Josfyn Uba and Jossy Idam
Welcome to Janet Fajemigbesin Street, the hideout of teenage mothers who sell their babies while in the womb for pittance. The street is located at Amuwo Odofin-directly behind old Durbar Hotel-near Festac, Lagos. The girls are usally contracted by women and their husbands who are unable to have babies of their own.
On entering the small shanty town, the girls besige you and tell you to take a good look at them and tell you to decide who among them you think will give you a pretty baby. A prospective baby buyer would time and access who among them could make the baby of his heart’s desire.
Winnowing through the bevy of girls is not usually easy. The experience can easily be compared with going to okrika market. Besides their looks, sizes and shapes, they have two things in common-youthful age and charge.
Looking at them, their age range could be between 14 and 20. They probably held a meeting in secret and decided to charge between N150,000 ($1220) and N200,000 ($1545) per baby.
The prospective buyer is expected to also bear the cost of antenatal and other hospital bills that may arise in future. During the lucky girl’s gestation period, the buyer is also expected to provide provision and good food for the developing baby and mother.
Boys for hire
The boys who act as studs must also be taken care of. Prancing around like bantam cocks, the boys who are mostly dressed in dirty jeans and sneakers swam around a prospective buyer and ask to be commissioned to act as a surrogate father of the baby yet to be formed. The deal is usually struck with the boys with a token sum ranging from N10,000 to N20,000 thoudand and a good round of drinks (paraga i.e local gin mixed with roots). When and how the boy and girl will meet is not the buyers business.
The “Axis of Evil” as the spot is known in the neighbourhood used to be bee hive of activties until the officials of Lagos State Ministry of Environment demolished it following incessant complain by the members of the landlord’s association of the area. Undeterred, the boys and girls still gathered there daily and hostle for a living the way they know best. With only the open sky as their shelter now, they openly smoke marijuana, drink and ramble on the street. Their unruly, rebellious lifestyle is the reason officials of Lagos State government gave in demolishing the place.
A resident of the area who wants anonimity told Saturday Sun that the government officials have only killed the snake without cutting off its head.
This bad people are still here and until they go we are’ not safe”, thesoruce said.
A dependable source in the state government secretarait, Alausa says the next agenda of the state is “to arrest and prosecute the miscrants who hang around there and give the place a bad name”.
After down payment-the girls prefer the payment to be done in cash and at once- a prosective buyer has to keep an eye on his “investment” . Regular visit ensures trust and even bound between the buyer and his unborn baby. Once the baby is born, the buyer could take the baby away while the “mother” prepares for another deal.
Some of them boast of making a baby every year.
As this reporter walked down the street of Janet Fajemigbesin, the enclave of notoriety, there was a crowd of girls (both matured, teenegers and advanced) a convergence of women of all shades sizes and colour. While some were pregnant, others clutched babies to their bossoms.
Boys too, unkempt and tattered looking with some kind of short dread locked hairs were also there. While some paced up and down, others just laid down in the remnants of the burnt place, and some others just stood aloof.
As the reporters got closer, about four teenage girls, (one was pregnant) approached me with desperation and bombarded me with some bizzare questions like “Madam, what type of baby do you want to buy? How do you want it? Do you want a boy or girl or twins?
Apparently, they had thought I was a prospective customer in their baby selling racket
“Anyhow you want it, we can arrange for it” said one of them, a tiny 15 year old form Edo State.
I agreed to have a meeting else where away from the vicinity where I could discuss in confidence the technicalities of “my business”.
We then took off to the opposite side of the new bridge where such trade also goes on.
Having gained a prospective customer’s confidence and seeing her desperation for the search of a baby, “We are ready to play ball” the pregnant teenager told me. And in their tradition, Saturday Sun gathered that the girls could now drink and smoke literally celebrating success in their venture.
Very relaxed and quite confident in the company of the reporters, they quickly organised a saucer filled with cannabis wraps and ciggirettes.
It was time to discuss real business. Interestingly, these four girls were between the ages of 15-24. Saturday Sun’s investigation revealed their modus’ operadi starts with visits by wealthy women around the Festac environs. These rich women in desperate need of children thus become patronising clients.
According to a reliable source, high profile women in all sorts of exotic cars are regular visitors to these girls of easy virtue. In most cases, a line up of flashy cars are packed especially in the evenings.
It was gathered that the business negotiations starts from 5-30pm till dawn.
To walk away with a healthy child depends on individuals arrangement and financial power.
The girls told Saturday Sun that at Agbo Malu, there are two specific methods by which you can become a proud recipient of a bouncing baby. You at liberty to choose which suits you.
Your level of desperation and need often determines your choice. However, the methods are; first, a girl of your desire is pregnanted, you bear the responsibility of taking care of her during her entire period of pregnancy.
You are responsible for her pre-natal expenses while she still resides in her house at Agbo Malu, you take care of her feeding, while paying her regular visit bringing all her needs especailly provisions. At birth, you also bear the responsibility after which, the teenage mother relinquishes her baby to you on leaving the hospital.
She is paid off. While you smile home with “your baby”, she walks back to her Agbo Malu enclave praying and waiting for another business opportunity.
The second option, Saturday Sun gathered is that whereby a prospective buyer walks up to a girl who readily has “a baby for flunging”. In this case, “the buyer” bears no extra-financial responsibility other than just paying for the normal cost of purchase.
However, for the cost of purchase, Saturday Sun investigations revealed that a baby girl goes for N150,000 while the price tag for a male child is pegged at N200,000. For twins, you cannot pay anything less than N450,000 although you might be lucky to get some discount but the prices remain unchanged for single births.
Your business authomatically ends on the exact spot and time where you receive your baby.
Three times a mother
For some girls, Saturday Sun gather that mother luck seemed to have signed a pact with them and so smiles on them with business fortunes on a regualr basis. A particular girl confided to Saturday Sun the fact that she had given birth three times and the three times, she had sold them out.
She said that she had come from Benin about seven years ago, settled with her friend for the regular red light business.
For the teenage Bini girl, “The kind of money I wanted could not easily be got from that place. What I got was mostly short time of about N500 each session. So I figured that wasn’t the best place to make money.
More so business was small” she said.
She told Saturday Sun that she left her Bini home on a mission. Her elder sister in Belgium had failed to take her over to her base. Twice she had tried, but was dissappointed and she knew that Lagos was another hot spot that provided her with enormous opportunity to make it in life.
“So my friend brought me to Agbo Malu and since then, life has been good.”
She said she also told us that she had supplied babies twice in the last three years, now she is heavy with the third one.
Business as usual
Though she had struck business as usual with “my madam” but for the recent demolition of the place. Worried whether on her madam can trace her given the current development, she revealed with a sense of confidence that “I have her GSM number and so I will tell her what happened”. Their greatest worry before she can contact her madam was the cut-off of her regular provisions.
Adducing reasons why she took to this business, another of the girls, a Ghanian said it was due to the sharp economic downturn of the country and the fact that “to get husband to marry no easy, so how I go do. I no go chop? Naim make me come dey do this business and e good well, well. And I know say, here no worse pass Maroko that time” she lamented.
Even after the demolition of the place, the male residents are still hanging around. Incidentally, the palce was not only occupied by these girls but even stranded families who have no where to lay their heads and single guys.
As at the time of our visit, boys were seen lying on the ruins of the place.
Saturday Sun was told that these guys are not engaged in any form of employment rather they lazy about all day and only to take off at nights for nothing in particular.
Looking hagard, unkempt with dirty, dreadlocks, big necklaces and studs, Saturday Sun was hinted by concerned residents of the hgih crime rate in the neighbourhood which maynot be unconnected with the idle hands lying about the enitre area.
Living in fear
However, the residents also spoke of their uneasiness, discomfort and palpable fear at the inssessant and indiscriminate smoking of carnabis by the hoodlums who not only have become societal nuisance in the whole of the Janet Fajemigbesin neighbourhood but have also become threats to the entire area.
Speaking to Saturday Sun, some of the boys said “this place is not worse than the old Maroko and now that it is destroyed, we have no where to go to”.
Earlier on, while speaking to Saturday Sun, some residents of Agbo Malu had alleged that the demolition of the place had been facilitated by the Assemblies of God’s Church situated directly opposite them.
When cantacted, Bro. David Obok, Head of Administration, of the church however denied the allegation. Confirming that the people actually had constituted nuisance in the neighbourhood through their indiscriminate smoking and indecent manner of dressing of the girls.
Bro Obok said that the major problem they also had against them was the issue of defeaction.
According to him, the residents of Agbo Malu had been in the habit of defeacating and throwing it into their compound of which the church authorities severally warned them all to no avail. This, he said they reported to the Amuwo Odofin council authorities.
The incident, the church adminsitrator said repeated itself again, inspite of the fact that the local council had put up a sign post with an option of fine on any defaulter.
He said though the notice had helped to checkmate the situation but it never stopped completely.
Bro Obok however said that the likely reason for the eventual demolition of which they had prior notice of the demolition, was that the management of Durbar Hotel had proposed to construct a link road which would run across the length of Agbo Malu.
He noted that the people had severally underestimated the consequences of the council’s numerous warnings but hoping that the demolition will come after the April polls.
Saturday Sun’s investigation revealed that the entire residents were feeling unsafe and unease at the unruly behaviour of the Agbo Malu boys and girls.
We also gathered on good authority that the boys who lay about all day only go out at night to perpetuate evils from armed robbery to raping.