Nigeria’s ‘Baby Factories’

The Problem

Trafficking is an incredibly increasing phenomenon in Nigeria. It is well known that Nigeria is a popular origin, transit and destination country for human trafficking and modern slavery. A recent BBC article brought to light the raid of a ‘baby factory’ in Lagos, Nigeria, the country’s largest city. – Read the article here. But this isn’t something new. In fact, ‘baby factories’ in Nigeria have been rampant for many years with the first network of ‘baby factories’ identified in 2008. These factories are run by madams or couples who take advantage of young teenage girls who want to terminate their pregnancy, couples who are struggling to conceive and other vulnerable groups within the country and abroad.

It was hard for me to wrap my head around this at first, but as it stands, trafficking of people is incredibly profitable. People will always find a way to create a bigger market for modern slavery and the rise of ‘baby factories’ in Nigeria is one limb of this horrific crime. So why do these places exist in the first place and why is there a market for it? What is the Nigerian Government doing to help eradicate this practice and human trafficking as a whole?

The Market

One thing to always bear in mind regarding modern slavery is this:

Where there is supply, there is demand.

‘Baby factories’ exist and thrive for a number of reasons:

  • Couples who are having difficulty conceiving get caught up in baby-selling scams.
  • The use of newborn babies for rituals.
  • Pregnant women who cannot afford medical treatment go to private homes/facilities to have their pregnancy terminated only to be coerced into carrying the baby to term. Once they have given birth, that baby is then taken away from them and sold.
  • Women going to Nigeria to seek fertility treatment are being sold unwanted babies.
  • Fraudulent adoption agencies and illegal orphanages.

This phenomenon is unsettling as young women risk being kidnapped, raped and forced to keep the pregnancy in order to keep up with the demand for newborn babies. The BBC reports that the babies are ‘sold for adoption, used for child labour, trafficked to Europe for prostitution or killed for ritual purposes’.

After the latest raid in April this year, Agboola Dabiri, the Commissioner for Youths and Social Development in Lagos State, reported that 100 girls and 62 boys had been rescued. Two unregistered orphanages were also discovered in these raids. The children and teenagers that were rescued were placed in government-approved homes for care and protection.

Those that find themselves in this situation are usually poor and facing great hardship. It is easy to imagine how someone in their circumstance can end up in this situation, exploited by traffickers who play on their vulnerability. It is most rampant in the Southeast of Nigeria in states such as Enugu and Imo State. For as long as there remains a lack of education on this issue, inaccessible facilities for abortions and loopholes that allow fraudulent orphanages to thrive, this practice will continue to grow. However, the Federal Government of Nigeria is taking steps to eradicate this crime.

Initiatives in place in Nigeria

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) is the Federal Government of Nigeria’s response to tackling human trafficking and modern slavery. I attended an event this week led by AFRUCA at the House of Commons on ‘Diaspora Co-Operation Against Modern Slavery in Europe’. The Director-General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli was in attendance and highlighted that a lot of effort has been put into initiatives in Nigeria that aim to educate and raise awareness about human trafficking. Through the use of various campaigns, liaising with stakeholders, rescue missions and prosecuting offenders, NAPTIP are creating an environment where trafficking and modern slavery will struggle to thrive. Since NAPTIP’s conception, they have secured 366 convictions, two of which were secured this week on Monday, 16th October.

NAPTIP has also recently launched an advocacy and sensitisation programme in the rural areas of Edo and Delta State. This programme aims to teach market women and other traders about the need to protect their children from traffickers seeking to exploit them for sex or labour. It aims to tackle human trafficking at the grassroots. Initiatives such as this are great as traffickers play on the vulnerability and ignorance of those in rural areas. Equipping them with the knowledge of human trafficking and the ploys traffickers use could go a long to way making sure that fewer people fall victim to trafficking through the use of ‘baby factories’.

Read more on this: NAPTIP takes anti-human trafficking campaign to rural communities

What Next

In order to put an end to heinous practices like this, trafficking needs to be addressed from the grassroots in both origin and destination countries. Looking at one without looking at the other is futile. How does one tackle the supply without looking at the demand? We need to tackle poverty, ignorance, greed. Better and affordable facilities need to be in place to allow women to safely terminate unwanted pregnancies. Outreach programmes in schools need to be increased to educate young women who may find themselves vulnerable to such practices and to provide information on family planning. We need to be vocal about the intolerance of human trafficking and the harbouring of pregnant women to feed the desires of traffickers.

While organisations like NAPTIP are crucial to the fight against modern slavery, stamping out this crime is not only their responsibility, it is also ours. People often underestimate the power of raising awareness. It is true that awareness on its own is ineffective, but people can only be moved to act once they are aware of what is going on. This is why raising awareness is key. So I urge you to share what you have read, speak to someone else about it and look for ways to contribute to the fight against modern slavery. It happens abroad and it also happens on our doorstep. ‘Baby factories’ in Nigeria are simply one instance of a crime that has tainted every part of the world.

For links to organisations that are pioneering the fight against modern slavery see the bottom of my previous post, The Scale of Modern Slavery.

To read more about the work of NAPTIP visit their website here.

This post is comprised of research and information from some of the following websites:

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