to be our brother’s keeper. That little smile, encouragement, and greeting may be what the next person is looking for to hold onto his or her sanity and humanity and not let go of that child. If you give a child up, you have condemned that child and he or she would never develop emotionally, because they will never form an attachment to anybody in life because of that betrayal,” she said. “I believe that every one of us is government in this case. It has to do with our reawakening and getting in touch with our humanity. We can always talk about government institutions, but we can collectively solve the problem. Government can never work in isolation.  

Another mother and grandmother, Mrs. Rose Arabameh Julius, shared Dr. Ben-Iheanacho’s views. “In Nigeria we hardly punish people for wrongdoings. I am even at a loss as to the kind of punishment that should be given. It is a terrible sin against God. In the olden days such people were banished. People like that should be banished,” she said.

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