When Gina (not real name) left Adagom refugee camp in Cross River state on August 25, strapped on her mother’s back, the nine-month-old had no inkling she was not going to return to rejoin her peers. She was being sold to a stranger who had visited from Calabar, the state capital. And guess the ”transfer fee”? N70,000, including benefits!
The mother, whose name is Claudia, a 20-year-old woman, has been at the refugee camp since she arrived in Nigeria in October, 2018. She escaped the crisis in Cameroon, pregnant with Gina, alongside 40,000 other refugees to seek asylum in Nigeria.
Sadly, living in the camp has been hellish for her, according to sources at the place. The high point of her experience was three weeks ago when she struck the deal to sell her child for N70,000.
HOW THE BABY WAS SOLD
Charles Ojon, leader of the refugees in Adagom camp, told TheCable the buyer, whose name could not be immediately confirmed, came to the camp where he met a resident named,Victor, a barber; seeking a child to adopt.
“The boy that bought the baby told the barber to find someone to stay with him. So, the boy agreed to help him get someone,” Ojon said.
He met the girl and explained things to her. It was when the girl came that they later agreed she will sell the baby to the man. She followed him to a hotel in town where they stayed till the next morning before he settled her and paid her the money.
“I remember when she came to the camp pregnant, she delivered shortly after she arrived here but has been struggling to survive.”
SHE WANTED ONLY N40k FROM THE DEAL
“The barber told her she will take N30,000 while he collects N40,000”
The deal seemed to have been successful until Claudia returned to the camp with the money — and it was time to settle Victor who linked her up to the buyer.
They were said to have agreed to share the money at the ratio of N55:45 but trouble started when Victor insisted on taking the lion’s share.
Elvis Manget, one of the refugees on the security team of the camp, told TheCable the deal was discovered when an argument ensued over the money.
“The barber told her she will take N30,000 while he collects N40,000,” he said, adding that the woman protested.
“She said no, that it is her child; so she will take the N40,000 while the guy takes N30,000. So it was when they were trying to fight that we saw them.
“The police came and they found out the money. Already, the other man had left with the baby. The barber was called and both of them were taken to the police station but he was later released.
“The money was collected from her and kept. They have been calling the guy but he is not picking. We told him there is a job we want him to do but he said he has already gone to Calabar and up till today, the police are looking for him.”
Adogom refugee camp sign post
Some of the refugees who said they witnessed the incident spoke of how Claudia has been suffering since she arrived at the camp. Upon interrogation, the woman was said to have blamed her action on hunger and hardship.
“When the police came, said she sold the child because of hardship; that there is no food or anything to feed the child,” Ujom told us.
That was just before they paid us for July. Then, everywhere was dry. A lot of us have been selling our things and using them to settle debt.”
Ujom’s claim was corroborated by another refugee who said he first met the woman when she had a case with a resident of Ogoja whom she had an affair with.
“A Nigerian had earlier been here to take her to his house, they slept but he did not pay her after their business,” the refugee who declined to give his name told TheCable.
“So she came to report the matter to us, that was when I first saw her and the kid. We were sent to go and bring the man and the matter was later settled.”
Although Irene Ugbo, spokesman of Cross River state police command, told TheCable she was not aware of the incident, the camp coordinator and an official of the state’s SEMA, who said his name is Andy, confirmed the incident but declined to make further comments.
“I know of such case but the police is handling it now,” he told TheCable over the phone on Sunday.
TheCable had reported how some of the refugees complained about the poor living conditions in the settlements and in the communities.
Those in the camps complained that they hardly get aid such as food and money — each refugee is meant to collect N7,200 as cash-based intervention monthly — while those in the host communities said they had been forgotten.
Tony Aseh, UNHCR reporting officer in Ogoja, Cross River, told TheCable the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which oversees the welfare of the refugees, is facing “severe funding gap“.