An Alleged Rogue Doctor, a Federal Licence
When I was practicing as an attorney in Nigeria, a certain medical doctor frequented the courts. Before then, I knew him for his successful medical practice. I passed his five-story building at Okigwe Road each morning to get to work. But then, I would see him in court, seating on one of those hard uncomfortable benches. He had fallen so low, from grace to grass. It was rumored that the Catholic Church had stripped him of his honor as a knight of St Mulumba. His wife had divorced him. He was being investigated for human trafficking, for harboring unwed pregnant teenagers and paying them money for their babies which he subsequently sold to wealthy couples. A different version of the story had it that he actually encouraged and enticed the young girls to get pregnant for his profitable venture while posing as an orphanage that offered succor to pregnant teenagers with unwanted pregnancies.
That was about five years ago. Recently, I read that the Doctor had been arrested for child trafficking in Owerri. My first thought was: Again? I scoured many sources to confirm it was a recent incident, that it was not the one from five years ago. It was indeed recent. The police in Imo State raided his ‘Homeless Babies Home’ in Owerri where sixteen pregnant teenage girls found living in two rooms in unsanitary conditions were rescued. The young girls were said to give birth without pain relievers and sometimes labor was induced prematurely to satisfy waiting patrons. After delivery the girls were coerced to give up their babies for between N50,000 to N200,000. While all the articles I read on the incident did well in giving graphic details of the event, none but one mentioned that he had previously been indicted for the same despicable enterprise in Aba, a city less than 30 miles from Owerri. He relocated to Owerri after his brush with the law in Aba, then got a license to run the home. How did someone who had been investigated for child trafficking in Aba successfully get a Federal license to run a homeless babies home in a neighboring town? Either there was a corrupt official involved or there were no background checks done. From my experience, it is unlikely there is a system in place for the latter in Nigeria.
I do not know the doctor’s motivations when he opened the home in Owerri. It could well be that, on the advice of his lawyers, he got the license after his indictment in Aba to comply with the laws on adoption in Owerri. However, with the subsequent police raid of the homeless babies home and the findings made, it is obvious there was lack of due diligence in the issuance of the license.
Getting a Nigerian Passport
When I applied for a Nigerian Passport, I didn’t need to prove my citizenship. Once the officials talked me into paying N18,000 for express service, N8.000 above the oficial fees, they couldn’t care less if I was from Mali or Ghana. There was no way for them to find out anyway since most Nigerians have no birth certificate issued to their parents at birth.
Nigeria has no record, no database of its citizens, we are all undocumented and that is why corruption will continue to be our undoing. Without fingerprints to identify its citizens, Nigeria will continue to be home to terrorists, hoodlums and yahoo boys. Any one can open multiple bank accouts with different names and swindle single white women of their hard earned money.
A Convicted Cashier, a Nigerian Governor
A few years ago, facts came to light that a sitting governor had been convicted for theft by a Nigerian court – a fact that if true would have disqualified him from contesting the governorship election in the first place. His opponents sought to impeach him. The only evidence they had was the magistrate that reportedly convicted him: his testimony that from his recollection, the governor was in fact the man he convicted years ago. Does it mean that Nigeria doesn’t keep record of even images and date of birth of its prisoners? The governor’s attorneys successfully argued in the court that heard the case that sought to remove him from office that the only proof that was reliable enough to prove identity was fingerprints. The Nigerian Prison Service could not produce it. The governor continued to be in office in Nigeria. It was later discovered, in an unrelated event, that he had been convicted in UK twice, once for involvement in theft from a store he was working and another time for handling stolen credit card. His forgery of a new birth certificate and passport to cover his past crimes were uncovered through a fingerprint check by European authorities.
Needless to say that our ineptitude at keeping records jeopardizes the efforts of other foreign governments who take their duty to fight crimes seriously. Unfortunately, foreign countries have to rely on our unreliable police reports to decide people who are eligible to visit their country. I doubt that any such Nigerian Police Clearance Report has returned unfavorable to an applicant. There is hope in the horizon as foreign governments are stepping up and doing what they can to curb corruption globally. United Kingdom in 2012 sentenced James Ibori, the ex-convict turned governor, to 13 years in prison for money laundering in connection with his corrupt practices while a governor in Nigeria.
While writing this article, I checked online to see if Nigeria prisons now fingerprint inmates. I didn’t find the information I needed. I contacted someone who works with the Nigerian Prison and he told me that inmates do get fingerprinted. I was elated but only for a while as further inquiry revealed that the fingerprints are done on paper with ink and that Nigeria Prisons do not collaborate with the Nigerian Police Force to maintain a record that can be referred to when there is need for background check.
When the former Central Bank of Nigeria governor Sanusi Lamido mandated all banks to operate a biometric data identifiaction for all bank customers, I thought that finally, Nigeria was making effort to solve its identity problems. But just few months after the announcement , the governor was removed from office. If the past is anything to go by, that initiative will die with the exit of the former CBN governor. Although there is indication that the program is scheduled to go on anyway, one hopes that whoever is currently in charge has the adroitness and integrity to see that the exercise is successful and doesn’t end up being a sham like the National Identification Card project was.
On a personal note, I have ditched my old habits of sending receipts and bills to the trash since migrating to a country where you are doomed if you don’t keep records . For example the US govt in 2012 rolled out a program that grants a deffered action for undocumented immigrants. It involves among other things proving applicants have been living in the US since 2007 and that they came into the United States when they were under the age of sixteen. Many people who qualify are not applying because they don’t have the documents to prove their eligibility. So before you throw away that old receipt, you may want to think twice.