It was initially a case of a missing seven-month-old pregnant teenager, Patience Edet Okon, who was tracked to a church compound, Great Mercy Deliverance Ministry located at No 5 Giwa Street, Rumuolumeni in Obi-Akpor Local Government area of Rivers State by detectives attached to the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT). The church premises turned out to be a lucrative baby factory.
Patience who has since been delivered of a baby boy sold to a childless couple was rescued on June 17, 2020 along with six other teenagers in the church founded by one Maureen Martins who uses part of the premises as private maternity home.
According to investigations, Patience’s parents who are based in Akwa Ibom had, in a petition to the IGP, alleged that their 19-year-old daughter whom they suspected was heavily pregnant was missing and could have gone to sell the baby.
During the raid by the detectives, three pregnant teenagers were rescued. They are Loveth Emmanuel, 19, who is five months pregnant and hails from Ngor Okpalla in Imo State; the second is Chisom Emmanuel, 18, from Ohaji Egbema in Imo State and is presently seven months pregnant. The third is Chioma Ifeanyi from Ukwa East and five months pregnant.
Also found in the church compound was Patience Edet Okon who was reported missing by her parents. She had delivered and the baby sold to a couple from Delta State. Also found in the church was another teenager who identified herself as Favour Friday. She was caught waiting to sell her newborn twin baby girls. She gave birth on June 14, 2020. The third teenager, Chizaram Chukwudi from Ibeku in Abia State also had a baby boy same day and the nurses had concluded arrangement to sell the child before the police raid.
According to the teenagers, a woman known as IB convinced them to come to the church and deliver their babies. They were all found with unwanted pregnancies with no man, laying claim to the babies.
The detectives discovered that IB who is currently on the run normally goes to ghettos in Rivers and neigbouring states to scout for pregnant girls. She would lure them to the church where they would give birth. Most of the girls who are not aware of the plan would be told that their babies died at birth while some who voluntarily came there would be paid a paltry sum as cost of buying their babies. They would be advised to get pregnant and come back if they need more money.
Maureen during interrogation told the police that she has lost count of the number of babies delivered in her church since 2019 that IB started bringing pregnant girls. “She would simply take care of the girls and when the babies are born, they would be sold to the highest bidder”, she stated.
According to a police source, the detectives also discovered about seven rooms in the church premises, used for the baby factory business. Baby boys are sold N1.5 million while the girls go for N1.1 million.
Police also traced and arrested a couple, Henry and Ifeyinwa Otugbara who confessed that they paid N3.5 million for the twins who were born by different mothers.
Over 18 babies sold since 2019
Begging for mercy, Maureen Martins confessed to the police that she knew that most of the women brought to her by IB were not pregnant but they were given drugs that made their tummy to swell. “ I am the General Overseer of Great Mercy Deliverance Ministry and mother of two. I established this church in 2014 and it’s mainly for pregnant and expectant mothers. They come here to pray for the fruit of the womb and successful delivery. I am a trained nurse/midwife, so I also encourage them to attend antenatal in my clinic which in the same compound. The name of my clinic is Corner Stone maternity. I met IB through one Miriam who is my customer. Miriam used to help me find children for my members who want to adopt. It was Miriam who brought the idea of deceiving some of these women that they are pregnant. If couples are made to believe that the child is theirs, they will pay more. I have delivered about 15 children for IB and two of them were given to Ifeyinwa.”
On how she managed to deceive Ifeyinwa and her husband, Maureen claimed that she does not know the type of drug that IB gave her. “When she came to my clinic, her stomach was already swollen as if she was 9 months pregnant. IB had already alerted me, so I took her through the process of checking a woman that is pregnant. After few hours, IB put a tablet in her vagina to induce her. Naturally, she would be having cramps like she is in labour. It was then that I inserted my hands inside her vagina and gave her a cut. She was not conscious so it was easy to fool her that the bleeding was as a result of the baby. We already had a standby babies from Favour and the Akwa Ibom girl, Patience.” The female church General Overseer said she regrets her action and is ready to repent. She confessed that she had been arrested before but let off the hook due to lack of evidence. “I was arrested in the past by NAPTIP but they later released me on bail when they couldn’t find Miriam.”
Desperate to be a dad
One of the suspects, Henry Otugbara from Delta State lamented that it was his desire to become a father that landed him and his wife in trouble. “I got married in 2014 and after two years there was no sign that my wife could conceive. We visited several hospitals and prayer houses in search of solution. It was in our quest that my wife met one woman who promised to take us to the final place where we will get solution. The name of the woman is IB, that is what they call her.
“She started giving my wife drugs and also advised me to have constant sex with her. In less than six months, her stomach started growing big and her leg swelling. Madam IB told us that she is pregnant and we should be attending antenatal in her maternity home. During check up, she kept assuring us that the pregnancy was progressing and very soon my wife would give birth.
“They gave us a date to come that they want to induce her into labour as the baby was ready to come out. IB gave her something inside a bottle and she started feeling dizzy. They told me to wait outside that the midwife would attend to her, that I should just pray for a safe delivery.
“About two hours later, a nurse ran out shouting that my wife has given birth to twins. I was so excited that God decided to give me double portion of blessing.
They showed me two newborn babies with placenta and I also noticed that my wife was bleeding. While I was celebrating, she told me that although she was very dizzy that she only felt pain when they spread her leg and gave her a cut. I told her to stop arguing that God has given us twins that she might be confused because she was unconscious. I promised her that we will do DNA in the future and she agreed and we went home with our babies.
“I paid N3.5 million for delivery and all medication given. All was well till police came to our house and arrested us after three days. They accused us of buying stolen babies. It was when we got to the police station that we saw two young girls who admitted that the babies were taken from them. Heaven knows that we were deceived. I cannot deliberately spend money to buy a child that I do not know the source. They could be the seed of notorious criminals. I was only desperate to be called a father, that was why I fell into their trap,” he stated.
His wife, Ifeyinwa claimed that she met IB’s agent in a bus. “I am 36 and from Delta State. I have been married for six years without a child. The pressure was already much on me and my husband’s people were making mockery of him that he married an old woman. I was in a bus going to Asaba when I heard an advert by a woman that anyone that is barren will get solution from them through the use of herbal drug. I collected their number and when I called, one woman who introduced herself as IB told me that she will help change my story. She gave me some herbal drugs and said that it will build my immune system and I will definitely conceive. Just like a joke, in less than a month, I started vomiting and having all the symptoms of a pregnant woman. I told her and she asked me to continue taking the drug as the pregnancy progresses. They told me that there was no need to go for antenatal, as the scan will deceive me into believing that I am not pregnant.
“After about seven months, IB called me that the baby was ready to be born. My whole body was swollen and I actually looked like a pregnant woman.
“I travelled to Port Harcourt to their clinic for the delivery. They gave me a tablet and in less than 30 minutes, my whole waist was on fire. The midwife said that I was in labour, that I should come and lie down and push. I suddenly became unconscious, by the time I became conscious, I saw two newborn babies by my side. I was shocked but happy because they were two of them.”
When asked if she ever suspected fraud, Ifeyinwa said that she did but in her own case everything was real. “During the years that I was waiting on the lord to bless me with children, one of the prayer ministries that I attended told me that someone from my village was behind my problem. This was why I believed them and refused to go for scan. I am sorry; I never meant to take any child that does not belong to me. They deceived me.”
We thought our babies died
In an attempt to convince the police that they knew nothing about the sale of their babies, some of the teenagers alleged that they were deceived into believing that Mrs. Maureen Martins and IB were operating a home where homeless pregnant girls can run to.
According to Favour Friday, she had no choice but to travel down to Port Harcourt with one Precious when she realized that she was pregnant. “I am 18 and from Abia State and I live in Aba. My boyfriend is also 18 and still lives with his elder sister. When I discovered that I was pregnant, the pregnancy was already five months. I managed to hide it till I was seven months; it when I was trying to find a way out, I met Precious at a motor park. She was the one who told me that there is a place that I can give birth and I will be taken care of.
“As soon as I was eight months, they told me that my baby was weak and that they needed to bring him out early. I was induced and gave birth to a baby boy. He was alive and they told me that it was not necessary to breastfeed him as he was weak. 24 hours later, they told me that my baby has died. It was after police arrested us that I was told that my child was sold for N2.5 million.”
Loveth Emmanuel on her part claimed that she decided to seek for help when her mother threw her out of the house. “I am from Imo State and when my boyfriend got me pregnant, my mother was so angry and threw me out of the house. My boyfriend who is also a student in my school agreed to marry me but his parents refused to accept me.
“They insisted that I should go back to my mother. I was frustrated and trying to abort the baby when one woman gave me IB’s number. They promised to take care of me till the baby is born. I took the offer since it came free of charge. They only said that when I deliver the family of my boyfriend would pay the hospital bill. There are so many of us there and some have delivered and left. I relaxed and even started attending the church; I was heartbroken when they told me that my baby died at birth. I was waiting to fully recover and travel back to my state when police raided the church.”