Exposed! How Cash-hungry Mothers Loan Out Their Babies for Begging

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Regular passers-by at the Costain Bus Stop in Lagos knew Mrs. Adiza Umoru as a beggar who solicited for alms with her twin girls, barely two years old. No one knew her name in the area but her shabby dressing and gloomy countenance were suggestive that she was facing hard times.
In the scorching sun, amidst the awful din that characterises the streets of Lagos, the twin girls could be seen drooping or sleeping in an uncomfortable condition that even an adult would struggle to bear.
Even though Umoru made money from the street daily, the loose strands of hair on the children’s infected scalps and their sad looks demonstrated that they were not getting adequate care. They were not old enough to express their pains but their gaunt frame and hollow eye sockets registered their frustration.
With misery etched on her face daily, Umoru displayed the babies in her front like commodities for sale while chanting prayers whenever her pleas for alms yielded donations from passers-by. None of the daily sympathisers, who dropped money in Umoru’s bowl, however, knew that she had been deceiving them all along.
But late last year, her antics were exposed when she was arrested by the police. Sympathisers in the Costain area of Lagos were shocked to realise that Umoru was not the biological mother of the children. She initially lied that the babies belonged to her aunt. Upon further interrogation, she confessed that she “hired” them from their biological mother to beg on the street.
“I am from Niger State. I “rent” the babies from their mother and pay her per time whenever I use the twin girls to beg on the street,” Umoru, who refused to disclose how much she made, said in her statement to the police.
Two weeks after Umoru’s arrest, another woman, identified as Tawakalitu Aregbesola, was nabbed by the officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Youths and Social Development for “loaning” out her child to a commercial beggar in return for daily stipends.
The 40-year-old woman, who hails from Ibadan, Oyo State, told the police that she had four children, adding that the first two children were schooling in the Ikotun area of Lagos.
On why she gave out one of her children to beg, she said, “I need money. I stay at Ijora Olopa, though I am from Ibadan in Oyo State. I work with a food vendor, who pays me N300 daily. I release my child around 5pm and receive him back around 7pm daily in return for N1,500.”
Booming begging trade
Aregbesola and Umoru are part of the growing number of women illegally profiting from this new trade in town. In recent times, this form of infant trafficking has assumed a terrible dimension with a damning proportion. Their unfortunate victims are made to suffer gross abuse on the streets.
While some of these women have received knocks for their cruelty and charged to court, many of them, who are increasingly seeing the trade as a means of livelihood, have devised ingenious techniques to escape being caught.
Although this trade anchored on child abuse and labour is a national malady, Lagos is unique because it has such cases in abundance. There are about 18 million Nigerians living in Lagos, making it the most populated state in the country.
“It is a prevalent crime and it is unfortunate that infant trafficking has become a business for so many people. It has become a major concern for the police. Some women have been arrested for this,” the spokesperson for the police in Lagos, Olarinde Famous-Cole, told SUNDAY PUNCH.
Relatives of these women usually dangle tales of prosperity about Lagos before them only to be confronted with the opposite when they arrive in the city. Thus from the Lagos Island to the Mainland, begging has become a last resort.
These beggars, mostly women, have turned the pedestrian bridges, major flyovers, garages, markets, roads and other public spots to their temporary homes.
One that resonates with many Nigerians is a viral video about an unidentified woman, who displayed “triplets” covered from head to toe on the Ikeja Along pedestrian bridge for begging.
The woman caused a stir in the street when she could not show a proof that she was the biological mother of the kids. While two of the infants were fast asleep on the bridge, the third one motioned helplessly, yelping and thawing.