A 28-year-old Nigerian woman, Ijeoma Ndoku, has exposed her Liberian husband, Daniel Barnney, who allegedly sold their nine-month-old baby, Emmanuel, for N250, 000.
The woman who said she started suspecting him last November after his employer informed her about his plans to sell their child and flee to Ghana, told police operatives in Lagos that he tricked her and fled with the baby in January.
He was however arrested at Mile two on February 12, by operatives of the Festac Police Division, for selling the baby to a 43-year-old “barren” woman identified as Ekah Richard for N250, 000.
Also arrested were a pastor Samuel Osavitu and a worker at an orphanage home identified as Alhaji Sunkanmi Adamu who aided the illegal transaction.
According to Ndoku, they have been having issues following her refusal to allow him to take their son to his supposed aunt, whom he never allowed her to meet.
Ndoku said aside starving her and the kid, Barney who always claimed that he was being owed salary usually assault her each time she complained of his addiction to alcohol and cigarette.
Debunking claims by Barnney that she abandoned the child, Ndoku said that he fled with him while they were on their way to buy groceries.
“It’s a lie! I didn’t abandon my baby. He said he wanted to hand the baby over to his aunt, to care of. I said it was okay since his aunt was now in Nigeria. I said it will give me opportunity to look for a job and support the family because he has not been taking care of us.
“For over three months, he has been saying he does not have money to take care of me and my baby but he usually had money to buy drinks and cigarettes. He could not even bring out N150 for me to buy pampers for our baby. Even when I wanted to take the baby to the hospital, I usually went and borrowed money, other times; our neighbours will give me money to carter for the baby.
“He used to get drunk and vomit. When I complained, he would bring out iron rod and hit it on my head. I fell down once, tried to go and open the door, but he dragged me back.
“I didn’t know his plan was to sell our baby. I said I wanted to see his aunt. He said if the aunt knows that I am around, she wouldn’t collect the baby. He asked me if I wanted the baby to die, I said no.
“Then, I told him that he should give me her phone number if he doesn’t want me to see her. He gave me a number which I called severally but it was not going through. I confronted him one day that the number wasn’t his aunt’s, he said his aunt had just travelled outside the country that was why I couldn’t get her,” explained Ndoku.
Continuing, the woman said her estranged husband who had taken the baby by force one day came to their house at Ajah, alleging that the aunt has travelled and that he would return the baby to her when she returned.
“I said okay, but I had made up my mind that I wouldn’t give her the baby unless I saw his aunt face to face. And since Daniel has been complaining that they didn’t pay him salary, I told him that I would take my baby to his madam, so that she would give us at least half of his salary.
“He said if I go, I would create more problems for him. One Sunday, we were going to church, when a woman in a jeep gave us lift. She was his boss. I told Daniel, that I must go and see her, but he said no.
“I told Daniel’s friend. I tried to trace the woman’s address, but Daniel’s friend said I shouldn’t go to meet the woman. He said I should contact her through her fliers. He said I should search Daniel’s bag, that I’ll see the flyer. I saw one and contacted her. She told me where to meet her and I went there.
“She told me that Daniel was planning to sell my son for N150, 000. She said that Daniel said after selling the baby, he would leave for Ghana. I didn’t believe her.
“The woman said I should come back around 4pm, so that I would hear the story from some of her assistants. I told Daniel’s friend. He doubted the story too, so he followed me.
“It was in his presence that the woman told us everything. She said she became curious and concerned after she noticed Daniel was always with the baby. When she asked, Daniel told her that I abandoned the baby and ran away. She asked for my number, so that she could speak to me, but Daniel refused. That was when she knew Daniel was hiding something.
“I told her that Daniel told me that the baby was with his aunt. She said that was part of the reason she withheld his salary.
“So, Daniel’s friend said we should go to the police station to report. When I got home, I told Daniel what his madam said, his friend also confirmed it but my husband ran from home again.
“He ran away in November, but we used to speak on phone. He claimed he was in Port Harcourt. I told him to send us money that the baby was sick but he never did until January 18, when he sent N5, 000. Because Emmanuel was sick, I immediately took him to the hospital even though the money wasn’t enough.
“I have been keeping my baby in a day care where I pay N500 daily since he fled. I did it to enable me do petty trading and I pick him up in the night.
“On January 29, he called again around 2pm that he wanted to come and see his baby. When he came, I took him to the day care I used to keep our son. He went ahead, while I packed my wares. When I got home, our neighbours were happy for me; they said Daniel was back. They said I shouldn’t quarrel with him. They said I should forgive and forget.
“He later gave me money that I should go and buy things for the baby. Because I was suspecting him, I said we should wait until Monday. But he noticed and now said that we should go together if I was thinking he would hurt his child.
“I said okay. I wanted to strap the baby to my back, but Daniel said no. He said he would carry the baby. It was as though we were struggling over the baby. And we were outside. People were looking at us. So, I allowed Daniel to have his way.
“We mounted the same bike. He said I should go and buy milk for the baby. I got down from the motorbike, but when I turned back, I didn’t know when Daniel left with my baby. I searched for him and called him severally, his phone was switched off. Everyone started calling him. When we finally got him, he said he was in Anambra State.
“I said it was a lie. He couldn’t be in Anambra state around 11pm, with my baby. He said if I wanted to see my son, I should come to Port Harcourt. I said okay. When I got to the park, I called him to give me address, that I was at the park, about to board bus, he said he would call me when he’s ready and then he ended the call. I tried to call him again, but he had switched off.
“I was worried and I called his father, he said he hadn’t seen Daniel. On February, 9, I called Daniel, he said I should never call him again. I called 15 times and when he finally picked, he placed the phone next to a radio. I was speaking to a radio or television. That was how I went back to the police station where I had reported the matter earlier,” she said.
But Barnney, 32, who admitted to have received N250,000 from the woman through Adamu, said the money was given to him to start up a business.
He denied selling the baby, insisting that his wife abandoned the child and since he could not carter for him alone, he decided to take him where someone will look after him, while he would be visiting.
“My wife’s name is Oluchi, not Ijeoma. I married her from her parents in Imo State. We did introduction. She came to Lagos with me, got pregnant and absconded after delivering our baby. Our child was less than a month when she ran. She did not take care of him for up to one month.
“We had a quarrel and she ran away, leaving the child. I woke up around 5am and she had gone. We went to welfare centre at Jakande, Ajah. Anytime we had a quarrel, we’ll go to welfare centre. I don’t hit her, but we had series of problems.
“So, when she ran and I went to Welfare centre, they collected the baby and took him to Alausa. They said government would take over caring for the baby. They said I wouldn’t be able to visit him and so, I rejected the idea because I want to be able to visit my child.
“I told them that I would find somebody to take care of the child. They called Oluchi on phone, but she refused to come. Her parents even said I should collect my baby and allow their child to come back to them. I later begged her come back. She did not, but after two months, she sent us away. She said she wanted to live her life.
“I went to an orphanage home, I wanted them to be taking care of him, while I would be working and coming over to check on him. They told me that once I keep him, I wouldn’t be allowed to see or visit him.
“When I was leaving, this guy (Sukanmi) called me. He said that I wouldn’t be able to take care of the baby alone. He said he would get someone to care for the child for me. I said okay. I couldn’t take care of the child alone, I had to call Oluchi. I told her that she should take care of the child, that I would ensure that I send money every month.
“She was there (Ajah) with the child and I moved to Mile 2. Every month, I used to send her money. I am a hair stylist. After three months, I went to check on her and the kid at Ajah. Our nine-month-old baby was lean and sick. The baby was bleeding through the nostrils. He couldn’t cry and his eyes were white. I feared for the baby.
“I called the orphanage guy and he said he had found someone who would take care of the baby. I knew that if I told Oluchi, she wouldn’t accept, so, I told her that we should go to the market to buy things for the baby. I told her to be at the front. I left with the baby. I went and gave him to the guy.
“I gave the baby to him. Yes, I know him and I know where I can get him. He gave me money. He said the woman gave me that I should start a business with it. She gave N250, 000.
“I gave the orphanage guy N20, 000 and pastor Sammy N30, 000. My wife started calling me. I told her to wait until I collect salary. That when I collect salary, I would take her to where the baby was, so that she can see him. I told her I would never leave the baby with her.
“She now went to report to the police, they arrested me, I went to call the orphanage guy and the orphanage guy called Pastor Sammy who took police to the woman’s home,” said Barnney.
Richard who claimed she never knew the adoption process was illegal, stated that she was advised by the pastor to adopt a child so that God can open her womb to conceive.
She stated that she lost her partner as a result of her inability to conceive, adding that she desperately needed a child since she was no longer young.
“Pastor Sammy is a friend, I met him in Satellite town. He knows my situation and know that I have been wanting to have a child of my own for over eight years without success. So, he suggested that I should adopt and I agreed with the idea. I asked him if he knew an orphanage home and he said there was a guy who works at an orphanage he knows and would ask him how to go about it.
“He later said he had contacted the guy and that he would give the guy my number so that we would be discussing.
“Around November ending, the orphanage guy (Sukanmi Adamu) called me. He said there was a baby for adoption. He said the father of the baby was a Liberian. That he wanted to give the baby out and travel. He told me the Liberian guy was living at Ajah and I insisted I wanted to see him.
“I went over there to see him. He said he would collect money from me, but that he would be coming from time to time to check on the baby. He asked for N250, 000, I gave him and he handed the baby over to me. He gave me the baby in January. It was a baby boy.
“But surprisingly on February 12, Pastor Sammy called me in the evening and said the owners of the baby wanted him back. The transaction and handing over of the baby took place in front of the orphanage home. The father gave me the baby, collected the money and left.
“When pastor Sammy told me, I said ok. So, policemen came to my place with the pastor and I handed over the baby to them but they said I should follow them. I didn’t know the procedure of adoption. That was why I called Pastor Sammy. I’m a trader. I sell fabrics. This mistake will not come again. I will follow the right way.
“Although, I am still waiting upon God, believing that God will bless me with my own baby, I wanted to adopt a baby, train and have it. To make the baby my own. I haven’t given up on having a child of my own.
But Osavitu (Pastor Sammy) who denied the allegation that he conspired in stealing a baby said he was only trying to help a barren woman, as well as safe the life of the baby.
He said: “I have known the orphanage guy for almost nine years. He’s a good man. He’s the manager at the orphanage. I used to go to the orphanage to preach there.
“Ekah Richard was never married but she was with a man who left her as a result of childlessness. She told me her problem. I told her to have faith in God.
“About a year ago, she called and told me she had stopped menstruating. She went to hospitals, but no solution. She said she would like to adopt. I told her that I have a friend who works in an orphanage, I promised to introduce them.
“Alhaji Sunkanmi said there was no child on ground yet, that he would alert if there was. He said other people were even waiting on a queue. I didn’t want anything to stain the name of the God I am serving. I don’t want a situation where people would start saying 419 pastor.
“When this baby came, he said I should call the woman. I did and they discussed. When the woman called, I was in the church. I handed the woman over to Alhaji Sukanmi. They did their transaction. I wasn’t there. She didn’t tell me initially that Alhaji asked her to bring money.
“She told me after the transaction. I asked if there was any document or written notes, she said no. I said I would go to Alhaji to ask for the documents, I will call her to come and sign. We were still on it when police came.”
35-year-old Adamu who claimed it was his first time to partake in an illegal adoption said he told the baby’s father to take him to his parents but he refused.
“He came to our orphanage severally. He claimed he didn’t have parents to cater for the baby that his family was in Liberia. He said someone used to care for the baby, but the person has now stopped. He said he couldn’t be taking the baby to work.
“The idea was to give the woman the baby, but not forever. She may be caring for the baby and God will bless her with her own baby. She said for us to know that she was serious, she would come with money. I didn’t demand for any money. The father didn’t ask for money.
“I didn’t even know that he used to see the mother of the baby. I was embarrassed on the day I was arrested. But I thank God that we saved the life of the baby. We never thought the baby would survive.
“If the baby was going to be given to the woman for life, I would have suggested the woman go to Alausa. She was just to take the baby for a little while.
“But Daniel wasn’t straight forward with me. He always told me that his wife was in Imo State. I didn’t know that he used to speak with his wife. When I see a young man, holding baby every morning, I feel sorry for him,” he said.