One of the 19 pregnant women rescued from four baby factories in the Ikotun and Abaranje areas of Lagos State identified as Echi Uche, said that she intended to sell her baby upon delivery so that she could use the proceeds to take care of her three other children.
The Imo State indigene said that she had been shouldering the responsibility of her three children, aged 16, nine and seven, since her husband died five years ago.
She made the revelation on Monday at the Lagos State Police Command headquarters in Ikeja, where she and the other victims as well as the two arrested suspects were handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.
Uche said she got pregnant for her boyfriend from whom she was getting some money to take care of her children, but the man denied being responsible for the pregnancy.
Worried about how to cope with the pregnancy in addition to the three children, she said she met with a friend, one Chinyere, sometime in August to help her out.
She explained that Chinyere handed her over to a woman called Oluchi, the prime suspect in the baby factory enterprise, who is still at large.
Uche stated, “I was the one who needed help. I met with Chinyere and told her that I didn’t have the means to take care of my three children and the pregnancy. My husband died five years ago and I don’t have money to cater for the children. The eldest one is a 16-year-old boy, while the two others are girls, aged nine and seven.
“Chinyere said her brother’s wife in Lagos had no child and that she wanted to adopt one. We agreed that I would go to her place and that when I give birth, the woman would take the child and settle me. They didn’t tell me the amount they would pay, but I wanted to use the money to take care of my other children.
“I was surprised when I saw pregnant girls and women on getting to where I was taken to. I thought it would be only me. I told Chinyere that I didn’t like what she did. I told the woman (Oluchi) that I wanted to go back to Imo State. She said the person, who linked me with her, had already collected some money and that she would not allow me to go.”
Another victim, Monica Inyama, said she was impregnated by her boyfriend in the village but the shame of being pregnant out of wedlock prompted her to visit Lagos to give birth and sell the baby.
The 16-year-old stated, “My parents sent me away because of my boyfriend. When he impregnated me, I felt very ashamed carrying the pregnancy around the village. So, I complained to my aunt, who brought me to Lagos to be delivered of the baby.
“She said if I give birth, they would collect it and give me money. I was not told how much I would be paid and my parents are not aware of my situation. I have spent just three weeks in Lagos but I want to go back home to continue with my studies.”
One of the two suspects arrested, Sherifat Ipaye, a self-acclaimed nurse, said she had no contact with Oluchi, adding that she only delivered the victims of their babies and was paid N15,000 for the three babies she had helped to deliver.
The secondary school leaver noted that she was engaged by the second suspect, Mrs Happiness Ukwuoma, claiming that she was not aware that the babies were being sold.
Ipaye stated, “I am a nurse. I learnt it from one of my brothers, who has a hospital in Ketu, and later I was working at a hospital on Ijegun Road. Madam called me that she had some pregnant women she would bring for me to help deliver of their babies. I said I would collect N20,000 per delivery but we negotiated and agreed on N15,000.
“She had brought three women so far and when they gave birth, she would come for the mothers and the babies, but I don’t know where she took them to. She just gave me money for one job. She still owes me N30,000. I was handling the fourth one when policemen came and arrested me. I knew what I did was illegal. All I want is forgiveness.”
Ukwuoma, who was in charge of a two-bedroom apartment at one of the baby factories in Ikotun, said Oluchi placed her on a monthly salary of N20,000, adding that she had so far handed over three babies to her.
The Imo State indigene stated, “I only take care of the pregnant women at the apartment Oluchi rented in Ikotun. I started working for her in June and she paid me N20,000 every month. Nine pregnant women were with me when the police came. Since we have been working together, three pregnant women have given birth.
“She took the babies away and paid their mothers. I don’t know how much she gave them. The police arrested us on September 19. I knew Oluchi through my husband, who was a commercial driver and Oluchi once boarded his bus from Imo to Lagos.”
The NAPTIP Zonal Commander in Lagos, Daniel Atokolo, said the victims would be rehabilitated and profiled to get more facts on the case, adding that the other members of the syndicate would be arrested.