Some state in the South East region have adopted the Child Rights Act to stop abuses in the process of child adoption, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.
The states included Enugu, Imo and Anambra, while Ebonyi and Abia states were yet to respond to a survey conducted by NAN.
NAN recalls that the Act was promulgated in 2006 by the Federal Government for domestication by states to protect the rights of children in the country.
Respondents to the survey on child adoption process in South-East states said the process of adoption had been made been simplified and made free.
The stakeholders expressed delight over the development and called for full implementation of the law with enforceable sanctions.
In Enugu, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, the Chairman of Child Adoption Committee of the Ministry of Gender Affairs, said that child adoption was simplified and made easier presently in the state since the committee was inaugurated.
He said the committee, which has seasoned professionals, community and religious leaders, was constituted by the state government in 2016 after the state passed and signed the Child Right Act into law.
Chukwuma, also the Archbishop of Enugu Anglican Ecclesiastical Province, revealed that the committee had received over 4,000 applications of people who wanted to adopt a child in the state.
He said that the application would go through due consideration and investigation, while the process must be backed legally “to ensure that the child’s right is well protected’’.
The chairman said that the government through the committee ensures that those that wants to adopt any child are credible people with the capacity to take good care of the child without any form of molestation “since the governor is concerned about the future of these children’’.
“The adopted children are gotten from mothers who do not need the child. The mother is made to sign an undertaken that she does not need the child and that the government should assume responsibility of the child henceforth.
“The adoption process is very easy and not cumbersome. It begins after credibility of the adopter had been ascertained together with some other investigations. When this is concluded, we then place the child accordingly.
“We as religious leaders play the role of counselling the parents and child that have been adopted.
“The responsibility of the adopter is to perform all necessary duties as should be done by a parent if it were to be their biological child.
“The adopted child is entitled to all the parents’ inheritance and that’s the essence of the legal framework done before adoption process is concluded.
“They should not see themselves as foster parents because adoption in this case is totally different and holistic,’’ he explained.
NAN recalls that a week ago the committee met with the state’s Chief Judge on modalities to create family courts that would tackle child and family related cases including child abuse, molestation, trafficking and divorces, among other issues.
However, an Enugu-based human rights lawyer, Mr Olu Omotayo, said that although the Child Right Act had been signed in the state, it had not be domesticated since some physical and institutional provisions of the law were yet to be on ground in the state.
Omotayo, who is the former South-East Coordinator of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), stressed that the family courts and child foster homes that are important institutions needed and embedded in the Act, were not yet to be established.
He thanked Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for setting up the Child Adoption Committee that is bringing sanity, probity and responsibility to the whole issue of child adoption and welfare of adopted children in the state.
On rising cases of baby factories especially in the South-East, the human rights lawyer noted that the negative development had continued to grow since government officials and security agencies refused to take concrete action against the development.
“For some cases of baby factories and sales of babies I have investigated, it is clear that there is a tacit compromise between government officials and law enforcement agencies in protecting culprits involved and the homes or make-shift hospitals where these girls deliver and hand over their babies inappropriately,’’ he said.
In Owerri, a staff of the Ministry of Gender and Social Development, Mr Obinna Nneji, stated that adoption in the state was free.
Nneji however said a thorough evaluation and assessment of intending parents is done to determine their eligibility and preparedness.
He said applicants have to submit their application at a family court together with their marriage certificate, age declaration and certificate of medical fitness.
“Applicants are further investigated to ensure they will be able to raise a child satisfactorily.
“The income of the couple is investigated and their home inspected to ensure they satisfy the safety requirements in accordance with the Child Rights Act.
“Great care is taken to ensure that biological parents of adopted children sign undertakings that they willingly relinquish their rights to the child to avoid legal problems.
“This gives the adoptive parents the right to fully claim the child as theirs and procure a birth certificate after the adoption is finalised,’’ he said.
Nneji also said that the child upon adoption becomes entitled to the same rights as any other child the couple might have had biologically.
He stressed that the safety and welfare of the child is given priority in any adoption process.
An adoptive mother of two who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that adoption in the state could be done in less than five months or take as much as two years, depending on the process followed.
According to her, going through private homes for unmarried mothers such as those run by churches and managed by reverend sisters, is often easier as the paper work is easier.
She said that although the process of applying and determination of eligibility was similar, government owned institutions take longer to process.
She added also that while you would not pay for adopting through the government established orphanages, the fees are often exorbitant in privately run institutions.
According to her, most couples prefer going to such private institutions because of the shorter waiting list.
“Although you pay next to nothing when you apply through the state ministry in charge of adoption, you might have to wait for years before you can get your child.
“The process is somewhat fast tracked if you know someone who would be willing to move your name up on the waiting list.
“The process of adopting my first child through the government cost nothing less than N350,000 but it took a while before it got to my turn.
“However, I was advised to go through private means when I wanted to adopt my second child; in addition to a fee of N650,000.
“I also bought foodstuff and other provisions to donate for the care of other children in the orphanage where l adopted from.
“It cost me a total of N1.2 million for the second adoption including the baby care items they insisted l must buy and submit for inspection but l got my child four months from when l first applied,” she said.
However, in Anambra, Mrs Iruka Nwokedi, the state Deputy Coordinator of Coalition of Eastern Non-Governmental Organisations (CENGOS), urged governments to quicken the process of child adoption.
Nwokedi said quickening child adoption process by the state ministry of social welfare and women affairs would eliminate the patronage of baby factories.
“In Anambra, the first port of call is the Ministry of Women Affairs where one fills a form and is screened.
“It is only when the ministry is convinced that the adoption is not for trafficking that the process begins.
“There are many people on the queue who desire to adopt a child but most of them are frustrated and have resorted to visiting baby factories because the process is cumbersome due to bureaucracy,” she said.
Nwokedi, who is also a member of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), said in spite of the domestication of the Child Rights Act in the state, stigma still persist in the society.
“The problem why people don’t really go for adoption is because of the perception and stigma that goes with it, especially among uninformed persons,” she added.
Nwokedi expressed concern over the emergence of more baby factories in the state, noting that individuals pay about N300,000 to adopt a female child while the male child goes for about N500,000. (NAN)