Seven pregnant girls and women on their way to a baby factory in Lagos State, Nigeria, were rescued earlier this month, along with a two-year-old child.
The girls and women, aged between 13 and 27, were stranded at a bus stop, waiting to be picked up and transported to the factory house. When they were unable to get in touch with the man who would pick them up, residents grew suspicious and reported the case to the police.
Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer said: “On October 2, 2019, at about 1:00 am, Isolo Police Station received an Information that seven pregnant young girls were seen stranded at Cele Bus Stop … Lagos.”
The women and girls, all from Southeast Nigeria, were handed to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
A week before, nineteen pregnant girls and women aged 15-28 were also rescued in another baby factory in Lagos. Two women, aged forty and fifty-four, suspected of working in the factory, were arrested.
One of the rescued women said: “My friend who left [the Southeast] last year, called me to say that someone was looking for house help. I borrowed money to come 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 telephone was collected from me and [I was] given a non-android phone,” the rescued woman continued, explaining why she could not contact her family at home.
After delivery, the babies were transported to three different homes in the city and sold for between ₦300,000 ($820) and ₦500,000 ($1,400), with girl babies on the lower end of the spectrum. The two suspects arrested received ₦15,000 ($41) and ₦20,000 ($55) per delivery, while the men who raped the victims were also paid by the factory.
The governor of Lagos vowed to bring to justice the illegal operators of the baby factory.
Human trafficking is the third most prevalent crime in Nigeria, behind financial fraud and drug trafficking. Baby factories and child trafficking are a prevalent practice in Southeast Nigeria. Married women, unable to have children, buy these babies at a high price, sometimes as high as ₦2 million ($5,500). In a country where married women without children are considered failures, baby buyers mimic a pregnant state for nine months, before presenting the trafficked babies as theirs.
Baby factories are an international business, with black women from Europe also travelling to Nigeria to buy babies. NAPTITP said that these baby factories are often disguised as maternity clinics, foster homes, orphanages or shelters for homeless girls and women.
Mr Gbenga Omotosho, the Commissioner for Information for the Lagos State Governor said: “There are rules guiding the setting up of such maternity homes. Of course, the state government is not in support of any illegality. Unregistered homes will not be given any chance to operate and when they are caught they will be taken to court and will never be covered.”