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Surrogate mothers: Our intention is to put smile on the faces of childless couples

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Surrogate mothers: Our intention is to put smile on the faces of childless couples

“I feel bad that some of us don’t want so many but have the ability to bring life when they want while others do not”

 

 

In Nigeria, many see child adoption process as cumbersome. To get out of this quagmire, some barren and greedy women have taken to buying babies who are daily displayed by desperate surrogate mothers, illegally. In this report, Isioma Madike, looks at this disturbing trend

 

 

On October 9, 2017, a Minna Chief Magistrates’ Court granted bail to a housewife, Eucharia Mba, who the police had apprehended for allegedly selling her four-monthold baby for N605,000. Mba was arrested alongside Bright Ahuruezeanya at Chanchaga area of Minna, Niger State.

The third accused, Peter Ani, was picked up in faraway Enugu State, according to reports. The suspects faced three counts charge bordering on criminal conspiracy, buying and selling of a minor. And the offence was said to have contravened sections 79 and 278 of the Penal Code Law. Before then, a 16-year-old Maria had lost her new born baby to a greedy midwife in one of the eastern states. She learnt later that her baby was given up for adoption for which she received N20,000, the same price as a 50 kilogram bag of rice.

“The nurse took my daugh-ter away to be washed. She never brought her back,” the teenager had lamented. Just recently, police in Imo State arrested eight women for allegedly stealing and trafficking day-old twins and nine other children, some of who were stolen from a church during service.

The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Andrew Enwerem, according to one of our correspondents, said the women were arrested between July 24 and August 17 at Agbor Park in Benin, Edo State and Imo State. A total of 11 stolen children were recovered from the suspects, some of who were identified by their parents. Enwerem said: “The affected children are between one-day and nine years respectively at the time of theft. Investigation has revealed that two of the recovered children, Habeeb and Wunmi, were stolen from Sabo area of Lagos State. Suspects have confessed to having sold some of the children between N300,000 and N600,000 before they were arrested.”

The children recovered by the police include Somtochukwu Obiduba (9) and Kosarachi Obiduba (7), both of same parents who were stolen on August 15 at Akokwa, Imo State;Onyinyechi Okpala was stolen on November 30, 2014 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, while Divine Isaac Anyaka was stolen on July 28 at St. Michael Catholic Church, Onuimo, Imo State.

The others, Habeeb (4) and Wunmi (2), were said to have been stolen from Sabo Ajangbadi area of Lagos State; Chisere Nwadike (5); Ginika, Ndubuisi, and two-day-old twin babies (a boy and a girl) were also among the stolen children.

The suspects are Ikewete Lucyann, Theresa Asiegbu, both of Umuikpa Ozu Urualla in Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State; Chioma Emeka Umuanumoke in Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State; Happiness Peter of Iyala Ogoja in Cross River State; Martina Nwadike of Agbor Park Benin, Edo State; Martha Ojimba of Mgbee in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State; Chizoba Eze and Amaka Eze both of Ngwo in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. Also, the media had reported the story of a 22-year-old woman, Blessing Chukwu, who was arrested by the Abia State Police Command in Umuahia for allegedly selling her child, not too long ago.

She allegedly confessed to the act, saying she sold her daughter to raise money to train her siblings. She has four children and therefore saw nothing wrong in selling off one of them to enable her to raise the remaining three, especially when there is no husband to assist her. In February, a Nigerian couple was also arrested for selling their daughter for N400,000, barely 24 hours after she was delivered.

The couple, Ifeanyi, 35, and Emmaculata Elijah, 30, allegedly conspired to dispense of the newborn on January 26. She was recovered in Lagos on February 17. About a month later, the police in Lagos arrested a grandmother, Patience, in Jakande Estate, Isolo, Lagos, who reportedly sold her daughter’s day-old baby for N250,000. These, however, are only some of the reported cases. There are many others unreported.

The issue, according to opinions, is fast becoming endemic in which governments at all levels can no longer continue to pretend it does not exist. At the root of it all are greed, ignorance and poverty. But the boom in baby sales, according to others, can be traced to the country’s rigid adoption laws. Although intending couples are usually advised to be careful of fake agencies that will promise to offer a quicker route.

The best way, according to experts, is to consult the appropriate authorities and follow the legitimate methods. However, baby adoption in the country, is usually not without labour. As expected, trying to adopt a child in Nigeria can be an expensive and rigorous task. The Nigerian law requires that a parent child relationship be established before the court decision can be considered final. The parent child relationship can range from a few months to two years.

Though different states in the country might have slightly different methods of adoption, it is generally expected that the adopter should be at least 25 years of age and 21 years older than the adoptee. In case the adopter is a couple, one of them must meet the age requirements.

However, none Nigerian citizens are not legally allowed to adopt in the country. The process is regulated by the Nigerian Child Rights Law or the Adoption Act of 1965. It is expected that one must first obtain temporary custody of the child. If married, couples must adopt jointly and both must be Nigerian citizens.

The Child’s Right Act, 2003 provides for adoption of a child in Nigeria. An application for adoption is made to the High (Family) Court accompanied with the following documents: First, where the applicant is a married couple, their marriage certificate or a sworn declaration of marriage; second, the birth certificate or sworn declaration of age of each applicant; third, 2 passport photographs of each applicant; fourth, a medical certificate of the fitness of the applicant from a government hospital; and fifth, such other documents, requirements and information as the court may require for the purposes of the adoption. In practice, the court prefers that an applicant must have fulfilled the condition precedent at the Child Welfare Department and obtain a report stating that the applicant is a proper person to adopt the child.

The report would accompany the application for adoption. Upon receipt of an application for adoption, the court shall order an investigation to be conducted by child development officers or a supervision officer or such other persons as the court may determine to enable it to assess the suitability of the applicant as an adopter and of the child to be adopted.

The court shall, in reaching a decision relating to the adoption of a child, have regard to all the circumstances. First consideration being given to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare and the best interest of the child throughout the childhood of that child and ascertaining, as far as practicable, the wishes and feelings of the child regarding the decision.

And giving due consideration to those wishes and feelings, having regard to the age and understanding of the child. In view of this seeming cumbersome child adoption process in Nigeria, many, usually barren and the greedy who may not wish to go through the stress prefer to do it illegally via surrogacy.

The word, which comes from the Latin word “subrogare”, means to substitute. The process of using a surrogate mother to have a baby is tricky and so many argue that it is not right. But, some have also argued that it is an option for a woman, who cannot carry a baby in her womb for a number of medical reasons.

This means another woman will carry the baby for such a mother, give birth to the baby and give it to the other woman. In simple terms, surrogate motherhood refers to a situation, whereby a third party female elects or is commissioned to carry a pregnancy on behalf of another couple, delivers a baby and hands the child over to the commissioning parents at birth. Two forms are discernible, depending on the existence or not, of the genetic link between the surrogate mother and the fetus.

The first is traditional surrogate in which the woman gets artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm (or a donor’s sperm). Then she carries the baby and delivers it for the couple to raise. A traditional surrogate is the baby’s biological mother because it was her eggs that were fertilised by the father’s sperm. The second is known as gestational surrogate.

This is usually through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). In this form, eggs will be gathered from the mother, fertilised with the father’s sperm, and then place the embryo into the uterus of a woman (gestational surrogate). She then carries the baby until birth.

A gestational surrogate has no genetic ties to the child at all since it wasn’t her egg that was used. Although she will still be called the birth mother, the mother whose egg was fertilised, is the biological mother. This is less legally complex, and the gestational surrogate can’t be of any trouble in the future.

Even though this practice raises the hope of the infertile couple, especially where natural conception is impossible, like women with severe uterine factors, opinions are still divided on the morality, legality and ethics of surrogacy. While proponents point to the validity of informed contract between surrogate mothers and intending couples as well as the hope given to childless couples, opponents say that the practice is dehumanising and exploits a vulnerable population. In recent times, many Nigerian ladies, particularly the unemployed female graduates and their undergraduate counterparts appear to be getting pregnant for childless couples for a fee as a survival strategy. These ladies, called surrogate mothers, have even taken to the internet to advertise themselves to couples who are desperately in need of children.

The willing ladies are contacted by either couples or fertility clinics to help carry pregnancies on behalf of childless couples. It often happens where married women find it difficult getting pregnant or where they have issues with their wombs.

Through medical science, a couple’s sperm and egg are collected and fertilised and then implanted into the surrogate mother, who in-turn carries the pregnancy till it is due for delivery. In most instances, the surrogate mothers are flown out of the country or kept away from prying eyes and monitored till they delivered of the babies. Most of these women, who registered on a website on the internet, according to reports, have their photographs on the website with assurances to their prospective customers that they would offer effective service.

The website, which reports said, listed the surrogate mothers according to their states of residence, also has a breakdown of their data. It equally has registered sperm and egg donors with their details. “I know what’s like not having a child of your own.

I want to give you that gift and hope to bring joy and blessing to your home,” one of ladies, was reported to have stated in her message to prospective customers. Another, a 28-year-old resident in Abuja, was also quoted to have said she was willing to travel to any part of the world to have the baby for her customer. She said, according to the report, which quoted her: “Since the death of my parents I’ve been working myself to death to take care of my kid sister.

If I can be paid to put a smile on the face of a couple, who can’t have children and also with the money to take care of myself and my sister, what more can I ask for?” Another said she had seen a lot of couples in churches in search of babies and “I feel bad that some of us don’t want so many but have the ability to bring life when they want while others do not.”

The lady, who was quoted to have said she is only interested in rendering assistance in that regard, added: “With me and your promise to take care of the baby, your desires are only nine months away.” One, who identified herself simply as Loveth, is 32-year-old, mother of three and resident of Ipaja, Lagos, said she believes God could use her to answer people’s prayers since it is painful to live without children. “Just put your trust in God, He will surely do it. Also, I pray in the journey of putting smiles on people’s faces, I will not regret because l am ready to help you,” she said.

Chinyere, who resides in Benin, simply said: “I don’t know what to say but I can assure you that if you choose me as your surrogate mother to your unborn, I will not disappoint you.” For Faith, a 30-year-old resident of Abuja, in her message to couples who need her service, said she was in the business to contribute to producing children for very desperate couples. She said: “Children bring happiness to homes and since I am not married and can’t afford raising a child, I will be very happy to have that experience of carrying a child that will bring joy to a family.”

None of them, though, according to the report, stated how much she was willing to collect for such service. It was only suggested that desperate couples are made to part with huge amounts to get their babies through surrogacy. However, an employee of an IVF clinic, who does not want her name in print, gave an estimate fees charged in some of the clinics in Nigeria where surrogate mothers are arranged.

She said that a surrogacy IVF treatment fees- (excluding the cost of drugs), cost N1,520,000, legal fee-N160,000, scheduling fees-N120,000, Sono for surrogate- N60,000 and drugs for surrogate and donor – N1,200,000. Another fertility clinic emplyee in Lagos, according to P.M.NEWS, said there were several other women who were into it but who are not known to the people.

“First, there is an agreement between the surrogate mother and the fertility clinic and the couples may or may not know who the surrogate mother is, but I can tell you that couples spend millions on this process of having babies,” the woman was quoted to have said. Another report quoted the Matron/ Clinic Manager, Medical Assisted Reproductive Centre (MART), Mrs Abiola Adewusi, as saying that patients who come with various uterine disorders are the ones that are usually advised to consider using a surrogate.

This, Adewusi said, could vary from ashermans syndrome to absence of the womb or due to fibroids that disturbs implantation. “Even though the practice is new in Nigeria, clients have started embracing the idea and it is now creating hope for those couples who otherwise thought there was no other option for them,” she added.

The pioneer of IVF in the country, and Group Medical Director, MART, Prof Oladapo Ashiru, has also contributed his expert opinion to the issue. A report quoted him to have said that surrogacy is often recommended in cases of female infertility and other medical issues, which make pregnancy or delivery impossible, risky or otherwise undesirable.

He listed others as abnormal or absent of uterus whether from birth or after hysterectomy, recurrent miscarriages and repeated implantation failure. He said once a patient who needs surrogacy is identified, the patient is immediately counselled on the implications (cost, psychological and emotional implications) of using a surrogate.

“The patient is given the alternative of acquiring one through agencies, non-profit organisations that offer such services or by private arrangement (the patient brings a known surrogate). Once a suitable surrogate has been found, she is sent to the intended parent’s fertility clinic to begin her medical screening.

“Medical screening involves screening for infectious disease and any additional testing the fertility clinic recommends. There is also a contract which is reviewed and agreed upon by both the intended parents and the surrogate with the assistance of their lawyers. The contract explains the details of any agreement and to protect both parties involved in the process in case of litigation.”

This procedure is followed because surrogacy usually throws up legal issues pertaining to paternity, maternity and contract problems. Although Nigeria, according to a Lagos- based lawyer, Emmanuel Nwaghodoh, is yet to acknowledge legally, and thus, provide policy guidelines and legislation to formalise and regulate surrogacy in the country. This, he also said, means there are no laws prescribing or proscribing surrogacy in the country. “To the best of my knowledge and belief, the topic has not come up for detailed discussion in any legislative chambers in Nigeria.

This has created a void, which is being and can be exploited further by illegal commercial operators with news of booming baby factories, sales and swaps in the country,” he added. There is also the religious angle to the issue in view of the country’s different religious inclinations.

The acceptability or not of the concept of surrogacy and issues consequent upon that may vary from one belief to the other. Islam, for instance, has varying views on surrogacy. Some Muslim scholars tend to view it through the provisions of the Shariah law, while others adjudge it as similar to prostitution as it entails an alien woman carrying a child, who is not her legal husband’s own. It implies that such a child may be deemed illegitimate. For many others, however, the responsibility of humans to procreate and preserve the human race makes surrogacy permissible for infertile couples.

But, a professor of Islamic Eschatology, Muslim activist, social commentator as well as advocate of dialogue, Ishaq Akintola, told this reporter that surrogacy, as it is practiced in the country nowadays, is not accepted in Islam. He, nonetheless, listed the condition under which it could be encouraged.

“I know that the surrogate mother can at least assist in breastfeeding a baby that has been abandoned, perhaps, in these days when people abandon children on the roadside for whatever reason. If the mother of a new baby suddenly dies a surrogate mother can also assist in breastfeeding.

They are even employed in Arab culture; it was part of their culture in the past to adopt somebody to breastfeed their children. “However, carrying a pregnancy for somebody is a new development. Islam is a religion that was established centuries ago, at a time when there was no science.

So, you cannot expect us to suddenly jump to things like that; it would amount to mere conjecture. But any area of humanitarian support is approved and supported by Islam,” Akintola added. Opinions among Christian groups also differ.

For the Catholic Church, a child is a gift, and not a right; procreation can only result from the conjugal love of married people. It describes as “gravely immoral” any technique that entails the dissociation of a married couple, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple, including surrogacy.

The church further states that surrogacy violates the dignity of the child. Protestant denominations have a more liberal attitude to infertility treatments and surrogacy. They, however, express reservations about probable challenges arising from such as future psychological problems for the child and questions regarding ownership of the child.

For Bishop Stephen Ogedengbe, founder and head of Evangelical Ministries (Wisdom Chapel), located in Shasha, Lagos, it’s more of greed and poverty in Nigeria. In the US and other civilised countries of the world, he said, government pays such people to take care of abandoned children, while in Nigeria, they are usually done for purposes of trafficking and rituals.

He said: “The unassuming women give in because of poverty and rejoice with the paltry they are paid. The laws of adoption in the country are also partly to blame. I think they are overdue for review. When that is done, the evil incidents would reduce, at least to the barest minimum. The church, particularly, the Pentecostal fold, frown at it and has never and can never support such.

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  1. Pingback: Surrogate mothers: Our intention is to put smile on the faces of childless couples — New Telegraph - Naijaray Headlines

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