How Govt Officials Forcibly Took Away My Three-month-old Baby – Ondo Mother

A 40-year-old woman, Mrs Opeyemi Adegboyeya, who recently cried out over the alleged disappearance of her son in the custody of a juvenile Home, Akure under the supervision of the Ondo State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, talks to PETER DADA about the incident

 You alleged recently that your son went missing in the custody of the Ondo State Juvenile Home. Can you explain how it happened?

I am Opeyemi Adegboyeya. I am 40 years old. I was an out-patient at the Ondo State Neuro-Psychiatric Specialist Hospital in Akure as I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression. So as an out-patient, I did go there to take drugs. A few months after I had a baby, I broke down again as I was not feeling well. On that day, when I discovered that I wasn’t feeling well at about 9:30 pm, I went to the neuropsychiatric hospital with my baby and two other children.  When I got there, I was asked what happened and I told them how I was feeling and they said I was carrying a baby and two other children. They asked about my husband and I told them he was not around, so they told me to sit down and I did. I slept on the chair there till daybreak, and in the morning, they administered an injection to me and said I was sick and might not be able to take care of my children, particularly the baby, properly.

What did they do next?

So, they said they would take custody of my three children so that when I got well later, I could come for them. So, I called my mother. When she came, she called her friend, one Alhaja Momoh, and the woman said the hospital workers should not take my children from me, and that my mother could take care of me and the children. The hospital workers declined and said they were representing the government and they must take the three children, including my baby. After four hours of arguments about the issue, they agreed to release two of my children, Mariam and Zainab, to us, and took the three-month baby, Oluwaseun Omoniyi, from me.

When did these happen?

All these happened in 2017. After taking the baby from me, they handed him over to the officials of the state Ministry of Women Affairs; we even took pictures on that day.

After that, my mother took the two older children back home and took me to a psychiatric hospital where I was admitted for treatment. After a month, I was discharged from the hospital when I got better. I spent about a week at home and went back to the Ministry of Women Affairs. I met a senior official in the office and asked for my baby and he told me to go and call my mother which I did, but we did not meet him in the office when we returned that day. So, I had to come back two days later with my mother. When we went back to the office, the senior official told my mother to sit down and told us that the baby had died.

How long did it take before you went to the ministry after your baby was taken away from you?

Everything happened within two months. I was in the hospital in December 2017. I was discharged in January 2018 and I went to meet him (the ministry official) in the office two weeks after I was discharged. He said the baby died and I asked how. The man said he (the baby) hit his head on the floor and died. At that time, the baby was about five months old. I was shocked and started crying. So, I left his office in sadness. I was crying at the entrance gate of the ministry when one man who saw me crying asked me what happened and I told him I lost my child. He showed sad and said the child had gone the same way. I asked him what he meant and he said God would do wonders and advised me to go home. I started crying when I got home and later became depressed. I was later taken to the hospital for proper care after thinking for too long.

When all these happened, where was your husband?

When I told him what happened, he went there (the ministry) and they told him that the remains of the baby were deposited at the morgue of the state specialist hospital in Akure, and if he went to the mortuary, he would see the child’s corpse. When he got there, the mortuary workers told him that they had not received the corpse of any baby in the last three months. Everybody was confused about what could be happening. At that time, my husband was still alive.

When did your husband pass away?

He died three years ago and we were on the case before he died. It was part of what killed him because he kept thinking about the matter over and over again. That was his only male child. My other children are females.

Did the mortuary workers check their records to confirm what they told your husband?

The workers brought out their records and showed us that they had not received any dead baby in the last three months. Since then, we’ve been on the case and we had to get a lawyer who has been pursuing the matter for us free of charge.

Did you believe what the ministry official told you? Or what do you think could have happened to your baby?

I have a strong belief that nothing happened to my baby; the workers in the ministry might have sold him. I did my findings and I discovered that that is what they do there in the ministry, especially if the baby is a boy. They always believe that if the mother of the baby is a psychiatric patient, she can’t come back to her normal self; they sell her son and say that he died. If it were a baby girl, one could still meet her there, but a baby boy is like a hot cake for them to sell.

Why do you think your baby could have been sold?

A junior ministry official also confirmed to me that it’s their normal practice and that they share the money among themselves after selling the baby. I want my child back. I want justice. The day I went back to see him (the ministry official), he ordered me to leave his office. The workers at the ministry almost beat me up that day, I had to run away; that was about four years ago. The workers accused me of lying against them. They said they would deal with me if I came back. They all told me to forget about the baby because he was dead, but I said they were lying and that my child was still alive.

If they said the baby died, were you given the child’s death certificate?

No, I was not given any death certificate. They didn’t even inform us when the child fell sick. I just got there to take my child and they told me he was dead. They didn’t tell us anything. It was when I went there to get my child back that they said he was dead. We even gave them two mobile phone numbers when we left the child with them so they could use them to contact us in case of necessity.

Did you inform the police when this happened?

I didn’t go to the police station. My mother told me to leave it to God. She said she didn’t have anyone who would fight for her. However, her friend refused, insisting that we must take a step, and that was why we contacted a lawyer to act on it. My lawyer informed the Department of State Services about the case.

What step did the DSS take?

They made some arrests then. It got to a point that the DSS said the boy was still alive. It’s officials told us that they were under pressure to drop the case and eventually, the officer who was bent on investigating the case was transferred out of the state. Before we went to the court, my lawyer wrote to the ministry, the state Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, the wife of the governor, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the Attorney General, and some other stakeholders but there was no response.

What did your lawyer tell you about the case when the DSS officer was transferred?

My lawyer told me that he was informed about what happened by a DSS officer that the officials of the ministry may have sold the baby, but the way it is, they want to protect the government from being embarrassed. Also, they didn’t want any embarrassment for the ministry. The officer said the family needed prayer on the matter, and that he was under pressure from everywhere before his eventual transfer. So, the DSS did something but the other five people we petitioned – the governor, the wife of the governor, and others didn’t respond.

Have you received any response from any of them?

There has been no response from them till now. People forcefully take babies from their mothers who were medically challenged and claim that the babies died, and there was no medical report, nothing at all. They even told us that they deposited the corpse in a mortuary. We went to the mortuary and the hospital told us that in the preceding e months before that day, no child’s corpse was deposited. If they were responsible government officials who took possession of children, the fact that I even alleged that a child disappeared in their custody three years ago and they didn’t do anything means that they know something about it. So, there is complicity somewhere and we saw it. The DSS officer told us that they had sold the baby and we also believe that the baby is still alive. It was based on our petition that we learnt that many of the officials at the ministry were transferred.

No document was shown to our lawyer. That is our case. That is why I am using this opportunity to appeal to the state government to investigate this matter and order the officials of the Ondo State Ministry of Women Affairs to produce my baby wherever he is. He will be six years old now. He is not dead.

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