By Nosa Akenzua, Asaba.
Many orphanages in Delta state are alleged to still be in the illegal business of selling motherless babies in their custody to child-seeking couples, Orient Weekend has gathered.
Investigations revealed that the business was booming in parts of the state due to alleged connivance of some social welfare officers under the state ministry of women affairs and youth development who statutorily play supervisory roles over the orphanages.
It was gathered that three months to one-year-old babies were allegedly sold between N50,000 and N60,000 while grown-up children of two years and above, especially females, went for higher bidders and cost between N200,000 and N600,000 in parts of the state. The buyers were issued covering letters under the guise of being legally adopted the children of the buyers.
“I paid the sum of N600,000 for a female child of about seven years old and when I tried to ask why the higher price, I was threatened with litigation. I quietly left with the baby and later found out that all the babies in the orphanages in the state were for sale”, a source who identified herself simply as Iyobosa told our correspondent.
Although, top officials of the ministry had continued to repudiate the existence of the racketeering in parts of the state, insiders say operators of orphanage homes and their government official counterparts engaged in the brisk business in such discreet ways to avoid being detected, arrested and prosecuted.
Further investigation revealed that many of the over 25,000 orphanages that litter the state operated in dirty environments in dilapidated buildings and other facilities, many without operational licenses. Most orphanage operators of these orphanages rely heavily on inducing government officials to remain in the business. It was equally gathered that some of these shadowy orphanages were responsible for the thriving baby sale business in the state.
It was gathered that some of the orphanages that operate in Asaba, Okpanam, Warri, Ughelli and Sapele among others allegedly depend on the sale of motherless babies for their survival.
Delta state police commissioner, CP Adeyinka Adeleke, who confirmed the development recently also told newsmen that police operatives had arrested several such dodgy operators of orphanages.
“We are investigating various orphanage homes across the state and have arrested several operators of Motherless Babies homes and subsequently charged them to court and we will ensure the state is crime-free under my watch,” Adeyinka said.
This paper equally learnt that activities of operators of these orphanages recently unsettled the state governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, when he was briefed on the behind-the-scene businesses in the sale of motherless babies in the state.
A source, who witnessed the session said, a furious Governor Okowa, after the briefing, immediately inaugurated a committee on human trafficking. He charged the state attorney general and commissioner for justice, Barr Peter Mrakpor, with the headship of the committee, with a mandate for it to sanitise the operations of orphanages in the state.
Mrakpor later told newsmen that his committee was determined to make the illegal activities of orphanages a thing of the past in the state. According to him, “We are confronted with the increasing activities of human trafficking in the state and the state government has been worried over the activities of perpetrators, especially with those operators of motherless babies homes in the state. We are determined to rid the state of the illegality among these operators and possibly bring them to book'”, the commissioner said.
By Nosa Akenzua, Asaba.