By Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu
ADOPTION is a legal process pursuant to state statute in which a child’s legal rights and duties toward its natural parents are terminated and similar rights and duties toward his adoptive parents are substituted.
It is also an order vesting the parental rights and duties relating to a child in the adopters, made on their application by an authorised court.
However, child fostering is a form of adoption in which a child is placed into a home as a foster child, with the expectation that the child will become legally free and be adopted by the foster parents.
Following observations that adoption laws in the country are state-based and in most cases stringent and applicants complain that it takes years before they can adopt a child, observers feel the situation may be the reason behind the springing up of “baby factories” in some parts of the country.
Consequently, there is a general notion that baby factories are established to serve those
who want to have children but cannot go through the adoption laws.
In Nigeria, adoption may be effected under the statutory law. However, as with all adoption procedures, rules differ from state to state: adoptive parents must foster their children for at least three months in Lagos but must foster for at least one year in Akwa Ibom, while Abuja allows adoption if and only if one parent is a Nigerian.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) management, therefore, seeks to investigate the phenomenon and to ascertain if couples “desperately’’ need children that they can call their own or there is more to it.
However, the NAN survey found that states in the North-East sub-region of the country are yet to make provision for the adoption of children in their statute, as they prefer child fostering.
The survey conducted in Bauchi, Borno,Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe states show that whereas there are people in dire need of children to adopt, authorities in those states prefer allowing such applicants to serve as ‘Foster’ parents.
Adoptive parents are the child’s parents forever, just as if they have given birth to the children themselves.
A primary difference between adoption and foster care is the type of commitment, as “Adoptive” parents are the child’s parent forever, just as if they are the child’s biological parents.
Foster care has no legal process and it is a temporary commitment, whereas adoption is a legal and a permanent arrangement.
Mr Audu Haruna, the Director, Social Welfare Department, Adamawa Ministry for Women Affairs, Youths and Social Development, said that the state has provided for Foster child and Parent policy as against Policy of Adoption of children.
He said, “we do not have a child adoption policy in Adamawa, in place of that, we encourage foster child policy.”
He added that the ministry has a Child Rights Protection Department responsible for the implementation of the child fostering policy.
He explained that couples who want to foster a child must write an application and physically appear before the department for an interview to determine their suitability or otherwise in terms of their source of livelihood and character.
According to him, the state government has Children Home in Yola, where abandoned children are kept, and those interested in fostering a child must pass through various government agencies and extensive investigations before approval.
He noted that “even after approval and release of the child to the couple, they must sign an agreement letter that the child is not under any adoption.
“The child will still remain part of government property and from time to time, officials will be visiting to ensure that he or she is being taken care of properly.
“Couples shall also make the child available to government at least twice in a year,” Haruna said.
On the Child Rights Act, Mr Titus Simon of UNWomen said that a bill is before the state’s House of Assembly.
Simon said that various organisations have been calling on the House to pass the Bill into law.
On the existence of “baby factory” in the state, Mr Sulaiman Nguroje, Spokesman of the Police Command in Adamawa, said there is no such factory in the state.
In Bauchi State, the State Orphans and Vulnerable Agency (BASOVA) says only indigenes are eligible to foster babies in its custody.
Mr Adamu Abubakar, the Head, Child Protection and Rehabilitation Department, told NAN that
part of the requirements include secure and conducive environment for the child.
Abubakar said that the agency often conducts investigation to ascertain the reputation, health and state of mind of applicants, among others.
“The agency partners with security agencies to monitor and ensure the safety, health, education of the child after entrusting custody on applicants.
“For any person to get a child from the agency, he or she must not only apply, but must also present an introductory letter endorsed by his or her community leader,” he said.
On where such babies are sourced, Abubakar says the agency receives orphans and vulnerable children from police, traditional leaders and Social Welfare office.
He said that in the event of non-compliance to guidelines and terms of agreement, the child would be withdrawn immediately.
In Borno, however, where people of the state are still battling with deluge of children orphaned by insurgents, there is no specific policy on ownership of such children, hence the call by some residents for domestication of the Child Rights Act.
Muhammed Maigana, Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the state and also a member of the Committee on the Domestication of Child Rights Act, said proposal for the domestication of the Act is pending before the state’s House of Assembly.
Maigana said that following the absence of the law, the traditional way of child fostering is considered as an option.
Similarly in Gombe, the state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Mrs Naomi Joel, says the state government only gives out children for fostering and not adoption, after satisfying laid down requirements.
“We do not want a situation whereby a child will be molested or lack proper upbringing from foster parents,” she said.
She says presently, there are applications on ground but the agency does not have a single child at the orphanage.
Mrs Elizabeth Okotie, the Chairperson of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in the state, says “for now, there is no law on adoption in the state.”
According to her, the law will be in place when the state domesticates the Child Rights Act.
Also in Yobe, Malam Musa Audu, the Social Welfare Officer, Ministry of Youths, Sport, Social and Community Development, says that the state has no provisions for child adoption but child fostering.
He said “there is no provision for adopting children in Yobe because Islamic injunction does not give room for adoption of child, rather, it allows one to foster a child.”
Audu explained that the requirements for fostering a child in the state include being an indigene of Yobe, economic ability to cater for the child, as well as being without a child.
“A foster parent must also be of sound character, must write a ‘Will’ to apportion part of his wealth to the child in case of death, as foster child cannot inherit anything from foster parent according to Islamic injunction.”
He adds that in a situation where the terms are violated, the ministry has the power to take over the child and end the relationship.
Audu says most of the children being fostered are either abandoned or separated from their biological parents and relatives as a result of insurgency.
While stakeholders in the North West part of the country say the zone has not uncovered any baby factory, they said orphanages are being run under strict supervision.
Government officials and lawyers told NAN in separate interviews in Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto and Kebbi that adoption of child must go through the court and only granted after background checks of applicants by relevant officials.
In Kano, the state government has constituted a nine-member committee for fostering of children, especially orphans and those abandoned.
Hajiya Binta Nuraini, the Director, Child Development in the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, said “we don’t adopt in Kano State because it is a Muslim state, shari’a law is practiced and majority of the people in the state are Muslims, we only foster.
“We have a nine-member fostering committee which the state government constituted to take care of that.”
Nuraini says the committee include a retired Social Welfare officer as the Chairman, a Police Officer as the Secretary, Director of child development, an educationists from the Ministry of Education, Legal Officer, Medical practitioner and two social welfare officers as members.
According to her, when a child is abandoned, the person who picks the child will meet the Ward Head of the Area and report to the police before bringing the child to the Ministry, then to a medical unit at Muratala Muhammad Specialist Hospital, Kano.
“If someone is interested in fostering, we have Nasarawa Orphanage in Kano, he or she must first write an application to the Ministry, and if the foster-parent is a lady, she has to bring a consent letter from her husband and a guarantor.
“The home of the applicant will be visited by a Social welfare officer to find out the condition of the house.
“The social welfare officer will bring a report on whether the applicant will foster a child or not, a file will be open with pictures of the foster parents and the child”.
The director notes that the file will be taken to juvenile court in the process and temporary custody of the child will be given to the foster parents before the court order will be given.
“Frequent visits will be made by social officer to make sure that the foster child is being taken care of as the child grows, we back off so that the child will not know they are not his real parents.”
Also, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Hajiya Amina Yusuf-Yargaya, says that courts have the jurisdiction to make a fostering order in line with the state’s 1986 law on child fostering.
On the issue of “baby factory, ” the permanent secretary says there are no such factories in the state.
In Kaduna State, the government has taken census of orphanages and children in such homes, their source of income and developed strategies to monitor their operation.
According to Hafsat Baba, the Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, the government has uncovered cases of trafficking of children from such orphanages.
“We found out that there are many ophanges being established in Kaduna State without following due process and also the adoption and fostering process.
“We started having reports of child trafficking some in these facilities set up as orphanages as cover up.”
Baba says that the government initially banned fostering and adoption of children in the state for two years to sanitise operations in orphanages.
She adds that a new child protection law has been signed into law, while proprietors of orphanages have been directed to form association for easier engagements with government.
Baba says that the ministry has adoption forms and certificates which have security, as such, before any child is given out, they have to follow the processes to ensure protection of the child.
She notes that the state also formed an adoption and fostering committee which include members from the ministry, security agencies and representations from NGOs.
“After application, you will be screened by the adoption committee and when eligible to have the child, then they approve, the certificate will go to court and will be processed and you get your certificate and the child.”
According to her, the adoption process normally takes a month for a couple to get a child for adoption.
She explains that under Kaduna State Orphanage Regulations, an orphan is not supposed to keep a child for more than three years.
The commissioner said that a recent case of children trafficking in Kano State being handled by NAPTIP was traced to an illegal orphanage in Kaduna.
“They don’t have any document to show that they are operating legally and then they were using that orphanage to actually traffic children.
“They were found to be associated with the Kano nine that were taken to Anambra. That orphanage has been shut and the children taken to Kano.”
Baba also said that another children home, Orphanage Rock of Ages in Nassarawa Kakuri, Kaduna has been closed down by the government when a woman who bought a child from the facility at N170,000 was caught in Abuja.
She says investigation is ongoing by a special police team from Abuja.
“As I speak to you, the child is with us with the ministry in the State Government orphanage and investigation is ongoing,
“NAPTIP is also part of those that are investigating and whoever has a hand in it will be proscuted.”
Meanwhile, a Magistrate, Umar Ibrahim, has explained the adoption process, saying when a couple wants to adopt a child, an application for adoption shall be made to a higher court in the state.
Ibrahim said the applicant, or in the case of joint application both or, at least, one of them and the child are resident in the state.
He stated that where the applicant is a married couple, their marriage certificate or a sworn declaration of marriage; the birth certificate or sworn declaration of age of each applicant must be made available.
Others are: two passport photographs of each applicant, a medical certificate of fitness of the applicant from a government hospital for the purpose of adoption.
Ibrahim also said that the court shall order an investigation to be conducted by a child development officer; a supervision officer and such other persons.
He said this is done by the court to be able to determine the suitability or otherwise of the applicant as an adopter and of the child to be adopted.
“The court shall in reaching a decision relating to the adoption of a child, consider the need to safeguard and promote the welfare and the best interest of the child throughout the childhood.
“The court shall not make an adoption order in respect of a child unless the parents of the child or, where there is no surviving parents and the guardian of the child consents to the adoption, or where the child is abandoned, neglected or persistently abused or ill-treated and there are compelling reasons in the interest of the child why he or she should be adopted.”
A lawyer, Stephen Moses, said the Kaduna State Adoption Law states that the applicant, or in the case of joint application, both or, at least, one of them and the child must be residents of the state.
He says the applicant has to be resident or in the case of a joint application, both of them have to be residents in which the application is made for a period of at least five years.
“The applicant has to have at least 12 months before making the order, inform the social welfare officer of his/her intention to adopt the child and also the religion, customs and traditions of the parties are considered.
“The chief registrar of the court shall keep and maintain a register to be called and known as the “Adopted Children’s Register” in which shall be made such entries as may be directed by an adoption order to be made therein.
“Where an adoption order is made in respect of a child who had been the
subject of a previous adoption order made by the court under this Law, the order shall contain a direction to the chief registrar and the commission to cause the previous entry in the Adopted Children’s Register in respect of that child to be marked”Re-adopted”, he stated.
Adamu Isah, another lawyer, said no adopter shall receive or agree to receive any payment or reward in consideration for adopting or facilitating the adoption of a child except with the sanction of the court.
He stated that no person shall make or give or agree to make or give to an adopter any payment or reward the receipt of which is prohibited.
“A person who contravenes this
commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N30,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.
“The commissioner of women affairs and social development shall, in granting a licence to the adopter after giving consideration to the wishes oft the child having regard to the age and
understanding of the child,” he said.
Isah further stated that marriage between an adopter and the child adopted is prohibited and any such marriage shall be considered a crime as an adopted who marries an adopted child in violation of commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
He said the commissioner shall keep his/ herself informed from time to time of the condition and welfare of a child adopted by any person in the State and arrange for officers of the Department to pay periodic visit at reasonable times, to every child adopted.
He also said that during any visit, the officer paying the visit may require production of the adopted child or that information be given regarding the condition of the child.
Isah noted that a person who without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with a requirement imposed by the officer or obstructs the officer in the exercise commits an offence, adding that the person is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three months or both.
In Kebbi, Hajiya Aisha Muhammad, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Services, says the state has never recorded any case of “baby factory.”
“We don’t have baby factories here. What we have are orphans and dumped babies in the orphanages.
“These are what we have, and we use the Federal Government’s Child Rights Act, 2003 as adoption law for prospective child adopters.”
Muhammad explained that prospective child adopters must first write an application for adoption to court as prerequisite for the adoption.
“Where the applicant is a married couple, a marriage certificate or sworn declaration of the marriage must be accompanied with the application.
“The birth certificate or sworn declaration of age of each applicant, two passport photographs of each applicant must also be provided.
“Medical certificate of the fitness of the applicant from the hospital and such other documents as requirements and information as the court may require for purpose of the adoption,” she said.
Muhammad added that the court, after reaching decision on acceptance of the application, might consider the need to safeguard and promote the welfare and the best interest of the child throughout childhood.
“The court may on the application of a person, make an order under the act referred to as an adoption order.
“An adoption order shall be made in respect of a child unless, other issues as specified in the acts,” the permanent secretary said.
The Director of Child Development and Welfare, Alhaji Atiku Alkali, said that the ministry prepares report to assist the court in determining the obligation and respect of the child to be adopted.
“We give consent subject to conditions with respect to the religious persuasion which the child is to be brought up.
“It may not be necessary for us to know the identity of the applicant for the adoption order, ” he said.
Malam Yusuf Buhari, who adopted a child, says he is highly glad and happy when he adopted his male child after several years of being childless.
“The procedures, if you are patient, are simple.
“Nowadays, thorough measures must be taken before an orphan is given out to those who want to adopt, owing to the change of time.
“When I came here, I thought I would just get a child and go, but with the procedures and routine checks of the child by the officials of the state ministry for women affairs, orphans would be happy to follow prospective adopters,” he said.
In Sokoto State, Mrs Ummu Usman, the Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Social Development, said the state has no “baby factory,” but runs just two orphanages under strict supervision.
She said the two orphanages are run by the state government which funds their services.
– Feb. 17, 2020 @ 08:35 GMT |