The Ondo State Command of the Nigeria Immigration Services has raided a house allegedly used as a baby factory in Ilutitun, Okitipupa Local Government Area, arresting 24 persons.
The suspects included a 66-year-old man, Aliu Ojo, who claimed to be a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police and the alleged leader of the factory, Happiness Ogundeji (aka Mama Pota) aged 45.
They were paraded on Wednesday at the state headquarters of the service.
Five ladies at different stages of pregnancy and eight men, some claiming to be husbands of the women, were also brought to the headquarters.
The Comptroller of NIS, Ondo State, Musa Al-Hassan, said the raid on the house and the arrest of the suspects were sequel to a tip-off from the Comptroller General of the NIS, who directed the command to work on a circular that emanated from Calabar, Cross River State.
Al-Hassan said when he received the circular, which pointed out that searchlight should be beamed on Imo and Ondo states in search of perpetrators of human trafficking and baby factories, he instructed the Head of Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Labour Section of the command, Abiola Obisesan, to swing into action.
He said the efforts of the command paid off after several months of surveillance with the discovery of two flats being used for the illegal operation at Ilutitun.
According to the Comptroller, leader of the syndicate, who had another branch at Ore, in Odigbo Local Government, relocated to Ilutitun, Ondo State from Port-Harcourt, where she had been doing the illegal business.
He stated that the woman had been doing the business in conjunction with a Cameroonian, adding that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person had requested that the arrested people be brought to Lagos.
Al-Hassan attributed the success of the operation to the collaboration among security agencies in the state, noting that the operation was carried out by men from the NIS, the police and the army.
Obisesan, explained that the suspects resisted arrest and insisted that the service must get a warrant of arrest.
She added that the woman wanted to escape through a ladder that was placed on the fence.
She said , “The house was stocked with foodstuff like tubers of yam, rice, garri while the place was littered with used baby care products and other instruments allegedly being used for child delivery.
Ogundeji, however, insisted that the house was not a baby factory, but a herbal clinic. She admitted that she was once invited by the police over the arrest of a Cameroonian, who was accused of stealing a baby, but said the suspect had been released after she was investigated.
“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 said.
She added that she had once lived in Port-Harcourt, but relocated to Ilutitun when her former husband, Okeke, died and she remarried to Abiodun Ogundeji.
Ojo, on his part, claimed that he had retired from the Police since 2000 as Assistant Commissioner of Police after serving in Imo State and was only on a visit to his sister who heads the place.
Blessing Anike, 21, one of the ladies paraded by the NIS, was seen holding a two-week old baby. She said she was brought to the house by her husband, Godswill, who told her that the woman was a doctor.
The new mother added that she was a hairdressing apprentice before she was impregnated.
Pregnant 20-year-old Chinazo Miracle from Imo State said she was brought to the house for treatment.
It was later learnt that the suspects had been moved to Lagos in line with the request from NAPTIP.