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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 11:02 GMT
Nigerian orphanage 'sold babies'
A young survivor of child trafficking in Togo (c) 2002 Jonathan Cohen /Human Rights Watch
Nigeria has promised to tackle child trafficking
A Nigerian orphanage has been closed down and its owner, a female pastor, arrested after allegations that it was at the heart of a baby-selling scam.

Police say the orphanage looked after unmarried girls during their pregnancies and then sold their babies on to childless couples.

Hospitals in Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos, were also involved, police say.

Fifteen pregnant girls and four babies are being looked after by Nigeria's social welfare agency.

Padding

The husband and daughter of the 46-year-old pastor have also been arrested.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos says the pregnant girls were told their babies would be adopted through official channels.

Child previously "freed" from slavery in Nigeria
These children were rescued from granite mines in Nigeria
They were paid $180, while the babies were allegedly sold for $1,000.

After giving birth, some of the girls returned home without anyone knowing they had been pregnant.

A police spokesman said sometimes, the husband of the couple buying the baby was unaware of what was happening.

A woman looking for a baby would be told by the orphanage to fake an accident and go to a hospital which was part of the scam.

Doctors there would "discover" she was pregnant and ask her to attend ante-natal classes.

Each time she attended, doctors would increase the padding over her stomach to make it appear as though her pregnancy was developing, until finally, she gave birth.

A doctor has also been arrested.

Way of life

This is the second alleged case of child trafficking discovered in Nigeria in a week.

A woman was arrested after 56 children were found in her truck last week.

Police accused her of bringing them from central Nigeria to work as domestic servants in Lagos.

The government has pledged to tackle the problem and last year outlawed trafficking and set up an agency to deal with offenders.

But officials say it is hard to crack down in a country where people are poor and where trafficking has become an accepted way of life.




SEE ALSO:
Nigerian police 'free' children
07 Mar 05 |  Africa
Nigeria's 'respectable' slave trade
17 Apr 04 |  From Our Own Correspondent


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