Men of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Ondo state Command, last Wednesday recorded another feat as the detectives from the agency uncovered a notorious baby factory syndicate in Ilu Tuntun in Okitipupa Local Government area of the state, arresting no fewer than 24 suspects during the invasion. The illegal baby factory, reportedly owned by 45-year-old Happiness Ogundeji , a.ka Mama Phorta, was discovered by the anti-trafficking detectives after several months of surveillance and intelligence gathering.
The occupants of the house where the illegal business was being run, were caught unawars by the security agents who invaded their premises in the early hours of Wednesday, where five young pregnant women, between the ages of 20 and 25 were arrested with 19 other suspects, which include five nursing mothers, five babies and eight men who impregnated them.
Also, a 66-year-old man, Aliu Ojo, who claimed to be a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, was among the 24 suspects arrested by the security agents.
He is being alleged to be the kingpin in the operation of the factory. While parading the suspects, the Comptroller of the NIS, Ondo State, Musa Al-Hassan said the command had been on the trail of the owner of the baby factory for a long time after receiving information from the Comptroller-General of the NIS in Abuja, who directed the state command to work on a circular that emanated from Calabar, Cross River State.
Al-Hassan said the command swung into action after receiving the information and beamed its searchlight on the activities of the woman, Happiness, who was said to have relocated from Imo State when her business suffered setback due to the NIS war against human trafficking and operation of baby factory.
The effort of the squad which was led by the Head of Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Labour Section of the command, Mrs Abiola Obisesan, paid off after several months of surveillance with the discovery of a twoflat building which belongs to Happiness and was being used for the operation at Ilu-Titun.
Though ‘Mama Portha’ as Happiness is famed, claimed to be a native doctor who specialises in the treatment of pregnant women, she averred that the place was established by her with licence to operate as natural herbal centre.
But the comptroller alleged that the kingpin was a notorious “baby maker” who had spread her tentacles within the state and across the country’s border.
Happiness, according to the NIS commander, had been doing the illicit business in conjunction with a Cameroonian who serves as a link man for a very long time, saying the suspects changed her base to keep herself away from the eagle eye of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
The comptroller appreciated the efforts of other security agents in the state for their support in nabbing the notorious ‘baby maker’ and child trafficker, saying the operation was made possible due to synergy among the NIS Command, the police and soldiers from Army Barracks, Okitipupa in Ondo State.
Narrating the operation, the Head of Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Labour Section, Mrs Biola Obisesan, said the suspects resisted arrest, insisting on getting a warrant of arrest just as they struggled with the officers and tried to escape through a ladder that was placed on the wall.
Obisesan also said that the house was stocked with raw food stuff like tubers of yam, rice and garri while the place was littered with baby care products and other instruments allegedly used for child delivery.
Speaking on her arrest, Happiness who admitted being quizzed by the police over the arrest of a cameroonian who was accused of stealing a baby and released for lack of evidence, described the invasion as trampling on her private life. She said, “I don’t know my offence. I am a business woman. I am operating a natural herbal clinic.
I was in my clinic when the people came to arrest me along with other occupants in the house. Some of the people that were arrested are my visitors”, she said.
A source who lives very close to the ‘baby factory’ said normalcy will return to the environment because strange visitors’ regular visit to the agrarian community will be a thing of the past, saying no resident of the town dare report the illegal activities being perpetrated in the house.
According to the source, the house has been a Mecca of sort, as so many rich men with exotic cars constantly visit the place to transact one business or the other since the woman relocated to the place.
The source said, “No one dare report the activities going on there to the police. The police have visited the place times without number but they always smile out of the place. So it will amount to wasting of time reporting to the police.
“She was arrested sometimes last year but to our surprise, she spent less than 24 hours as guest of the police at the State Criminal investigative Department in Akure (the state’s capital) before she bought her freedom.
We learnt she’s so powerful and well connected to Abuja and we hope this arrest will not just be like the previous ones.” The source said young girls between the ages of 20 and 25 were recruited into the home where some young men have sex with them in order to make the ladies pregnant and sell away their babies.
He said most of the men who are recruited on short term basis were usually paid off at the end of their ‘service’. They were always coming to ‘perform’ for between three and eight weeks according to the terms of their contract, before being disengaged, it was learnt..
But Mama Portha said there was no such illegal transaction in her “herbal home”, saying she once lived in Port- Harcourt and relocated to Ilu-Titun when her former husband, Okeke died, which made her to marry Abiodun Ogundeji. She added that there was nothing illegal in the business she was operating at Ilu Tuntun.
One of the women paraded, Blessing Anike, who claimed to be 21 years old from Abia State and who was carrying a two-week-old baby, said she was brought to the house by her husband, Godswill, who told her that the woman is a doctor she said was a hairdressing apprentice before she was impregnated and brought to the place. Another pregnant lady, Chinazo Miracle, 20, said she is from Imo State and a secondary school leaver .
She told Sunday Mirror that she was brought to the house for treatment while another pregnant girl, who simply gave her name as ‘Grace’, claimed to be a student of Lagos State University (LASU) and was engaged to the son of the baby factory kingpin.
She also denied the allegation of baby making in the house and said her motherin- law committed no crime, saying the place was being run as a ‘herbal natural clinic.’ But the source said, “they will never admit the crime; all the ladies have been hypnotised while the men have sworn to oath of secrecy. Any attempt to reveal the truth will spell doom for them.
“We hope this arrest will not be like the previous arrest. The police should not be involved in this matter and the Immigration should follow this investigation to a logical conclusion before these people are released,” he said.
However Al- Hassan explained that investigation was ongoing while the suspects would be transferred to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) headquarters in Lagos.
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