Even animals don’t sell their children, because they love them and want to die for them, not to mention human beings. For too many days I stood next to roads and asked people for work, but always ended up disappointed. I couldn’t go home empty-handed and disappoint my starving children, so I used to scavenge in garbage and collect leftover food.”
This is the lamentation of an Afghan who was held for selling his 11-year-old daughter, Rabia, for US$2,000 to a man in Sheberghan city, Jawzjan Province in northern Afghanistan, in order to feed his wife and three younger children, a few years back. Food prices were high, so he could not afford to buy. As the economic situation worsened, the number of people like him who had to scavenge for food increased.
With the rise in food prices and the ever-increasing number of scavengers due to unavailability of jobs, things got to a point where there was little or nothing to scavenge in the garbage bins. This was what made the Afghan put up his 11-year-old daughter for sale. His lamentation continues: “I know people will say I am a cruel and merciless father who sold his own child, but those who say so don’t know my hardship and have never felt the hunger that my family suffers.” Then his passionate appeal to the government: “I hope the government will hear my voice and help people like me to find jobs and feed our families.”
We reecho this appeal in view of the rise in the number of Nigerians who are also selling their children, including babies, so as to be able to meet their domestic obligations. Without necessarily sanctioning this practice, what the Afghan story tells us is that there is a limit to the extent that some people’s coping mechanism can take them.
Earlier this week, the media 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. 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 raise the remaining three, especially when there is no husband to assist her.
In February, a Nigerian couple was 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, 2018; 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 are only some of the reported cases. Many others were unreported. The issue is fast becoming endemic and governments at all levels cannot continue to pretend it does not exist. At the root of it all is ignorance and poverty. As for the former, a lot of enlightenment is needed to let people know that they can make love without making babies. Couples should be made to understand that they can determine the number of children they want by adopting birth control measures. If they already had enough children, why go for more?
Moreover, we have to tinker with our models for adoption which at present seem difficult and cumbersome. This discourages people in need of children to adopt, and in turn leads to a booming trade for quacks, which is bad for the children and the parents. Above all, we need a more caring system for the situation as obtained in several other countries. The net of people to benefit from social stipends should be widened to accommodate people who give birth to children that they cannot take care of. Children are supposed to be bundles of joy whose fathers do not have to run away on their arrival just as their mothers do not have to put them up for sale due to lack of means to take care of them.