|proud mother or baby thief?|
Mysteries appear to the dogging the lives of a Nigerian couple living in the United Kingdom. The woman had developed a protruding stomach, which grew to the size of full pregnancy. Doctors in the UK had confirmed they heard and felt the heartbeat of a baby. However,a scan, urine and blood tests showed non-existence of a pregnancy.
Feeling that the situation defied medical science, the couple, Mr. Patrick Okolie and his wife, Dorothy, from Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, sought solution in Nigeria. They were introduced to a hospital in Aba, allegedly known for using herbs to treat women with such problem. The owner of the hospital assured them that the case would be handled. With herbal treatment and regular antenatal attention, Dorothy delivered a baby. She told Saturday Sun that she breastfed the baby.
Back in UK, the coupe is on the verge of losing the baby, which was christened Esther, to social services. Also, they risk going to jail for alleged child trafficking.
The Okolies’ trouble started in February 2010, when Dorothy’s stomach started protruding, after the couple had longed for pregnancy in their two years of marriage. Although the woman’s stomach increased by the day, scan, urine or blood tests in all hospitals the couple visited in the UK gave a negative pregnancy test. Worried by the development, the couple informed their extended families in Nigeria about the development. They were advised to return to Nigeria and seek alternative help.
Saturday Sun gathered that Dorothy returned to Nigeria in August 2010, where she was referred to Revival Specialist Hospital & Maternity, Umuode, in Aba, Abia State. She got assurances that managers of the hospital were specialists in using herbs to aid smooth delivery of babies. Also, she was told that testimonies abound of women, who had successfully delivered with their help.
Similar tests on Dorothy in Nigeria also did not detect any pregnancy, yet her stomach was as big as a pregnant woman in her ninth month of pregnancy. Also, the managers of the Aba treatment home said they heard the heartbeat of a baby in the womb. On November 9, 2010, Dorothy gave birth to a baby girl, in the presence of a family friend, Annabel Chinyere Igwenyere.
The Okolies then began the process of the mother and daughter returning to London. Baby Esther was issued with Nigerian e-passport number: A02416641 and they formally applied to the British High Commission for visa. Mother and child kept their appointment at the high commission on December 15, 2010 and Baby Esther was granted an EU entry permit.
Dorothy and Baby Esther had returned to London on December 23, 2010 and another mystery unfolded. Believing that the baby did not have proper medical care in Nigeria, the couple took Esther to hospital for medical check up. Some blood samples were taken from both Esther and her mother. The test revealed that the baby had no blood link with Dorothy. The hospital then alerted the police.
According to Mr. Okolie, “on March 10, 2011, our home in London was invaded by the police with officers of social services. Baby Esther was taken from us and Dorothy was arrested. After interrogation, my wife and I were officially granted bail on charges of kidnapping and child trafficking. The police conducted DNA test, which again showed that we were clearly not Esther’s parents or even related to her.
“The local authorities then excluded us from caring for Baby Esther, which we promptly challenged, hence the case was charged to court. While the case has been taken to court, the police have, however, not charged us for anything, while investigations are on going. The case has now gone to the highest family court in the UK.”
Okolie said that the court ordered two more DNA tests and the results confirmed that the Okolies are not the biological parents of Baby Esther.
“The final ruling has been made on January 17, 2012. The judge, in her ruling, concluded that my wife falsely presented herself as Esther’s mother at the British High Commission in Nigeria in order to obtain travel permit to the UK. Based on her judgment, my wife and I have been excluded from further care proceedings of Esther with immediate effect. On the same date, the judge commenced, with the local authorities, the final arrangements to place Esther into adoption. But my wife and I pleaded with the judge to stop the local authorities from doing so till February 14, pending the outcome of the complaints/petition letter we filed with the Abia State command of the States Security Services,” Mr. Okolie said.
February 14 has come and gone and the Okolies have not made any headway. Dorothy told Saturday Sun: “Scientifically, Baby Esther is not ours. It’s not my fault because I arrived London thinking this was my baby. I never knew some people were playing a very cruel joke on us. It is not fair that she should be placed on adoption. We are willing to keep her while we get to the bottom of this eventually.”
Mr. Okolie is also shocked. He lamented: “This is the most embarrassing situation we have ever faced in our entire lives. Yes, it was two years after our wedding in December 2008. There was no point to be desperate. My wife was never confirmed to be infertile, neither was I. If we were, there are several options, including adopting legitimately. There was no way we would have done this through the back door and earned this disgraceful toga of ‘kidnappers and child traffickers.’ I wouldn’t wish this for my worst enemy and that is why we are determined to not just clear our names but also to locate our biological child, alive or dead.”
He revealed that his wife is pregnant at present and due to deliver this month in London.
“This is just God’s way of proving Himself that we are both capable of giving birth to our own child. All we wanted was a solution to a mysterious pregnancy, but today we have been given a name that is not ours and we are determined to clear our names. I’m not sure how many people hearing our story, including the authorities handling the investigation back home believe us. I say this because through out this ordeal we have heard remarks that suggest clearly, ‘we don’t believe you.’ We don’t blame those people because NAPTIP has shown us evidence of people in similar situation later confessing that they actually were involved in things like this out of desperation for a child. Well, I can tell anybody who cares to listen, we are not one of those people. Our records in UK clearly state that we have no criminal record,. There was no reason to. In the testimony of one of those who committed this heinous crime, she stated clearly that my wife was not party to this. It was an arrangement we innocently walked into, in our desperation to find solution to a mysterious pregnancy.
“It was based on the scientific evidence the court, police and the local authorities had against us in London that we decided to officially report the matter to the various authorities back home in Nigeria, especially in Abia State to carry out extensive investigation on the management and staff of Revival Specialist Hospital & Maternity, Umuode, Aba, Abia State, and the role they played in this whole saga. We want to actually know what happened. A lot of scenarios have been painted, but it’s left for those in charge to unravel what actually happened. One of such scenarios, which we also see as a probability, is the explanation that maybe our child was given to another mother, who probably had previously given birth to girls and wanted a boy this time.”
Okolie revealed that he and his wife have asked for the following parties to be investigated: Dr. Stephen I. Odimba, Miss Blessing Chikaodi Odumegwu and Miss Stella Sunday, the doctor and midwives, as well as other people, who work in the hospital in Aba.
“We want to know if there was any kind of discrepancy that took place during the birth of Baby Esther. When we contacted them, as regards the problems we were facing concerning Baby Esther in the UK, they maintained that she was the baby my wife gave birth to on November 9, 2010, but in the face of three DNAs, all confirming scientifically that we are not the biological parents of the baby, you can just imagine the dilemma we are in,” Okolie said.
The Okolies, based on advise by NAPTIP, had petitioned the Abia State Security Service (SSS) asking that it investigates the matter.
Saturday Sun gathered that Dr. Stephen I. Odimba and Miss Stella Sunday, after their arrest, admitted that Mrs. Dorothy Okolie is not the biological mother of Baby Esther. They both confessed that Miss Blessing Chikaodi Odumegwu, who is at large, sourced Baby Esther. They revealed that Mrs. Okolie was never pregnant and did not give birth to any child in the hospital.
Also, it was gathered that the midwives injected Dorothy with substances that inflated her tummy to make her appear pregnant and subsequently induced false delivery and that the birth certificate from the said hospital, signed by the doctor, was forged. Detectives from Abia State SSS believe that Mrs. Okolie was hoodwinked into believing that she gave birth to Baby Esther.
Miss Stella Sunday, in her statement to the police said: “I recall the birth of the child whom I know to be called Esther to Mrs. Dorothy Uju Okolie. She was under the care of Dr. Stephen I. Odimba. She attended the clinic accompanied by another woman Mrs. Chioma Uneanya, who is cousin to Mrs. Dorothy Uju Okolie. I met Mrs. Dorothy Okolie on the 17th August, 2010. This was her first antenatal appointment... Mrs. Okolie arrived the hospital on 9th November at 6p.m. accompanied by her sister, Chinyere. She was examined and induced with delivery herbs remedies.
After an hour, Mrs. Okolie fell into labour and she was monitored until 10.45 p.m. She gave birth to her baby girl and the baby was later cleaned and properly taken care of by me. She weighed 3.4kg.
“Mrs. Okolie was discharged from our hospital the next day by Dr. Stephen I. Odimgba. She took photograph with members of the hospital team and maternity birth certificate was issued to her. She later left for home.”
When contacted, via email, the Abia State Command of the SSS refused to comment officially. A source, who pleaded anonymity, however, said that since the investigation was on the request of NAPTIP, the report has been sent to them and advised that clarification on the matter be directed to the agency.
Director of Investigative Department of NAPTIP, Mr. Kaura, when approached by Saturday Sun said, child trafficking and kidnapping were common among some unscrupulous elements, particularly in the eastern part of the country, with a strong syndicate across Europe.
While admitting being aware of the Okolies’ case, he said NAPTIP, in response to the Lambeth local authorities in London, had submitted its findings, in accordance with international treaty, which Nigeria is signatories to. He said that by the Act setting up NAPTIP, it was restricted in its role in handling the matter, aside providing answers to questions asked or findings.
NAPTIP had, in a letter dated November 2, 2011, in response to Joy Allen, Legal Executive Advocate, Governance and Democracy, London Borough of Lambeth, Room 208, Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton Hill, London SW 2 I RW, confirmed the receipt of an email dated October 31, 2011, asking it to confirm the status of Revival Specialist Hospital & Maternity Umuode, Ode Ukwu Autonomous Community, Osiosioma Local Government Area of Abia State and activities of Dr. S. I. Odimba, both in respect of Baby Esther.
According to NAPTIP, in this letter: “Investigations has revealed that Abia State Ministry of Health, which has the statutory mandate of registering and licensing hospitals to operate in the State, has formally confirmed to the agency that the said Hospital/Maternity is not registered with it; there is no information about the academic qualification of Dr. S. I. Odimba; and the Nigeria Medical Association, Abia State, is currently investigating the activities of the hospital and Dr. S. I. Odimba, it’s operator. It is hope that the foregoing will suffice and assist in your investigation, please.”
The Okolies had written a letter to the Executive Secretary NAPTIP, Mrs. Jedi Agba, pleading for assistance not only to clear their name but also to unravel the mystery surrounding the birth of Baby Esther.
The letter read in parts: “We are writing to bring your attention to this our recent ordeal, which I suppose you should be aware of. This is because there has been serious communication between your agency NAPTIP and the Lambeth local authorities here in London UK concerning the Child, Baby Esther.
“Please, attached are details of our initial complaints, which we have registered with Abia State Security Service. We resorted to this after the local authorities here in UK tendered copy of letter duly signed by Mr. E. S. Kaura on behalf of NAPTIP to the Court. We have in turn approached Mr. Kaura through one Pastor Charles Nweke, as regards to the letter. He advised that we engaged the State Security Services in Nigeria for private investigation, which we have done and there has been tremendous progress, as the parties involved have been rounded up by the intelligent and untiring men of the State Security Services, thereby producing positive result. We have also attached copy of the recent reply from the State Security Services in Abia State, as a preliminary investigative report.
“We are, therefore, asking you to use your good office to officially respond positively in details to Lambeth local authorities London, UK, which the Highest Family Court here in the UK has ruled the case in their favour to place Baby Esther for adoption, as we are being accused of kidnapping and trafficking her.”
NAPTIP, according to findings, is yet to write to the authorities in UK. The Okolies case, would now be heard in April when their fate and that of the baby would be decided.
Dorothy told Saturday Sun: “We still see Baby Esther as our baby, even though scientifically she is not. We don’t want her placed on adoption, but at the same time we also need to get to the bottom of this. The persons with the answer to what transpired in that delivery room on November 9 are Miss Blessing Chikaodi Odumegwu and Miss Stella Sunday. They are the only ones that can tell the world that we knew nothing about this deadly plan of theirs. If I was told I lost my baby at birth, I would have long forgotten my grief, but not for some people to manipulate the process and give me a baby that is not mine, because I am not that desperate.
“Today, my husband and I have been labelled kidnappers and child traffickers. My advice right now to other mothers who gave birth in that hospital is to go and do DNA in order to be sure they were not swindled, as we were or else they might face this type of embarrassment in future. It is wicked to subject anybody to this kind of trauma. You don’t need to play God in your desperation to make money. This is the last thing these people should be allowed to do, they must be brought to book, no matter how connected they are.
“We intend to locate our biological baby, dead or alive once I put to bed this February, by God’s grace.”
...Hospital still in operation
From OKEY SAMPSON, Aba
Despite the arrest of a doctor and midwife of the Revival Specialist Hospital & Maternity, Umuode, Aba, Abia State, following the petition of Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Okolie, it was business as usual in the hospital within the week.
When Saturday Sun visited the hospital on Wednesday, the gates were wide open and business moving. A middle-aged woman, who sells foodstuff close to the hospital, said hospital was closed sometime ago. She, however, attributed this to slide in business.
“Yes, there was a time the hospital was closed, but I do not know why. It was like they were not getting patients then. Now, business at the place seems to have improved and the hospital is reopened,” she said.