Enugu baby factory mothers: A trafficking ring of government officials, policemen, rogue doctors stole our babies, jailed us

•Government: We don’ t steal babies , we are ready to return their babies

•Kingpin: I used to work with government but they betrayed me

In the last few years in Enugu State, baby factories have been busted by law enforcement agencies, but SUNDAY PUNCH investigation reveals that government officials in Enugu State are neck - deep in a baby trafficking syndicate , BAYO AKINLOYE writes

Clang ! The worn, sturdy iron door ominously closed behind her as she was led out of a dinghy cell by a female prison official . As she trudged across a coarse field where male inmates were playing football , her head remained bowed like someone being led to the gallows.

With a foreboding fa├žade, the prison houses 1 , 994 inmates; 58 of them are females , and one of them is Chijindu Nworie.

For more than a year, 22 -year -old Nworie has been held behind bars – against her will – at the Enugu State Prison . Seating with a forlorn look inside the prison yard, the dark - complexioned woman told our correspondent about her descent from a maternity home into prison.

Nworie was working as a salesgirl when she got pregnant for her boyfriend. Out of shame and fear, she said she ran away from her uncle ’ s home , Uchenna Nworie , who is now based in Cote d’ Ivoire.

“ While looking for a clinic to take care of my pregnancy I was directed to Moonlight Hospital. There , I was introduced to a doctor; his name is Dr . Ozor Akpudachie . At that clinic I also met two other girls: Miracle Onwe and Ajie Chigozie , ” she stated.

The number of baby factories – the name given to homes where pregnant girls are kept and their babies trafficked upon delivery – has been on the rise . Even though statistics on the number of baby factories busted by the police are not available , the reports of such raids are seen in newspapers almost on a regular basis.

The United Nations Protocol on Trafficking describes trafficking in humans as “all acts related to recruitment , transport , sale or purchase of individuals through force, fraud or other coercive means , for the purpose of exploitation . ”

An estimated 12 million people are living in slavery worldwide , and about 700,000 persons are trafficked across various international borders , including Nigeria , annually.

In Nigeria, there is no reliable estimate of the number of children trafficked. According to the current Trafficking in Persons Report , published annually by the United States Government , Nigeria is a source , transit , and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking .

Bowed but not broken

Po - faced and embittered by her continued stay in prison , Nworie recalled how she and her mates were arrested by a gang of policemen and officials of the Enugu State Ministry of Gender Affairs and Social Development .

She and three other girls – who were also pregnant – were arrested on January 13, 2016.

“ The police and the Gender Affairs people lied to us that they were trying to rescue us from the hands of Dr. Akpudachie . They said the doctor wanted to steal our babies after we might have given birth . They raided the place around 2 pm . But they later accused us of trying to sell our babies.

“ We were taken to their office and later to a hospital at 9th Mile. I was eight months pregnant at the time. I was locked up in a room in the hospital for almost a month . I screamed and kicked that I didn’ t want to stay there, that I wanted to go home and deliver my baby where my family was . They didn’ t listen to me . I got tired and had to give birth there. I was delivered of a boy, ” she said.

Nworie further told SUNDAY PUNCH how she and the other girls were browbeaten and manhandled by the police and officials of the ministry , in a bid to cow them into submission with the ultimate aim of making them to give up their babies after they had given birth.

“ I was seven months pregnant at the time of my remand on January 30, 2016. On February 12, 2016, we were taken to court again and were released on bail to Dr. Akpudachie , who was also charged to court along with his wife . The judge wrote something on a paper and gave the prison officials who brought us to court.

Thereafter , we were handed over to Gender Affairs people . They went with us to the prison to pick our things.

“ Later, the four of us – Chigozie Ajie , Miracle Onwe , Emmanuella Nwedu and I – were divided into two groups. Chigozie and I were taken to Our Saviour Medical Centre at 9 th Mile by Gender Affairs . It was when I was brought back to prison along with Emmanuella that I learnt she had been taken to Ndubuisi Hospital and Maternity , ” Nworie narrated , betraying no emotion .
On March 15, 2016 , she was delivered of a baby boy.

She added , “ After I had given birth to my baby, they took him away . The Gender Affairs people said I should sign a document, collect N50,000 and forget about the baby. I said I didn’ t want any money that it was my baby that I wanted.

The doctor of the hospital promised to give me additional N 50, 000 but I rejected it . I was manhandled and threatened . They said I was going to be in prison for 10 years. I told them that it was okay as long as I had my baby. ”

Nworie stated that when her older sister, Loveth, heard about her situation and visited the hospital , she was made to wait for hours without seeing her or the doctor. Having nowhere to sleep , she went back home and returned the following day.

The next day, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that her sister was again prevented from seeing the new mother . As it was getting late in the night , she went to 9 th Mile police station and made a complaint.
A policeman was reportedly assigned to follow her to the hospital.

“When they (older Nworie and the policeman) reached the clinic, the hospital management called in officials of the ministry and a policewoman from the state Criminal Investigation Department, Police Headquarters Enugu . Nworie was taken away and detained in the CID cell for three days, ” the President of Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network , Olu Omotayo , who is also a counsel to Nworie and Nwedu, told our correspondent.

The police then arraigned her again before the magistrate court. At the order of the court, the two girls were , on April 1 , 2016, sent back to jail.

Time in jail has not weakened the young lady ’s resolve to have her baby back . As she sat across an age - old low prison table, opposite our correspondent, she appeared determined to spend a decade in prison waiting to be reunited with her baby.


“ The police and Gender Affairs people are angry with me because I refused their money. They asked me to sign a form that I was giving up my baby for adoption. I refused . Then, they gave me another form to sign that I want to keep my baby; I signed that form. I don’t want any money. It’s my baby I want, ” she simply said.

Like Nworie, like Nwedu

Nwedu’ s story is similar to Nworie ’ s . Though granted bail on May 8 , she said her release from jail will not be complete until she ’ s reunited with her baby girl.

Few days after coming out of jail, she met with our correspondent on the premises of Enugu East magistrates ’ court, sharing her sordid story.

•Ndubuisi Hospital and Maternity

She had her baby girl on March 12, 2016 , at Ndubuisi Hospital and Maternity .
Narrating how she and other girls were arrested, 23- year - old Nwedu said , “A co - worker , Chisom Ede, suggested to me to go to Moonlight so that a doctor could help me to take proper care of my pregnancy . The four of us were staying in the clinic which we went to at various times in December 2015 , until the place was raided in January 2016 by the police . ”
Wearied and almost inaudible , the girl sobbed intermittently as she told her story. At times she paused , lost in thought and finding it difficult to properly recall the sequence of the twists and turns that accompanied her being pregnant and seeking care in a maternity home .
“ They offered me N 50, 000 but I rejected it . I told them I had suffered enough and would not sell my baby or give her up for adoption. Even if they had offered me N 10m , I would still not have accepted . I told them all I wanted is my baby . They were angry with me ; the Gender Affairs people .
“ I was asked to sign a form saying that I didn’ t want the baby. I said ‘ no’ that I want to keep my child . They now said , ‘ OK ’ I should sign a form that I didn’ t want my baby to be taken away from me . Before then, they were threatening that I will rot in jail if I didn’ t collect the money they had offered me . They said I would spend 10 years in prison. I told them I was willing to go to jail as long as my baby is with me , ” she narrated .
The fire - and- brimstone approach of the police and Gender Affairs worked in the case of Ajie and Onwe , as the two imprisoned girls told our correspondent – they gave up their babies for a paltry sum of N 50, 000 each .
In recalling their ordeals , Nworie and Nwedu accused the hospitals where they gave birth , the police and Gender Affairs of connivance .
At the moment , the girls are expecting the state government , the National Human Rights Commission, the National Agency for the Prosecution of Trafficking in Persons and the police to help them to get justice .
Incidentally , in September 2015 , as a sign of intent to tackle the menace of child trafficking under the guise of adoption in Enugu State , Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi inaugurated a committee to ensure that the racket - hit baby adoption process in Enugu does not become a full - blown trafficking network that is now headquartered in one of the government ’ s ministries – the Gender Affairs.

“ While we acknowledge the right and the necessity for childless or benevolent couples to adopt motherless children and orphans , we believe that there is the need for strict compliance with due process , ” Ugwuanyi had said.

Although several allegations of baby trafficking have been levelled against the ministry under her watch , the Commissioner for Gender Affairs and Social Development , Mrs . Peace Ngwu, denied any foul play.

“ None of those accusations are true, ” Ngwu declared , refuting the claim that there is a racket involving her ministry , the police , the magistrate court and some select hospitals in the state.

She added , “ My ministry is an organisation of repute . We don’ t want a situation whereby young girls will come here for help and we’ ll refuse to do so because of this development . We only helped the girls out of prison to give birth. It was the police that charged them to court.

Their babies are not sold . They are being taken care of in a government facility. If the police have facility to put the girls and their babies , let the police come and take the babies . ”

Ogor , who refused to give her last name , is an assistant director in the ministry . The girls accused her of playing a prominent role in the events that led to the abduction of their babies . However, Ogor told our correspondent that she had done nothing wrong . But she also gave a pointer to the whereabouts of the baby when she said they had been given up for adoption.

She said , “I met them on the instruction of the ministry . But there was never a time I forced them to do anything they didn’ t want to do or manhandled them. I didn’ t force them to give up their babies. I didn’ t go to that extent . Ask the Commissioner for Gender Affairs who put up their babies for adoption.

“ I don’ t have anything to do with forcing the babies out of the hands of their mothers. Everything I did concerning the girls was properly documented . I have my documents. I did not force any of the girls to give up their babies. ”

The trafficking kingpin with a grouse
In the coal city, three major institutions meant to be the closest to the public are widely believed to be behind the baby trafficking ring . These are the police , hospitals and Gender Affairs.

“ What you don't want hidden don’t keep it in a public place ; because somebody eventually will see it and expose it , ” a social activist based in Enugu , who spoke on condition of anonymity , told our correspondent.

“ They have been doing it successfully for so long without thinking that it will come into the open one day. They are foolish. ”

Our correspondent’ s investigations show that while the hospitals , or maternity centres , are the conduit for trafficking babies in the state , the police are the muscle men that cow oftentimes innocent and indigent young ladies into traumatic silence and abandonment of their newborns. And the Gender Affairs , found to be the heart of the syndicate , seals every deal.

“ I used to work for Gender Affairs until they did not come to my aid when police raided the hostel I used to take care of the pregnant girls and women that came to me for medical care, ” Akpudachie , the proprietor of Moonlight Clinic and Maternity tucked in the belly of the ever bustling Coal Camp , a suburban part of Enugu City , told SUNDAY PUNCH.

Corroborating Nworie and Nwedu’ s accounts, he said , “ I paid N 10, 000 for each person to be released on bail. The police and Gender Affairs people accused me of child trafficking . There is nothing like that. I don’ t know why they refused to let the girls go and give them their babies . ”
In an investigation that spanned 9th Mile , Abakpa and Coal Camp, the stamp of legitimacy seemed to be given to an illegal , inhuman and unforgiving crime.

The seventy- something - year -old man explained that he had an agreement with the Enugu State Government to run a ‘ baby factory’ officially referred to as ‘ Social Welfare Home ’ approved by the ministry.

In 2010, according to him , he got an approval to shelter pregnant young ladies and deliver them of their babies for onward transmission to the ministry which arranges for the babies ’ adoption by a teeming army of individuals seeking to adopt newborns for one reason or another.

The young mothers of the babies , who oftentimes never get to kiss their babies goodbye are given consent forms to sign , just right after delivery of their newborns, that they have given them up for adoption. In return , SUNDAY PUNCH gathered, the mothers do not get more than N 50, 000 for their ‘ labour.

For some years, Akpudachie , who refused to tell our correspondent the number of babies he had delivered to the ministry and how much he got for each delivery , noted that his relationship with Gender Affairs went sour when unexpectedly some policemen raided his hostel , which also served as his home , where would - be mothers were sheltered.

“When my house and hospital were first raided by the police, there was nothing incriminating found . The hospital is open to the public . I have been running the hospital for about 12 years. I have a medical doctor that covers for me. I am a traditional doctor, ”he told our correspondent who had visited his Coal Camp clinic without him knowing, over the telephone.

“ I used to have one Dr . Okeke and now I have Dr . Julius Dike who covers for me. There was a time I registered with Gender Affairs then later I decided not to work with them again. I registered with them in 2010. I had problem with them and decided not to continue with them . The problem I had with them was the police and they could not come to provide cover for me , ” he claimed.

When probed further if he had delivered up to 20 girls of their babies , the ‘ doctor ’ said he could not remember the number.

Arrested twice , at least in the last seven years, Akpudachie still seems to enjoy the recognition of the Enugu State Ministry of Health. He has also never been prosecuted by the police who arrested him on the two occasions for child trafficking.

Government officials and members of non - governmental organisations , who spoke on condition of anonymity said policemen from the welfare section of the police State Criminal Investigation Department usually raid so -called baby factories in Enugu in search of young, hapless pregnant ladies.

“ Once they arrest these girls , they intimidate them and charge them with child trafficking . They are often taken to a particular magistrates’ court known for handling questionable cases like this . Once the girls are arraigned , the magistrate orders that they should be remanded.

“ A couple of weeks to their delivery, the bail of the girls are perfected by an unidentified Good Samaritan . The papers are taken to the prison by Gender Affairs officials to secure the release of the girls.

From there, they will take the girls to different hospitals (welfare homes ) to be delivered of their babies , ” one of the sources told our correspondent.

Once the young women have been delivered of their babies , it was gathered, the doctors at the various hospitals not later than 24 hours ring up the Gender Affairs officials to take delivery.

“ While still trying to grapple with what they have gone through , the girls are shown a form – consent form – to fill that they have given up their babies . They are never told what’ s written in the form or given the opportunity to read it . Well , many of such girls can hardly read to the point of understanding the intent of such a form.

“Sometimes, they lie to the girls about what they are signing . The girls already browbeaten and at times manhandled by the officials and police succumb to letting go of their babies , ” another source told SUNDAY PUNCH.

Exactly where the babies end up being delivered to , nobody can tell but a doctor whose hospital is being used as part of the racket claimed that babies mostly end up in Europe. He mentioned Sweden, a country which has a long tradition of inter - country adoptions.

Swedish families have been adopting children from other countries since the 1960 s . More than 48, 000 children have found a family and a home in it . The country has the highest per capita proportion of international adoptees in the world , according to Adoption Centrum.

Adoption Centrum , an adoption organisation based in Sweden , says between 2008 and 2014 , 77 babies were adopted from Nigeria .

Enugu East Magistrates ’ Court 2 connection

January this year, Nworie ’s uncle, Uchenna, through his lawyer, Omotayo , petitioned the Chief Judge of Enugu and the state’ s Judicial Service Commission over the continued detention of his niece for more than a year.

The counsel thinks that Enugu Court 2 magistrate , one A. C. Mbah , is perverting the course of justice by remanding younger Nworie in prison since April 1 , 2016 , just two weeks after she had her baby.

“We urge his lordship to look into the matter that led to the detention of Chijindu Nworie and the co- accused, Emmanuella Nwedu, whose babies was also taken away after delivery and thereafter charged with misdemeanour and remanded in Enugu prison . All efforts by the family to secure their release have been abortive, ” the lawyer said in a petition he wrote against Mbah.

Prior to the January letter written to the chief judge and the judicial commission , Omotayo stated that the Deputy Governor of the State , Cecilia Ezeilo , had also been petitioned. No one has responded yet.

He vowed not to rest until the girls get justice and all those involved in any wrongdoing in their case are brought to book.

According to those familiar with the court and would not want their names mentioned, a particular judge is said to be known for handling trafficking cases. He is said to be part of the cartel.

“ The man is notorious for some questionable cases. He works hand - in- hand with the police. Most cases of so - called raiding of baby factories are taken to his court . The second time that the girls were taken to the court, the court had risen.

Then, the policemen that brought the girls went in to meet him. There and then, he signed their remand warrants condemning the girls to prison – which is not supposed to be the procedure.

“ If you (the magistrate ) have risen, you tell the police to bring the girls the next day. Everything must be in open court. The magistrates’ court , once it suspects you have an interest in a case as NGO or a journalist , you will be frustrated not to be able to get the certified true copy of the charge sheet. Once he realises you ’ re not a lawyer in that matter, he becomes unduly suspicious – they know that you want to do an independent investigation of the matter, ” a judicial officer who is familiar with the case said.

Habitual criminals

In some charge sheets (certified true copies with number: CME / 23C/2016 ) obtained by SUNDAY PUNCH, the judge on April 1, 2016, revoked the bail granted to Nworie based on “ the fact that they are habitual criminals.

As our correspondent found out, the only thing that qualified the girls as “habitual criminals ” was their refusal to play ball with the police and the Gender Affairs . It is no wonder that Ajie and Onwe were let off the hook immediately they gave up their babies .
Also, even though Akpudachie claimed he paid N10,000 to secure his release , the charge sheet said he was “granted bail in the sum of N2m and one surety in like sum.

When contacted about its role in the arrest and eventual imprisonment of the two girls , the Enugu Police Command told SUNDAY PUNCH that it did the needful when it suspected a criminal act had been committed by the girls.

“Suspects (Nworie and Nwedu) had allegedly conspired and bargained to sell off the babies with Ozor Akpudachie after delivery, that singular act revolves around trafficking in persons. Police (therefore ) arraigned Akpudachie alongside those pregnant girls he was keeping . Gloria (Udoka) effected arrest with the team of investigators and after investigations, arraigned Akpudachie and the four pregnant girls to face justice.

“ Police cannot collude with Gender Affairs as the duties of the police and the ministry are separate and well defined . The court can throw more light on why Chijindu Nworie and Emmanuella Nwedu are in prison custody for over a year , ” spokesperson for the police , Ebere Amaraizu , said.

Clinics as trafficking conduit

Once the police raids a so -called baby factory, they seek a court order to remand the pregnant women and release them to the Gender Affairs when the expected date of delivery of the victims draws near , as it was in the case of the four girls arrested at Akpudachie ’ s baby factory.

They are then taken to certain clinics already having a permit from the ministry to operate welfare homes, specifically to deliver women of babies meant to be taken away from them.

Apart from Akpudachie ’ s clinic, two other maternity homes discovered to be working in tandem with the ministry are Our Saviour Medical Centre ( at 9 th Mile ) and Ndubuisi Hospital and Maternity (situated at Abakpa), far away from prying eyes.

An Onitsha- based nurse , Nnenna , who once worked at Our Saviour , told SUNDAY PUNCH how the hospital colluded with Gender Affairs officials to prise Nworie ’ s baby from her.

“I was in Enugu when Chijindu was taken back to the prison after she had given birth . Immediately the child came out, I was the first person to handle the baby. They gave the child to me in the labour room . If not that my phone got spoilt I would have sent to you pictures I took of the baby. It was a baby boy . I carried him for some minutes while Chijindu was still in the labour room. I was still holding the child hoping that Chijindu would come out and have the baby.

“But the Gender people took the baby from me. I don’t know why they acted that way. It’s God that will judge people . It’ s not true that she signed any form saying that she didn’ t want the baby anymore. When I was in the hospital, they were forcing her to sign a form that she has given it to Gender people. They even promised to give her N50,000. In fact , when she refused to accept it, the doctor offered to give her additional N50,000. Chijindu did not accept their offer , ” the nurse explained.

When the hospital was visited, the medical director, Dr . Any Ichic, was not available to comment on the incident. Several calls made to the hospital were not picked.

At the NHM , a clinic housed on the ground floor of a two -storey building, there are two signboards – one announcing the name of the clinic and the other its partnership with Gender Affairs.

It was at this clinic that Nwedu and Onwe gave birth to their babies. Dr. Uchay Eneh, the proprietor of the hospital , denied any collusion with the state government and police.

“The Ministry (of Gender Affairs and Social Development ) sent them to me. In fact , they were my very first set of patients from Gender Affairs . Everything that transpired concerning the girls was documented and such information was sent to the ministry.

The agreement is that we handle the medical aspect, while they handle the administrative aspect.

“ We were to accommodate the pregnant girls, feed them and cater for their welfare. After the babies were born , they came to take the girls away leaving the babies behind . They later came for the babies , ” Eneh said.

The doctor claimed that the girls signed consent forms to give up their babies , though he could not say whether they understood what the forms contained.

“ She signed those documents . I was told at the ministry that pregnant women who want to give up their babies for adoption usually sign a form to declare such. I was told Emmanuella signed such a form. I am aware that babies delivered here are meant to be taken away by the ministry and placed for adoption. I have a permit from Gender Affairs, ” he added.

The doctor , it was also learnt , is currently embroiled in case of child trafficking being handled by the Force Headquarters in Abuja. The parents of a girl whose child was allegedly taken away from her had Eneh arrested and detained for weeks in Abuja.

According to SUNDAY PUNCH’ s findings , Gender Affairs paid NHM N 30, 000 for each baby delivered . It is about the same amount Akpudachie said he was getting from the ministry before their relationship went awry.

‘We’re ready to return the babies'

The Gender Affairs commissioner feels that she and her subordinates are doing Nworie and Nwedu a favour by taking their babies away from them.

She said , “ Those who pick up these babies for adoption don’ t pay us any money. We don’t collect a dime from the adoptees. All they pay is hospital bills of mother and child . We don’ t even collect ‘pure’ water from them. In fact , we have a committee involved in this arrangement and the members are prominent people in the government and from the private sector. ”

Speaking further , Ngwu said , “ Gender Affairs was not the one that arrested the girls. The police did . Where we came into the case was when the girls told us that they could not give birth in prison. After being delivered of their babies , we told them to go and settle whatever case they have with the police and come back to Gender Affairs with their family members and claim their babies.

“ Till now , they cannot tell us who their parents are. Let them bring their parents; nobody is taking any baby from them . We didn ’ t force them to leave their children behind . We asked them to bring their parents but they told us they are orphans. We asked them to bring a religious leader from their community, they refused . So , what do you expect us to do ?”

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