23 June 2018

Nigeria: Grand Theft Infant - Baby-Snatching Raises Concerns

As recorded cases of trafficking in babies rises in the country, Daily Trust Saturday takes a look at the past six months.

Incidences of child theft have been reported in the past six months in seven states, including Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory. One of the most recent involved two women and a three-year-old boy onboard an Air Peace flight from Lagos to Bangul, the Gambian capital. The suspects were exposed mid-flight on June 4 when crew members noticed a baby crying uncontrollably while one of the women who claimed to be the mother was unable to calm him.

When the response of the alleged mother was found unconvincing, further probe by Air Peace staff at the Banjul International Airport uncovered irregularities. The women gave conflicting accounts of how they came about the baby, leading to their arrest.

Another incident which received media attention was the theft of a woman's baby on May 28 in Anyigba, Dekina Local Government Area (LGA) of Kogi State. Mrs. Laruba Drisu's baby got missing shortly after delivery at Peniel Maternity and Clinic. She alleged that the suspected thief was a female dressed in a hijab, and that it occurred when she started bleeding and was told by a nurse to turn away. Apparently, her baby was in a separate room, and at that moment her nurse went into the room, the woman walked in.

Kogi State spokesman, ASP William Aya, had since confirmed the incident and said the case has been transferred to the force HQ with the nurse, Rebecca Amina Sanni, and the proprietor of the clinic under custody.

Like Mrs. Drisu's case, a day-old baby was also stolen by an unknown woman shortly after his delivery by a deaf mute mother at Yusuf Dantsoho Hospital in Tudun-Wada, Kaduna. It was also gathered that the baby's father, Kabiru Abubakar, is also a deaf mute.

A hospital source revealed that the woman who stole the baby had been in the hospital before the delivery, and posed as a relative. He narrated: "After the delivery, she picked up the baby, pretending to show him to other members of the family outside the ward, and she disappeared with the baby."

The source also said that the same woman had earlier attempted to collect a baby from another woman in the same hospital, but met resistance.

In April, the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) of the Imo State Police Command arrested two men for their alleged involvement in the kidnap of a 17-month-old baby boy on April 21.

The command's deputy spokesman, ASP Ify Ezeudeogu, handing the baby to its mother, said a four-man gang carried out the crime. The hoodlums had invaded the victim's apartment around 2:00am, robbed the family, and also kidnapped the child. The suspects seized the ATM cards belonging to the mother, and collected N627,000 as ransom for the toddler's release, but failed to release him.

Still in Eastern Nigeria, a conspiracy by one Joy Esu and her boyfriend, Sidney Onwuka in March led to the theft of an 18-month-old tot, Abdullah Abdulazeez. He was recovered three weeks after he was kidnapped in Osogbo, Osun State, and sold in Onitsha, Anambra State.

Commissioner of Police Fimihan Adeoye, said the suspects posed as husband and wife. Onwuka took Esu to the baby's mother under the pretext that she wanted to learn tailoring. After a week, she ran off with the toddler.

So, from Osogbo, Onwuka and Esu took the infant to Onitsha and sold him to one Maxwell, who gave the boy to a widow, Elizabeth Eze, who wanted a male child and desperately wanted to adopt.

A 60-year-old reverend father, Chike Oguejiofor, was also arrested in connection with the kidnapping, said to have facilitated the 'adoption' process. But he denied knowledge of the kidnap.

Ondo State is not left out: Early this year, a tenant was reported to have stolen two of her landlady's children, Ayomide (6) and Blessing (2).

The abductions usually seem to have male accomplices, and the case of Ayomide and Blessing who were taken from their home in Okedogbon Area of Owo LGA is no exception. It was gathered that the tenant and a man suspected to be her husband eventually made away with the children.

In January this year, the complaint of a certain Mr. Daniel Abu to a Keffi police station concerning the disappearance of his son, Destiny Daniel, 3, on the 15th January, 2018, led to the recovery of seven stolen kids. Investigation into the complaint by detectives of the division led to the arrest of one Anthony Jatau of the same address.

On interrogation, the suspect confessed to have stolen the child and sold him to a woman in Masaka, in Karu LGA. This led to the arrest of his accomplice, a Mrs. Grace Etim, and the child was recovered from her. Also recovered in her custody were six other children suspected to be stolen.

Command spokesman, DSP Idrisu Kennedy, pointed out that the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) Lafia, took over the investigation with the aim of unravelling if the suspects belong to a syndicate around Karu LGA.

More cases follow: In Calabar, Cross River State, the baby of one Mrs. Faith Inyang was snatched in August 2017. Then there is the case of a mentally-ill woman and her newborn taken in Nasarawa, as well as the infant son of one Sultan Mohammed in Ungwar Galadima, Zuba in the FCT, November last year. The list continues, alarmingly, stretches on.

There also are many unreported cases of baby-snatching in Nigeria. Some of the perpetrators are sometimes nabbed, and suffer jungle justice, sometimes mobbed to death. A typical example is that of a man who snatched two babies from a mother in the FCT's Dutsen Alhaji. When she raised alarm, he was caught and beaten before being handed over to the police. Such incidences continue to go unrecorded, unlike the pain of hapless parents.

DSP Kennedy warned parents and guardians in the state against abdicating their responsibilities, to avoid criminals taking advantage of their vulnerability.

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