Cases of newborn babies abandoned on refuse heaps, in public conveniences or by the roadside are on the rise in the Federal Capital Territory.
Penultimate week, a baby suspected to be a day-old was found dead on a refuse dump near a hotel in Gwarinpa. Police said the corpse, which was evacuated by officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) still had its umbilical cord.
Before the Gwarinpa incident, another baby was found in Kuchigoro, an urban slum in the FCT. The placenta was yet to be severed from the baby. This incident occurred as residents were yet to recover from a similar incident in Kubwa recently.
The Kubwa incident saw a baby girl wrapped in a cloth and dumped near a transformer. Witnesses said the baby was discharging fluids from the umbilical cord. The infant was rushed to the hospital by the police in an attempt to save its life.
Residents of Gwagwa were also stunned when they found a newborn baby on a refuse dump. In this instance, the baby, which was in a black polythene bag, was still alive. Residents said the infant’s cry alerted people to the scene. This incident occurred one month after an abandoned baby was found in Karmo, another urban slum.
A resident, Aminat Imonikhe, said nothing would justify the action of the culprits. “What could make a woman carry a pregnancy for nine months only to dispose the baby? That is wickedness,” an angry Imonikhe said.
She said though most people link their reasons to ignorance, unwanted pregnancy or denial by their spouses, these should not force them to dispose off a newborn baby, because it is ‘a bundle of joy,’ she enthused.
Another resident, who preferred to be called Idowu, said the present economic recession might have forced some people to dispose their babies but was quick to add that, even if the economy improved, there would still be cases of people abandoning their babies.
He reiterated that no matter how bad the economic situation was or how terrible the situation surrounding the pregnancy, dumping the baby at refuse dump was never the answer.
Mohammed Yakubu said his aunt recently found a baby abandoned in a public convenience at Lambata. He said the baby, which he suspected was few days old, was kept in a carton and hidden at the public convenience before it was found by his aunt.
He said the incident brought to the fore the increase in this menace which he said was gradually becoming alarming.
The president of Child Basic Rights Advocacy and Restoration Foundation (CHIBRARF), Onyinye Nwosu, confirmed the rise in the cases of abandoned children and outrightly condemned it. She said women who were not ready to care for babies should use contraceptives during sexual intercourse instead of getting pregnant and disposing the babies.
She said: “Poverty is the cause of some of these abandoned children we see on the streets. Some of the women do not have the money to cater for the children. So when they see the responsibility attached to nursing a child, they feel the best way is to abandon the child.”
But the Chief Imam of Al-Habibiyah Mosque, Fuad Adeyemi, said fornication should be discouraged, adding that they have led to unwanted pregnancy and rise in incidences of child abandonment, which is not allowed in Islam. He said, should the baby come as a result of illegal sexual relationship or from married couples, disposing it was the same thing as murder.
He said the Qur’an warns against killing one’s child out of the fear of poverty.
“It is Allah that feeds you and your children. It means if you keep the baby, Allah will give you bliss because you have just gotten a child. If you kill the baby; it is something that is abhorred by Almighty Allah. It is same thing as killing a soul,” he said.
He, however, called for the need to sensitise people to desist from illegal sexual relationships, and that before they have a child, they should know that it was Almighty Allah that gave a child and only He could provide for both the parent and the child.
On his part, a Port Harcourt-based Pastor, Emmanuel Ewu, said any mother that abandoned her baby can’t be a mother in the eyes of the lord.
Pastor Ewu, who is of the Chapel of Victory International Churches, while reading from Isaiah 49:15, said there were possibilities that mothers abandoned their babies but said in such cases God does not forget them. He attributed the surge in the menace to lack of value for the infants’ lives.
“If you have value for the child, you will not abandon the baby.
“People should be taught the value of a life. Though some pastors are talking about it, I will urge others to start doing so. Pastors should teach about the value of a life and preach against child abandonment in the society,” he said.
President of CHIBRARF, Onyinye Nwosu, harped on the need for the women to care for their babies and not throw them away. “We tell them that if they can carry the child for nine months, then they should not abandon the child,” she said.
Nwosu added that the group had been rehabilitating mothers who had indulged in the act while she called for the involvement of the government in addressing the situation by improving the benefits for newborn babies.
An Abuja-based legal practitioner, Abubakar Sani, described the act as infanticide. “Eradicating it is a challenge for government on all levels, traditional rulers and civil society organisations,” he said.
Sani called for more sensitisation on the issue, adding that anyone contemplating it should be informed that society offered credible alternatives such as adoption through formal and informal channels like orphanages, churches, social welfare offices, etc.
The FCT Police Command confirmed that there had been little success in apprehending the perpetrators of such acts due to inadequate cooperation from residents.
The command’s spokesperson, ASP Usen Omorodion, said the police were aware of the recent incident in Gwarinpa but that nobody had been arrested, though he said an investigation was ongoing.
“People should assist the police, if you have anybody that you know is pregnant and you don’t see the baby afterwards and you have reason to suspect them, you can tell the police. That is information sharing,” the PPRO said.
He further said the police would intensify sensitisation of residents as part of moves to curbing the menace.