The proprietor of Nigeria's Moonlight Maternity Clinic was not interested in discussing allegations that he sells newborn babies, with boys fetching higher prices than the girls.
"I have nothing to say to you," Ben Akpudache, a stout 74-yeard-old, told AFP at the small, dimly lit clinic with concrete floors tucked between commercial shops in the southeastern city of Enugu.
"I can't just have people coming in and asking questions."
"Doctor" Akpudache, whose medical credentials are under question, had his clinic raided in July after a three-month sting operation in which the security forces discovered a so-called baby factory.
"We had our people posing as if they wanted to buy a child," Nigeria's Civil Defence Corps (NCDC) spokesman Denny Iwuckukwu told AFP.
Police had separately stormed his home in May, where they discovered that babies were also for sale.
But security services say the majority of cases, including that of the Moonlight clinic, have seen unmarried women with unplanned pregnancies arrive voluntarily or through persuasion.
Their newborns are then sold for several thousand dollars, with boys fetching higher prices. The mother receives roughly $200 (150 euros).
Typical was Ebere Onwuchekwa, 29, who became emotional when asked about the sale of her son Prosper.
Speaking at the office of a child rights NGO, she said the father demanded she get an abortion, illegal in Nigeria, and she refused. Her mother ultimately brought in a "midwife", who delivered the baby then sold him for $1500.
"She took him away... He was a day old," said Onwuchekwa.
After learning what happened, her uncles tracked Prosper down and got him back. The 18-month-old sat quietly on his mother's lap as she spoke.
When asked about the woman who sold her son, a resentful Onwuchekwa said "she doesn't want me to say anything about what happened".
As for Akpudache, he is out on bail and his facility, which he insisted in a brief, tense encounter was a "registered maternity clinic", remains opens.
Authorities said it was not been shut down because they were waiting for the courts to take action, though the NCDC spokesman insisted Akpudache would face justice.
"Human beings should not be sold like animals," said Iwuckukwu.
When police stormed Akpudache's expansive, three-storey home in Ogui Eke village, roughly an hour outside Enugu, they found six pregnant young women.
In a video provided to AFP by the Enugu police, one of the women said she wanted to continue studying, not struggle as a single mother. Akpudache's offer to host her through the pregnancy then sell the newborn seemed a solution.
In the same video, Akpudache said he was just trying to "help people in need".
Despite a 2003 law against human trafficking, including selling children, it is Nigeria's third most common crime behind fraud and drug trafficking, the United Nations has said. The European Union has cited Nigeria as the African country where the scourge is most common.
The maximum sentence is life in prison but sentencing remains at the judges' discretion and offenders can get away with just a fine.
Baby trafficking, in particular, has intensified in the southeast, which is populated mainly by the Igbo ethnic group. The NCDC has several ongoing undercover operations targeting suspected baby trafficking rings in Enugu, underscoring the severity of the problem in this region.
The reasons given for why this "baby" market has developed here vary widely.
Some fear newborns are being sold to witchdoctors for rituals in a country where occult practices still occur. Some say fraudsters in the region had simply found another reliable way to earn cash.
But the security forces and activists said the majority of buyers are likely married couples struggling to conceive.
Oby Nwankwo, who spent years as a magistrates court judge in the southeast, said Igbo customs that place huge importance on male children may also play a role.
Widows and daughters have faced massive obstacles when trying to inherit family resources after the death of a patriarch, explained Nwankwo, also a member of a UN committee on discrimination against women (CEDAW).
In some cases, "if a man does not have a child, that's it. His brother or distant relative will inherit", said the ex-judge.
Nigerian courts have ruled against Igbo inheritance customs that discriminate against females, but the pressure on a couple to have a male heir remains intense.
Official adoption, managed by state governments in Nigeria, is excessively bureaucratic and involves a public record, a problem in a society where stigmas about adoption persist.
Iruka Nwokedi of the Women in Peace-Building Network in Enugu also blamed the intense pressure placed on having a son in the region.
"Most people want to go through the back door... they look for illegal means," said Nwokedi.
Copyright (2013) AFP. All rights reserved.
Pictures credit: Elombah.com
I'm tempted to, like some of my kinsmen, put on the nepotism garb and try to collapse the roof with yells for an Nsukka man to occupy the Lion Building(Enugu Government House) from May 29, 2015. Moreso, when fairness, equity and even the power-that-be demand it to be so. But I remain hesitant because of the objectivity training I received in Journalism where I was also tutored to respect the sanctity of public interest.
I have habitually preached the gospel of allowing he who the cap fit to wear it not minding whether the one who just wore the same cap was his brother. In plain language, I have customarily associated myself with the view that we should not allow zoning rob us of better leaders who would have bettered our lot.
In as much as the entreaty, trappings, entanglement and rewards of zoning whet our appetite for it, my gospel has always been that we shouldn't let it to lead us into sacrificing a Joshua for a another who becomes our Ahab. This disposition of mine is being put to test in my native Enugu State but I'm glad to announce to you that I am sticking to my principle, albeit as human, prejudice wouldn't always want to stay out. As such, it may try to rear its leaning head in this writing, but, I'll try to remain on guard.
In all honesty, I'm always circumspect about writing on developments in my home state. When the issue of the health of our fruitful but taciturn governor was on the lips of every public affairs commentator, I deferred in writing on it till the governor returned to his grind. There were calls for me to do a piece on that but I was reluctant because I wanted to be sure I had all the controls.
However, on the issue of the now, I'm incensed to write courtesy of how people are manipulating facts, playing to the gallery, whipping up sentiments and in all surrendering the most cogent for the trivial. I read with concern the post and riposte of Max Ogbonna and Ngwuoke Chukwuma Muoneke with both providing shades of opinion on the vexed topic of: 2015 and the Enugu political equation.
As intelligent as the two sounded in their disquisitions, I could see a layer of narrow-mindedness in the way they channelled their arguments. In fact, the later was as guilty as the former because they both played down some facts that would have undone them and drummed those that serve their cause. I blame them not, since they aren't thoroughbred journalists.
For instance, Ngwuoke accused Max of not going pre-1999 in his talk about zoning because he knew Nsukka at a point in that aeon produced a governor in Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, but he cleverly omitted the fact that his deceased brother- Christian C. Onoh and Rear Admiral Allison Madueke from Oji River, were governors of old Anambra State which then included today Enugu State.
If we were to go prior to 1999, then should we be told that all the three senatorial zones in today Enugu State have had their share in governing the state at one point or the other and in one form or the other. It is even the Nsukka people who had the raw end of the deal as the tenure of their son was the shortest lasting about 18 months. It will be recalled that Jim Nwobodo from Enugu East had a tenure of four good years as governor(October 1979 to October 1983) while Enugu West had two of theirs as governors. So what is Ngwuoke and his ilk yapping about?
One of the things Ngwuoke sought to wish away was the uniform idea where every state across the country has just three senatorial zones each. He would rather that Enugu State have four as he tried to elevate Greater Awgu zone into a senatorial zone. I wonder how he figured that to be possible when the said Greater Awgu has just three local councils of Awgu, Aninri and Oji River.
What Ngwuoke was pushing for is tantamount to the people of Igede in Benue South senatorial zone claiming to be on the same pedestal with Benue North West senatorial zone. Every knowledgeable and sensible person should see the fallacy and unfeasible nature of such a claim. If democracy was a game of numbers, then should a people with three council areas not claim to be at par with those who have six council areas in their kitty. Their doing so would amount to sheer foolhardiness.
Actually, zoning is there to assist minority groups like Greater Awgu zone to actualise their dream of again tasting the governorship of Enugu State. This is because an understanding with their Agbaja brothers from the same Enugu West will allowed them produce the governor when next it's the turn of that senatorial zone. Since Agbaja people have had their fair share in Sullivan Chime- the incumbent governor, they should have no qualms in letting a Greater Awgu aspirant to be the governor when that time comes.
Can't you see how puerile and infantile it is when we talk about zoning? Some body from a more civilised clime who reads this and other blabs about zoning will get to understand why we are still referred to as a third-world country(even though they call us developing country to make us happy). For no nation serious about having high-quality leaders pay heed to such triflings as where the leader comes from.
This informs why you see Africans and nationals from other countries heading strategic U.S. establishments. Once the antecedents of an aspirant is stellar, he or she should be elected on that merit and nothing more.
That is why I would rather vote for Senator Ike Ekweremadu who is from the same zone as Sullivan Chime to become the next governor of Enugu State than vote for the person parading himself as my representative at the Senate who is just representing his immediate family. In more functional societies, he wouldn't even be voted in as mayor of a city because he has no achievements with which to convince voters.
But this remains Nigeria where anything and everything goes. I wouldn't even be surprised if at the end of the day he carries the 'ballot'.
Deputy Senate President- Ike Ekweremadu a.k.a. Ikeoha has been described as the most outstanding politician in the South East and I am so subscribing to that. He has done much for his constituency and beyond. Work at the youth development centres in the five council areas that make up his constituency have reached an advanced stage and he has promised to have the centres functioning before his present tenure elapses by 2015.
Recently, he brought President Goodluck Jonathan to commission a magnificent church singlehandedly built and furnished by Ikeoha for All Saints' Anglican Church in Aninri Local Government Council of Enugu State. There are rural electrification projects and road projects to his credit. His Ikeoha Foundation gives scholarships that span first to final year to students in tertiary institutions. Tell me, are all these what I'll see and still cast my vote for an under-performing senator to become the next governor simply because he is my 'brother'?
Should I did that, Enugu State will never forgive me, my conscience will never forgive me, my progeny will never forgive me and journalism will not forgive me!
The only person, interested in the race from the zone zoning supports to produce the next Enugu governor, who I will cue behind is Evangelist Sam Maduka Onyeishi- owner of Peace Mass Transit. I have observed him from close quarters. His charitable acts and philanthropy are towering. His ability to grow Peace Mass Transit to what it is today makes him all the more qualified to become the next Chief Executive Officer of Enugu State.
I'm settling for this 'outsider' not minding the fact that somebody from the same clan and village as me is interested in the gubernatorial race. I'm talking of none other than Mr Chuks Ugwuoke- the present information commissioner. But like I said, all that matters to me and should matter to all of us is antecedents and ability to deliver, not primordial sentiments.
For me as regards Enugu 2015, let the same cap be tested on all, not some, interested aspirants but let him who that cap fits wear it. It is only those whose head are too small for the cap that are so vociferous to have those with a fitting head for the cap to be disqualified from testing it on.
We should not allow such lazy elements afraid of competition, to beguile us in the name of fighting for our agenda. No, it's their ulterior motive they are after and once they achieve that, they wouldn't remember our supposed agenda. Thus, we shouldn't in ignorance avail ourselves to them as accomplices!
The law establishing clamping of wheel of vehicle wrongly parked along major roads and even some marked streets in Enugu metropolis came into operation in 2011. This was later extended to some selected streets early this year. The major aim of the rule is to regulate the parking of cars along roads and streets with a view to decongesting the roads and streets for easy and free flow of traffic. Those who go contrary to this rule do have their vehicle plate numbers removed and taken to the EASIPARK office for the defaulters to come and collect them, after they must have paid fine of N5,000 (five thousand naira). And if the defaulter is within close quarters where his or her car is wrongfully parked and clamped, he or she has two or more options explore – to pay five thousand instantly or later or have the car plate number removed and towed to the EASIPARK office. This is the scenario which has continued to play out since the law came into existence unfortunately to the disadvantage of the common men who are mostly civilians and visitors who are unaware of the existence of the rule.
As good as this initiative of the Mr Sullivan Chime’s led administration is, it is important to note that there are some few people who are alleged to be above this law. This ought not to be so as the law is meant for everyone. As the rule of law entails and applies, no one is above the law no matter how highly placed the person is in the society – every Tom, Dick and Harry should be subjected to the same law. But this is a far cry as longer as observers of the trend are concerned. Is there justice when a person who belongs to the military, paramilitary, a top government official or Enugu State PDP bigwig goes contrary to this law and he is left off the hook (that is without paying the fine) just because of his status while his “bloody” civilian counterpart (pays) or is made to pay the said fine. This was what happened around Mbanugo Bus Stop last month according to an eyewitness who wouldn’t want his name mentioned in print.
According to the eye witness, an officer of the military parked his car by the side of the road close to Mbanugo Bus Stop without opening the “boot or bonnet” of his car, (because this is the only way to avoid the wheel of your car from being clamp by EASIPARK officials) and likewise his civilian counterpart, the duo went to nearby motor spare parts dealers to make one purchase or the other, but when EASIPARK official arrived at the scene where the two cars were wrongly parked, they let go of the military man’s car because of his position and towed the civilian’s car. The purported unfair application of this law especially to the ordinary man who has no powerful connection to those at the helm of affairs in Enugu state should be addressed.
The above situation was akin to what happened immediately the Enugu State government passed the law prohibiting the use of motorcycle, popularly known as “Okada” for commercial and private transportation, to forestall the many disadvantages it portends. As soon as Okada operation was banned, didn’t residents in Enugu metropolis notice the use of motorcycle by policemen unchallenged while the ordinary people who flouted the law had their motorcycle confiscated? And when public outcry heightened as to why uniform men (policemen) should use their motorcycle to go to work, directive was immediately passed to all formations to call their officers, men and personnel to order and this was immediately carried out. Today in Enugu according to reliable sources, it is uncommon to see lower as well as high ranking military men or paramilitary men using their private motorcycles. No doubt, this is how law should be applied.
The administration of Governor Sullivan Chime should extend same law of wheel clamping to highly placed persons no matter their status - cronies of the government in power, government officials, policemen, military men etc. by fearlessly empowering EASIPARK officials to clamp their cars when wrongly parked if he wants the public to take him serious. This has become expedient to douse the air of above the law, intimidation and superiority the above persons have which make EASIPARK officials to fidget, develop servant attitude, sudden inferiority complex at the sight of such military men, policemen, government officials among others and cowardly recoil from clamping their vehicle wheels. Governor Sullivan, local government chairmen and those they have given power to enforce this law should borrow a leaf from Fashola, Lagos State governor who arrested a colonel and a staff sergeant not too long ago for violating road rules and regulation. If this leaf is borrowed, it will reinforce the perception of the general public that there are no sacred cows in the application of the law.
It is therefore one thing to make such law as the aforementioned and another to provide car parks at strategic places known to be heavily congested with vehicles to ease free flow of traffic. Marking a particular portion of the road mainly for parking cars and erecting “no parking” signposts are not enough. It is the humble suggestion of this writer to the Enugu State government and local government chairmen whose influence is in the metropolis to build car parks at strategic places known to be congested with cars not only for commercial vehicle owners but also private car owners as this will serve as a revenue generating venture for the state government or local government. The Enugu State government should spread information about its “wheel clamping” policy to every nook and cranny by exploring the following avenues ; churches, mosques, schools, town criers, social media, online media websites and blog spots, radio, newspapers and magazines. It is when this is done that many who would have been penalized for violating the law will be fully aware of it and obeys it.