Recently, there has been a lot of news about a police bust up of baby selling homes or cartels, or about people selling their children for a fee. The government reaction has been predictable; arrest the culprits, spit fire and make outlandish claims. Hardly is there any statement made of the victims, the children or any further news if any of outcomes of investigations.
One is left with little or no information about what really is the truth of the matter. Divest from the story our perennial superstitions that whosoever gives a baby away or plays a go between or obtains a child by such means is necessarily doing so for evil intentions. Consider for once that this is a social challenge that neither the government or the consciously ignorant and superstitiously ridden society has no time to give any serious thoughts.
The ills of unwanted pregnancies which eventually results to an unwanted child births has been long considered a taboo in our land. The unfortunate young girls, mostly victims of rape, poverty, exclusion and ignorance are immediately derided, cursed and treated as both a taboo and an outcast. With little or no protection from the law or society they are forced out and made to roam about often with no food, shelter and sick.
On the other hand we are meant to care and show some understanding both for the poor girl and her unwanted yet to be born child. in the past we know there were old women in our various villages that stepped in to carter for such poor souls and provide shelter. Then came the Church and the Catholics led in this. They provided shelter and food and helped the young girls find their bearing and also helped in finding foster parents for the children since most if not all of these girls were rather too young to carter for their children. As time went on, they started getting unwanted babies dropped in front of the churches or nunneries, these too were taken in and taken care of.
We had motherless babies homes, created by these Churches purely to carter for these aspect of our social challenges. They were initially funded by the various Church missions, but like most things Nigerian, they were taken over by fiat and with time this too fell into disrepute, A lot of stories were spurn around them, funds were cut off and with time it became a grooming hot bed for rejected kids who had to make the most of what were and most of them became both criminals and prostitutes just to survive.
Over the years, some of these missions, mostly in Enugu and Anambra States had by government support started reclaiming some of these homes and they have slowly started playing their roles again. In other places, we still have some of the homes, poorly run and their matrons, as they were called turning to various sharp practices to keep the homes running. Some had closed down, others as was reported a few years back was taken over by a gang of criminals who did as they wished with the children.
Now, one wonders what the surprise and rage over these illegal “Foster Homes” is all about. Nature they say abhors vacuum. Nigeria cares little or nothing about what social challenges its citizens go through. It pays no attention to our ills and this carelessness breeds a certain kind of indolence and props up some back room resolutions. No laws are made to deal with these challenges. Some NGO’s in the past has raised alarm over such neglect and some have even done something about it, but it isn’t enough as we can see.
To really resolve these matter and control the abuse of this rather sensible approach to scorn and ridicule, laws should be made to control the creation and sustenance of foster homes. Where these laws already exist it should be reviewed and implemented. The so called illegal homes must not just be a subject of ridicule or criminal investigations, they must be understood for what they are, and proper regulations, in terms of space, culture, health and other important parameters put in place. No doubt, there would be abuses, but when these are thrown open, and allowed to function as part of our institutional changes, innovations would come in and so also funding. We should not abandon this aspect of our society and demonise or criminalise any that tries to do something.
What is the fate of those rescued from the said homes? my inquiries showed that apart from the immediate loquacious note of triumph coming from the police and governments, nothing did happen to some of them. Both The Abia and Imo cases were treated as political gimmicks and the children and their rescued mothers asked to go back to their respective unwelcoming families. No medical attention was conducted into their various health challenges and the obvious Psychological traumas that are embedded with these kind of estrangement. A society that cares less about its vulnerable citizens are bound to treat all with scorn.
Yet the various unconstitutional “First Ladies” run a mock with our funds creating all sorts of plastic foundations that carter for nothing more than their egos and criminal minds. Of what values have they added with the token bags of rice and various other nonsense they have donated to few of these select homes? What is required is a grand scale rehab of our social system. With enabling laws to guarantee the safety of the young girls, obvious victims of entrapment and their unborn babies; and a law on adoption reviewed and stringently controlled we can control the spread of illegal foster homes.
As long as society would exist as we know it, there would be a continued need for the provision of support for the vulnerable. The right to shelter, the right to life, the right to be treated with respect and dignity, all remains a Fundamental human right and must be implemented across the board. We must shed our superstitions and ignorant fixated belief that any baby born out of wed lock, given out to another or adopted is evil or wrong. History is littered with great men and women adopted, found or taken care of by another…. Remember Moses? We sure do. And there are many more like that out there
Lets be more humane and caring. and the police, press and government must control their choice of words to achieve this.
Kalu-Onuma, I. A.