‘Desperation To Have Children Leads To Kidnapping and Trafficking’
National Secretary, Association of Orphanages and Homes Operators in Nigeria (ASOHON) and founder of Compassionate Orphanage Home, Rev. (Dr.) Gabriel Oyediji speaks to LAOLU ADEYEMI on prevailing child trafficking and kidnapping in Nigeria.
With your 13 years experience of caring for motherless and homeless people, what do you think is responsible for the upsurge in child kidnapping and trafficking in Nigeria?
There are lots of factors responsible for the menaces and Nigerians seem to be looking at it from one direction, and government has not addressed the issue of child trafficking, which is as old as the bible age. Child issue was the acid test of Solomon’s wisdom when somebody stole a baby in the bible.
To check these social vices, certain things must be done. We have been advocating that the federal government should create unwanted Pregnancy Department in all local councils of the federation where most women can get counseling on unwanted pregnancy. There will always be cases of unwanted pregnancy everyday and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Both married and the unmarried get pregnant but not everybody needs a child.
The department should be headed by a social worker who will patiently listen to various cases and advise women appropriately without condemning them. Not everybody can go through the abortion process and not everybody can risk his or her life. They will be guided legally without any blame. The counseling department will guide them on how to get their unwanted children released to government without any maltreatment. There can be a legal framework through family court. Government should create other alternatives where people can for any unwanted pregnancy.
Religious position on abortion is another factor that has been discouraging many people from aborting pregnancy and it has even sent some doctors practising it out of business. The result of this is that people now drop their unwanted babies on the road and before rescue comes, some of these children would have died. Some even sell babies to baby-factory people. Some developed world practice surrogate motherhood with license as an alternative. Government should encourage surrogate motherhood, as it’s been in practice in other climes.
Infertility rate has been on the increase in the country, and there is no laudable solution to it as we speak. Many people are desperate to have children; and those who pay heavily to do IVF have not been recording much success lately. This development has made many Nigerians to adopt children illegally. Some people want the baby desperately, while some did not want; hence there is need for this surrogate practice.
Government should also establish a fertility clinic where people with little or no money could go to solve their infertility problem and have their own children. There should be an affordable option for the poor to have their children.
Cultural belief also put people under pressure. Once a lady gets married in this part of the world, the family starts counting months for her conception. And the moment it exceeds one year, family starts mounting pressure on the woman, which makes her run after quicker solution. People’s desperation to have children leads to kidnapping and trafficking. If there are alternative to having children, nobody will patronise the baby factory or any child trafficker. Our culture is not really good in this respect.
How do you see adoption process as an option for those who need children?
The Child Right Law covers adoption process and it has procedures which vary from one state to the other. We are just calling on federal government to unify the law so that it becomes one law in all the 36 states in Nigeria.
For instance, in Lagos State, the journey of adoption begins from Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development with procedure that is strictly followed.
Some grown up children are seen around some orphanage homes, what is the situation in your own place?
The bulk of children adopted in Nigeria are between one-day-old and a year. And by the time a daughter grows up to six years in the orphanage; we don’t see adopter for her. But what do we do with those children than to start taking care of them; put them in the school and watch them grow while the institution lasts. It is not a case of the institution not wanting to give them out to any legal adopter but the issue is adopters don’t make request for children between age of one and above. They often claim that the child would not grow up knowing them. Some even claimed some of these children are usually possessed.
Unfortunately government and other people are of the view that orphanage homes are institutionalising them with a mindset to make gain. It is very incorrect. Some of them didn’t come as infant and it becomes difficult to give them out.