YINKA OLADOYINBO writes on the recent arrest of a notorious “baby factory” kingpin in Ondo State, Happiness Ogundeji, who allegedly relocated from the South-East to Ilu-Titun in Okitipupa Local Government Area of the state getting young girls impregnated by some men and selling their babies to influential members of the public.
WHEN Happiness Ogundeji, 45, popularly called “Iya Porta”, thought of solving her financial predicaments by establishing a “baby factory” where she was “manufacturing” babies to be sold, little did she know that she was stepping on the tail of a cobra.
Her baby factory in Ilu-Titun, Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State was recently invaded by men of the Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) where she was arrested alongside some young pregnant women and unscrupulous men who got them in the family way, thus bringing to an end her nefarious activity in the sleepy town.
Inside the factory, both the NIS officers and others were confronted with interesting sight. From a barnfull of yam, exotic cars to wads of cash, drugs and hospitalequipment, the factory was well stocked and prepared for its very important task… ‘manufacturing’ babies!
Sunday Tribune learnt that the invasion was informed by a circular raised by the Cross River State command of the service over the possibility of the woman engaging in illegal activities.
It was also learnt that some people in the community had complained about the activities of the owner of the house which was said to have caused the invasion since residents of the community claimed that expensive and flashy cars were always sighted in the compound.
Sunday Tribune gathered that people in the environment had always been suspicious of the business being conducted in the building as many young pregnant girls were always around, while many of them were said to be permanently pregnant. The young girls, whose ages ranged from 18 to 25 were said to be living in the building with the woman taking care of their daily needs.
Mrs Ogundeji, it was also said, had been operating her illegal business in the South-East before relocating to the southern senatorial district of Ondo State when the place was no longer conducive for her illegal business.
She was similarly said to have floated the “industry” in Port Harcourt in partnership with a Cameroonian, who was later arrested by the police over alleged baby stealing, but was released for lack of evidence to nail her.
However, because of the problems she faced in the eastern part of the country, Ogundeji, who claimed to be running a herbal medical home that specialised in the treatment of pregnant women, was said to have relocated to Ilu-Titun and Ore in Odigbo local government areas of Ondo State where things seemed to be going well for her until her arrest by the men of the NIS.
Apart from Ogundeji, other people arrested included a 66-year-old man, Aliu Ojo, who claimed to be a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, five nursing mothers, five babies and eight men who were believed to have been employed for the purpose of impregnating the girls.
Speaking on the issues surrounding her arrest, the Comptroller General of NIS in 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, 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, said to have relocated from Imo State when her business suffered a setback due to the NIS war against human trafficking and operation of baby factories.
According to him, the woman had spread her tentacles across the southern part of Nigeria, saying she had to relocate to the state after her business in Imo State suffered a setback, just as he punctured Ogundeji’s claim of running a herbal centre.
The woman, according to the NIS commander, had been doing the illicit business in conjunction with a Cameroonian who had been serving as a link man for a very long time, saying that the suspects changed her base to keep herself away from the eagle eye of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person (NAPTIP).
The head of anti-human trafficking and child labour section of the command, Mrs Biola Obisesan, told Sunday Tribune that the suspects initially resisted arrest by insisting on seeing the warrant ordering their arrest. She disclosed that they struggled with the officers while some of them tried to escape through a ladder.
She explained that their findings in the community confirmed that the woman was really prepared for the business as a section of the compound was stocked with foodstuffs like yam, bags of rice and garri, while the place was littered with baby care products and medical instruments used for child delivery.
Apart from this, some expensive cars were said to have been found in the compound, while a cash of N4 million believed to have just been paid by baby buyers was also found in the building.
Speaking on her arrest, Happiness Ogundeji described the invasion as trampling on her private life.
According to her, there was no 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, noting that there was nothing illegal in the business she was operating at Ilu-Tuntun.
“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 of the house. Some of the people that were arrested are my visitors,” she claimed.
The pregnant women arrested in the house also claimed that they were in the building for treatment. In what looked like a rehearsed answer, the women with pregnancy of varying months insisted that they were not there to make babies for sale.
One of the pregnant women, Blessing Anike, who claimed to be 21 years old and a hair dressing apprentice from Abia State with a two-week-old baby, said she was brought to the house by her husband, Godswill. She said that her husband told her that the woman was a doctor.
Another pregnant lady, Chinazo Miracle, 20, who said she was from Imo State and a secondary school leaver told Sunday Tribune that she was in the place 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 mother-in-law committed no crime, saying the place was being run as a herbal natural clinic.
However, residents of Ilu-Titun and its environs believed that the arrest of the woman was capable of bringing peace to the area. Many of them who spoke with Sunday Tribune on condition of anonymity, said the woman had always claimed to be a powerful person, expressing fear that she might return to the community for her pound of flesh.
A middle-aged man who resides in the town explained that there was a time the woman was arrested and taken to the state police headquarters but was able to buy her way back into the community after allegedly bribing the police.
He said, “The house has been a Mecca of sort, as so many rich men with posh cars constantly visit the place to transact one business or the other since the woman relocated to the place. No one dares report the activities going there to police. Police have visited the place times without number but they always smile out of the place. So, it would amount to wasting of time reporting to the police.
“She was arrested sometime last year but to our surprise, she spent less than 24 hours at the State Criminal Investigative Department in Akure before she was freed. We learnt she is so powerful and well connected to Abuja and we hope this arrest would not just be like the previous ones.”
Another source alleged that since the coming of the woman to the area, girls between the ages of 20 and 25 were recruited into the home while young men were paid to impregnate them in order to make the ladies pregnant and sell their babies. He said most of the men who were recruited on short term basis were usually paid off at the end of their service ranging from three to eight weeks or according to the terms of their contract.
He, however, added that the men and girls would never admit the crime as, according to him, all the ladies had been hypnotised while the men had sworn to an oath of secrecy, while any attempt to reveal the truth would spell doom for them.