CHILD ADOPTION IN NIGERIA’S SOUTHWEST: THE ‘PENKELEMESI’ OF IRRESPONSIBLE-HAVES AND RESPONSIBLE-HAVENOTS AND THE OPERATIONAL INTELLIGENCE OF LAGOS POLICE COMMAND
By Oki Samson, Yomi Oyelami, Trek Africa Newspaper
Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, CP Idowu Owohunwa
In a collectivist culture as Nigeria’s Southwest, the realization of not having one’s own child tears the bonds of a family to smithereens, runs the man wild, gets the woman to do the unimaginable, and the social centre often does not hold.
Historically, the childless couple will do one or more of these – fast and pray, bind and loose, eat and drink concoctions, buy baby clothes in faith, host unexplained child parties and ‘birthdays’, foster cousins, nephews, nieces from wherever, among others. With recent medical breakthroughs, they now engage in in-vitro fertilizations, egg donorship, sperm donorship, surrogacy, among others. Child adoption, though practicable, is frowned at by the society because of the perceived dangers as captured in this story, Trek Africa Newspaper can report.
On the other hand, this story mirrors the failure of a society which highly prizes education and values parenthood as a Yoruba wise proverb quotes ‘omo ti a o ko l’o ma gbe ile t’a ko ta; a child that we refuse to train will put the edifice that we build up for sale’. It spotlights the staggering yet overlooked challenge of teenage boys and girls roaming the streets doing nothing, engaging in unprotected sex romp, and getting unplanned multiple pregnancies. It spotlights statistically unrecorded fetal abortions, child abandonment, and child maltreatment. It spotlights unplanned parenthood and gross parental failure in Nigeria’s Southwest.
This is antithetical to what the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo envisaged with his Free Education policy in the defunct Western Region. It is the glaring failure of the six (6) Governors of Nigeria’s Southwest, past and present especially in the 4th Republic. The Oduduwa Governors must call themselves together into a room where they tell themselves the home truth. This is what the late Ibadan political gladiator, Chief Adegoke Adelabu called ‘Penkelemesi’!
CP Idowu Owohunwa
If the problem is bad in Nigeria’s Southwest, the other five geopolitical zones should not sleep. It is a time bomb if nothing is done fast. The 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey reveals ‘Overall, 23 percent of women age 15-19 have begun childbearing (17 percent have had a child and 5 percent are pregnant with their first child). A larger proportion of teenagers in rural areas than in urban areas have begun childbearing (32 percent versus 10 percent). A comparison of the geopolitical zones shows that the North West has the largest proportion (36 percent) of teenagers who have started childbearing, while the South East (8 percent) and South West (8 percent) have the lowest proportions.’ The proportion of teenagers who have started childbearing in the three other zones as recorded by the survey are North Central – 18.8%, North East – 32.1%, and South South – 12.3%.
Further, the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2013 compares frequency of teenage pregnancy in Nigeria with education. ‘The percentage of teenagers who have started childbearing decreases with increasing education. Teenagers with no education represent about half of those who have begun childbearing, while only 2 percent of teenagers with more than a secondary education have begun childbearing’. This begs the question – how far has Nigeria gone with the Child Rights Act 2003 which stipulated that all children must have 9 years of compulsory basic education? Still dragging, 20 years later, only 24 states out of 36 states have domesticated the Act. Sad!
Commander, Area F, Lagos Command, ACP Bayo Sulaiman
Back to the policing exploits of Nigeria Police Force, Ilupeju Division under the Area Commander, ACP Bayo Sulaiman, Area F, Lagos State Police Command under the amiable leadership of the CP Lagos, CP Idowu Owohunwa.
This is the story of Anjolaoluwa, a 2-year old girl stolen or, in a manner of speaking, put up for adoption in Lagos but ended up touring all but 3 Southwest states in the hands of legal-illegal adopters until she made her return home. On the other end, this is the story of an Ogun state-based, 60-year old childless couple married since 1982 making frantic efforts to have a child that can be called theirs.
This is the story of a 20-year old nurse-under-training in a hospital in Onipanu, Lagos concerned about the poor welfare that an unkempt 2-year old girl is getting from her single mother. She decided to ‘help’ the supposedly uncaring, non-challant mother by giving the child out to agents who pick abandoned children to government departments for onward transfer to eager parents who have applied legally for child adoption. This is the story of three ladies have never met in person until Anjolaoluwa’s saga, they have only interacted on a Facebook group.
This is the story of Nigeria Police, Lagos State Police Command, to be precise Ilupeju Division led by SP Matilda Umiah Ngbaronye, demonstrating crime-busting intelligence, investigative brilliance, and doing policing exploits. This is the investigative story of Trek Africa Newspaper going all the way to get a balanced view from all sides.
DPO, Ilupeju Division, SP Matilda Umiah Ngbaronye.
In his summary of the messy child adoption affair, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, CP Idowu Owohunwa said: ‘The incident happened in Ilupeju, Lagos. The suspect abducted the child and took the child to Osun state. Acting on intelligence, Police was able to track the child sold to parents in Ondo state.’
‘We were able to recover the child and arrested the suspect. She is assisting us to get more information. We heard the child was sold at about N1.7 milllion. The child is back in Lagos’, he told Trek Africa Newspaper.
This is how it all began!
‘I AM TRYING TO HELP THE CHILD BUT I DID IT THE WRONG WAY’ – OLORUNYOMI DEBORAH
Olorunyomi Deborah was the initiator of the messy child adoption affair. The nurse-in-training in an Onipanu hospital is the one sincerely working herself up over another man’s challenge but sincerely doesn’t cut it.
Deborah informed Trek Africa Newspaper, ‘I have never done it before but there is always a reason for everything. What made me place the child for adoption is because of the way the mother allows the child to play around on the streets. People do complain about it and even I have complained to her several times that government can take the child away from her due to the way she is treating the child. I told her the child can develop diseases due to the way she is treating the child. One day, the child fell inside gutter while the mother was away. I was the one that took the child out of the gutter, bathed her, put a new cloth on her body and backed her till the mother returned. I am only trying to help but I did it the wrong way. Maybe I should have told Human Rights about the case.’
20-year old Deborah met her accomplices on a Facebook group. ‘I came up to a Facebook group on Surrogacy and Egg Donor. From there also, I found Child Adoption group where I met a person who teaches how to place a child on adoption legally. I chatted her and she told me that there is compensation fee at least about N400,000. One day when Gudat was coming from Ikorodu to Surulere, I told her I have a child that I want to place on adoption so she dropped at Onipanu where I handed the child over to her. That same day, Anjola mother saw me, they didn’t notice the child wasn’t around again. June 8 was when it happened. June 9 was when we went in search of the child. I used another account to track her. She told me the child has been taken to Ondo state but there is another orphanage home where they can get another child for adoption. June 12 was when I met a lawyer who is a SAN, I visited him with the mother of the child and her sister.’
She told Trek Africa Newspaper, ‘I reported myself to the Police in Onipanu where I narrated everything that happened. They told us that it is Ilupeju that will handle the case and that is how I am here. They collected my statement and locked me up. I didn’t collect any compensation, I have been calling Gudat since but she didn’t pick my calls. Since Gudat told me it is legal, I expected us to sign documents which will make me know it is coming from government but once that didn’t happen, I started looking for ways to retrieve the child. I know that there is an implication of what I did. I have done a mistake that is why I am looking for ways to come out. I am praying that God would save me. What I did is sin. God should have mercy on me, God should have mercy on the child.’
TRULY THE CHILD WAS NOT LOOKING HEALTHY AT ALL – GLORY ISAAC
Glory Isaac was the first person who took custody of the 2-year-old child. The 24-year old works at a bar in Surulere.
The mother of 3 revealed to Trek Africa Newspaper, ‘From the initial time, Deborah told me she wants to hand her child over for adoption. It is later that I know the child is not her child but she wants a better life for her. I called someone in Mowe who says she can do the proper documentation for child adoption. The next day I called Deborah that we should meet the woman in Mowe so she can sign the child but she said that she is busy. The woman in Mowe gave us agency fee of N700,000 – N300,000 will be for me and N400,000 for Deborah, she sent the money through POS to my account. I have known her on the Surrogate and Adoption group but this is the first transaction I am doing.’
‘I want to say that the problem is from the first lady Deborah because if she has mentioned that she stole the child, I will never have been part of it and even the woman in Mowe will never be part of it. Truly when I met that child, she was looking pale, she was not looking healthy at all. Deborah wasn’t particular about money, the money is not really an agreement, it is just to compensate you to start a new life. The whole N700,000 is still with me. I borrowed my boss N100,000, I used N400,000 to buy land.’
Glory, known as Gudat (perhaps Facebook name) by Deborah continued: ‘I was arrested at Lounge 50 when I was bathing. I just started work there like 1 week. They took me to the Police station where I made my statement. They asked how they can get the woman in Mowe so we baited her and the woman’s husband came again to take the second child that is how they arrested the woman. The woman took us to Osun state and that is where we got to other people that help them to process the document.’
Reflecting on the problem with teenage pregnancy, Glory Isaac who has all her 3 children in Benin while she works in Lagos recounted her painful personal experience as a 16-year old mother of her first child. ‘I have had this similar experience before of my first child. I was 16 when I had her but I was living in Redeemed camp. A pastor and his wife told me that they will help me and they took the child away from me and later told me that the child is dead. I was sad and cried so much that they took me to a health centre where they gave me injection that they give to mad people to calm me down. Later in the day, the man raped me inside his car.’
‘I told the wife what her husband did to me, this led to a panel set up in the camp. It was a big matter which involved Mummy GO’s PA and Code of Conduct. They gave me back my child and sent me out of the camp. This was about a year later after they took the child away from me as a baby. The child is now 8’, she informed Trek Africa Newspaper.
CHILDLESS COUPLE REACH OUT TO ME TO SCOUT FOR CHILDREN – REBECCA AGABI
Also drawing from the relationship from a Facebook group, Rebecca Agabi, though an hairdresser is fully involved in supporting childless couples through processes such as surrogate mother, IVF, and child adoption.
The 37-year old told Trek Africa Newspaper about her interest in the job, ‘I have been doing IVF and surrogacy since 2019 but child adoption started last year. A woman did IVF but failed and now requested for adoption that is how I started. I have done 4 successfully. I follow them to the court where they do it legally. Before taking them to court, I will go to their house to confirm if they are the owner of the child for adoption. The money I make may be N20,000, sometimes N100,000 but my joy is that someone who is old without a child can now smile.’
‘Before Anjola’s own, Gloria has given me a woman who is about 34 weeks pregnant, that they want to give the baby out for adoption. I told her that the woman had to wait till about 38 weeks before they can induce her to give birth. In this case I thank God that the baby was delivered safely, the woman willingly gave her child out for adoption. We went to court, she signed many papers. She said she can’t take the baby home or else she would dump the baby.’
‘I am just like an agent, they reach out to me to scout for children. We have to conduct HIV, Hepatitis B, blood group, genotype for the child before we can give out the child for adoption. All these happened over the weekend. All this time, Glory has been stressing me about money. I told Glory to bring a relative when she is coming with the child. I am the one that paid N700,000 to Glory since she told me that they are 2. If I calculate what I make, it would be about N130,000.’
‘I pray that God would have mercy on me. I have learned so many lessons about what I ought to have before I start at all. On my own part, it is illegal but the ministry I work with is legal so I know that adoption is legal. My husband knows nothing about this, I just put him in trouble’, she concluded.
HUSBAND OF REBECCA AGABI, MR. OLAJIDE PICKED THE CHILD ON BEHALF OF HIS SICK WIFE
Mr. Kayode Olajide, a furniture maker living in Mowe picked the child from Glory Isaac on behalf of his sick wife who is involved in child adoption process.
Mr. Olajide revealed: ‘On June 9, my wife told me that Gloria wants to give a child out for adoption that I should help her pick the child since she can’t walk and do tests for the child if she has any disease. I paid N4000 for the test, I gave N42,000 to Gloria. My wife told me that when those who want to adopt pay, she will return money to me.’
‘When I returned home, the child was still in our house, I asked my wife why the child is still there. She told me that the people would come and pick her. The child even looked like the child of one of my customers that I had to call her but she said her child is at home sleeping. That is how I confirmed that Anjola is the first case that is on June 9. The second one that my wife asked me to go and pick was when the Police arrested me’, he told Trek Africa Newspaper.
On his relationship with Rebecca, Mr. Olajide said: ‘I have been married before. I married my wife, Rebecca Agabi October last year 2022. She is 7 months pregnant for me. I know her as a hairdresser but I told her she has to stop the adoption work before we get married and she promised. She has been doing the adoption work before I married her. I am sure if the leg is not paining her, I wouldn’t know anything about this. I want government to tender mercy on me for the sake of my children. Rebecca has 4 children previously, I have 3 previously. My furniture business has stopped since that day. They should please forgive my wife.’
‘FOR THE CASE OF ANJOLA, I DIDN’T PASS THROUGH THE LEGAL PROCESS’ – MR. AREWA
Every child adoption process goes through a level of formality under the purview of government agencies in charge of such processes. Mr. Babatunde Arewa is the Zonal Social Welfare Officer at the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Affairs in Osogbo, Osun state.
About the work that the ministry does, Mr. Arewa remarked: ‘We do matrimonial cases, child adoption both international and local, rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents, we have foster homes in Abeokuta and Ilorin where they go to school or learn work. Child selling or buying is not part of our work. The child that goes for adoption includes abandoned children, unwanted pregnancies where the women will swear an affidavit and appear before a magistrate. Then government will consider those who have submitted their interest in the ministry.’
Explaining his culpability in the illegality that attended Anjola’s adoption, Mr. Arewa told Trek Africa Newspaper, ‘For the case of Anjola, the couple have applied in Osun state but they have not been considered. I have a colleague in Ondo state whom I contacted to assist them. I didn’t know they have not done proper profiling of the child, I just heard that there is a child. They were planning to prepare the papers from Ondo state. The couple picked her in Osun state.’
‘It was a weekend when they brought the baby to Osun state. That is why I was the one who picked the baby otherwise the child would be brought to the office. They brought another case to Osun which was how I was arrested. I told them that there is no client who needs a baby. For the case of Anjola, I didn’t pass through the legal process. It is a mistake. I want government to temper justice with mercy. I have never had a case of arrest or dragging before the court.’
MR. AREWA ASKED ME TO PICK AN ABANDONED CHILD – ABIMBOLA OLUYEFA
Abimbola Oluyefa, 36-year old woman married with 2 kids was once a beneficiary of Mr. Babatunde Arewa’s official marital counseling role.
‘Mr. Arewa is my counsellor when I and my husband had issues. Since then I realized that we are even from the same compound. He use to send me on errand once in a while to collect his clothes from drycleaner. On this particular day which was his birthday, he called that he is in Osogbo but some people are bringing in an abandoned child for him that I should help take the child to an orphanage in Moro, Ile-Ife.’
‘He sent me the number of the woman and that is how the woman said she is a policewoman. That myself and Mr. Arewa stole a baby. I have never picked any child for him. We all waited for him to come to Moro Police Station where we were arrested and brought to Lagos.’
‘IT IS A LIE THAT I MALTREAT MY BABY’ – OMOLOLA, MOTHER OF ANJOLAOLUWA
Akinbayo Omolola is the 25-year old mother of Anjolaoluwa. The single mother works as a cleaner in a school in Onipanu.
Omolola who hails from Ekiti state said: ‘I don’t live with the father. We were never married. He accepted the pregnancy when I told him. I gave birth in 2020, she will be 3 on October 14. It is a lie that I maltreat my baby. Some times when I give my child food at home, some neighbours would be telling me that the food I am giving her is too much.’
‘Deborah wants to steal my child that is why she started showing care for my child. She told me one time that there was a woman who wants to adopt a child. I told her, no, I am not giving my child for adoption. They are writing WAEC in the school where I work that is why I can’t carry her to school on that day. My pastor told me to fast for 2 days. It was the second day that Deborah said we should go and see a lawyer. Nothing changed in my daughter except that they have barbed her hair.’
AFTER THIS SAGA, ‘IF I DIE LIKE THAT, NO PROBLEM’ – 60-YEAR OLD JEKALYN
Jekalyn is a 60-year old farmer who lives in Agbado, Ogun state. After several failed attempts at having a child, he and his wife opted for child adoption and they applied in Ondo and Osun states.
Recounting his ordeal, Jekalyn shared with Trek Africa Newspaper: ‘I married my wife in 1982. We had a child in 1987 but the child is no more. We had IVF for about 5 times but nothing. That is why we went for adoption. A woman introduced us to the ministry in Osun state where we wrote application in April. I did similar thing in Ondo state. Around May, they called us that there is a child but when I am coming I should bring N1.8 million. They called me again in June that they have another baby that the first one has gone to another person.’
‘On June 10, they called me again and sent me the account of Rebecca Imoleayo Agabi to transfer money. I sent N700,000 initially, then N650,000, then N350,000 making it N1.7 million. They said I don’t need to go as far as Akure that they will bring the child to Ife. They gave me a document which made me think it is authentic. They gave me the baby, I named her Happiness Nifemi and we came back on Monday, June 12. I barbed her hair because of the dandruff and we took care of her. That is how the Police came to Ogun state saying they are from Ilupeju division and they want to see me in their station. I feel very bad about this matter. After waiting many years, after borrowing money, this happened. I don’t think I will try another adoption again. If I die like that, no problem. If God says my wife will have a child, well.’
‘As it stands now, I don’t know if I will go to jail or government will pardon me. I beg God for forgiveness, I beg government for pardon. This has tarnished my reputation. I regret this mistake I made. Since I was born, I have never been to a police station’, Mr. Jekalyn concluded.
RESOLVING THE ‘PENKELEMESI’
Upon receiving the transfer of Olorunyomi Deborah from Onipanu, the Ilupeju Division swung into action using diverse policing strategies and maximizing intelligence. Within one week, the gallant men and officers of Ilupeju Division led by the fantastic operations cop, SP Matilda Umiah Ngbaronye toured Onipanu and Surulere in Lagos state, Agbado and Mowe in Ogun state, Ile-Ife and Osogbo in Osun state, as well as Akure in Ondo state to get vital information which led to the homecoming of 2-year old Anjolaoluwa and the arrest of all suspects involved in the messy child adoption affair.
Investigations are in advanced stage. All suspects will be charged to court soonest so they can receive appropriate justice for their respective actions.
What will happen to the 2-year old girl and her ‘nonchalant’ mom? What will happen to the 60-year old childless Jekalyn and his wife?
This is the ‘Penkelemesi’ of Irresponsible-Haves and Responsible-Havenots!