The judiciary and the Nigerian Police Force have been named in an extensive investigation involving the sale of a child for N2 million by Arrows of God Orphanage headquartered in Lagos.

According to a report by investigative journalist Fisayo Soyombo, the orphanage sold a new-born baby to him and his fake wife through their Anambra State branch and without any background checks.

In the middle of the scandal is a retired Army Colonel, Rev. Lt. Col. D. C. Ogo. An ordained Minister and a former Principal of the Nigerian Army School of Nursing and Midwifery, Ogo is a former Chief Matron and Founder/President of the orphanage.

The under-cover journalist said that his attempt to alert the police and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on the baby-for-cash deal have proved abortive, as both entities have not shown any enthusiasm towards the matter.

He stated that loads of fake documents were procured to complete the “adoption” process, saying: “The second (document) suggests that my wife and I sat with the Social Welfare Officer of Nnewi Local Government before ‘His Worship’ L. S. E Uzuodu, the chief Magistrate of Nnewi Magisterial District court, and Okoro Joy Obiageli, the Assistant Chief Registrar 1, on Friday June 16, 2023.”

Stating that this was a lie, Soyombo wrote: “On the said date, I was not in the country, while my ‘wife’ was in Kano, faraway from Anambra!”

Meanwhile, the Founder of the orphanage had allegedly stated that the documents were procured by bribing the court and police officials, saying: “We just have to give them their entitlements. You see, the police and the court, once we give them their entitlements, they will be fast with the documents.”

He stated that Ogo had told him during their first telephone conversation that “it is in the East that you are going to buy this one (baby),” adding that “All the phone numbers on each document (supplied by the ‘couple’) were fake and unreachable; nobody at Arrows of God attempted to dial any of them. Neither Onyia nor Rev. Ogo nor her right hand man Monday dialed the phone numbers on the reference letters by my supposed pastor, head of family, and the important person.”

Expressing concern over the court papers, Mr. Abimbola Ojenike, a child advocate and Partner at Slingstone LP, said: “The possibility of securing a court order for the adoption of a child without appearing before any court is worrying.

“Applications for court orders for adoption or care and supervision of a child are considered cautiously based on relevant child protection principles, laws and regulations. Ultimately, the fundamental goal is to preserve the best interest of the child.

“A court’s evaluation should raise questions such as who is the person applying for adoption? Does the person have the legal and economic capacity to adopt and care for a child? Is the person a suitable person to be assigned with parenting responsibilities in the best interest of the child? What social investigations have been conducted about the person and what facts are known to government social workers and the social worker of the organisation that currently has the ostensible custody of the child?”

Ojenike also queried the papers presented before the court in support of the application for adoption, saying: “Who signed the affidavit on behalf of the actual person applying for custody? What facts did they place before the court to persuade a court to give a child to a person whose actual identity is not known and who did not appear before a Commissioner for Oaths or the court that granted the adoption order?

“It’s a real danger that a transaction for the sale and purchase of a whole Nigerian child was concluded in 2023 with a veneer of judicial authority. We have to go beyond just saying that children are important to actually putting in place processes and systems that effectively safeguard and advance their rights. If we address the red tape and racketeering that frustrate people with legitimate intentions who want to adopt children, we can effectively shut down the market for babies which many good-spirited people have patronised without knowing.”

CITY LAWYER could not independently confirm the authenticity of the court papers. Soyombo however stated that an Air Peace staff told him that he and his fake wife would have been arrested if they tried to fly with the baby through the Anambra Airport, compelling them to ferry the baby to Lagos via a 10-hour road journey.

Said the airline official: “Those documents with you would have been scrutinised; and since you did not get the baby through the right channel, you would have been arrested.”

* Handing over the baby to the buyer

The judiciary, the police and NAPTIP are yet to respond to the scandal.

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