Nigerian baby factory raided
Lagos - Police in southern Nigeria have raided a purported orphanage where they found 17 pregnant girls, arresting the owner on suspicion of planning to sell their babies, a spokesperson said on Saturday.
The owner and a young man "suspected of having been hired to impregnate the girls" were arrested, police spokesperson Emeka Chukwuemeka told AFP.
"We are suspecting that young girls are deliberately encouraged to become pregnant so once they give birth to the child, the child will be sold to interested persons, maybe childless couples," he said.
Police acted on a report of "suspicious activity" at the institution in Ihiala, in the southern state of Anambra, that claimed to be an orphanage, Chukwuemeka said.
The police were trying on Saturday to contact the girls' parents.
"We're making arrangements to reunite the girls with their families; we believe they have parents," he said.
It was not the first time Nigerian authorities have dismantled a so-called baby factory.
In May, police in the state of Abia, also in the south, freed 32 pregnant girls thought to be forced bear children destined for sale.
Some of the girls said they were promised between $150 to $180, while the children were sold for between 300 000 and a million nairas, according to the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP).
Human trafficking is widespread in West Africa, where children are bought from their families to work in plantations, mines and factories or as domestic help.
Others are sold into prostitution, and less commonly they are tortured or sacrificed in black magic rituals.
Human trafficking is the third most common crime in Nigeria after economic fraud and drug trafficking, according to the UN cultural agency Unesco.