7 'Miracle babies': Tension as DNA samples are taken

2011-07-16
VANGUARD Newspaper- Ishola Balogun

The embattled miracle birth woman, Precious Donatus Ogbonna was cold. Her voice wobbled, fighting back tears throughout the few hours she was let out of the cell for a DNA test sponsored by the Vanguard Media Ltd. Clad in a flowing gown with a jacket she wore weeks ago when Saturday Vanguard interviewed her in her house in Owerri.

She looked atrophied with the realities of detention visible on her. Even the innocent babies too had a fair share of the transformation and hash realities of detention.

They had mosquito bites and rashes on parts of their bodies. she was full of emotions throughout the period the DNA test lasted, only muttering few words to her family member.


Precious, Fineseed and an child during the DNA test
But very soon, the puzzle about her claim to have delivered seven babies in 11 months will be unravelled as samples for the test were taken last Monday in Owerri, Imo state.

The team, which included Vanguard reporters and the Chief Pathologist of PathCare Lab in partnership with a South African company, Dr. Segun Isioye was received by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, CID, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu in his office. The team escorted by eight policemen immediately drove in convoy of two Police Hilux jeep to the Nigerian Red Cross Society and Motherless Babies home behind the Government House, Owerri, few kilometres from the Police Headquarters where the babies are receiving care.

Some of the police escorts, including Precious Donatus carried the babies from the Red Cross home to the clinic and back to the home after the test.

At the Nigerian Red Cross Society and Motherless Babies home


Precious and IPO Pedro at the Redcross motherless home


The home which has about four detached halls blocks has 16 babies between the age of 4 months to two years in a well ventilated Babies Hall that takes over 20 baby cots. No security men were seen. Source hinted Saturday Vanguard that a policeman was seen around the home during the first week of the babies in the home and wondered why the guard was discontinued in view of the controversy surrounding the birth of the babies.

When the team entered the babies’ hall, five of the babies screamed in a high voice simultaneously as soon as they saw their ‘Mother’ Precious Donatus. The eldest, Conqueror, cried loudly, pointing at Precious, defying others who offered to carry her. The action pulled the ‘Mother’ to tears as she wept.

At the Police Clinic

The clinic specifically meant for the police in the state headquarters, is located about three kilometres away from the police headquarters. Away from the bustling and hit of the town, it was as if the area was meant for that purpose alone, you could count the number of houses in that vicinity. But that is where the sickly police officers in the state visit when the need arises.

In the clinic’s waiting hall, Precious took time to inspect the babies. As the bio-data of the babies were being taken, she examined the babies thoroughly. She had seen them once since the three weeks she was thrown in detention. She battled tears that proved unstoppable as she saw mosquito bites and rashes on the skin of the babies. She could not contain the pain. She asked some of the police officers, including this reporter to see the mosquito-bitten bodies of her babies appealing that adequate care should be ensured on the babies.

The blood samples were taken in a small doctor’s consulting room in the clinic. Precious who took the first turn was asked to carry the babies in turn for their sample. It was done in order of their births. She continued to examine the bodies of the babies one after the other as as she intermittently complained of skin problem the babies had developed, just as the screaming of the babies while conducting the test attracted sympathy from even the police. We gathered it was not too long ago that the police took the babies’ blood for genotype test.

Her husband, Mr Donatus Ogbonna, who came later to the clinic, did not utter a word even when he saw his embattled wife at the waiting room. Neither did he seek to carry any of the babies. After the test, when Saturday Vanguard sought to ask his opinion about the test, he declined comment, saying he would not grant any interview based on the first publication made.

The test was supervised by the Medical officer of the clinic Dr, Ndubuisi Chukwudi Frank, (CSP) and the Investigating Police Officer of the case, B. S. Pedro.

At about 5:45pm, the babies were returned to the Red Cross after the test. The Matron of the home when asked to comment on the babies and the home, declined comment , saying she was not permitted to make any comment on the home or the babies there.

ACP, CID briefed

The team returned the babies to the home and went straight to the police headquarters to brief the Assistant Commissioner of Police, CID. In the ACP, CID’s office, the samples were signed and sealed by the suspect, Precious Ogbonna and Vanguard Media Ltd and Pathcare Lab.

The ACP disclosed that other preliminary tests had been conducted and the results were ready but that the DNA will give accurate genealogical information about the babies and the suspect.

Meanwhile, family source hinted that the result of a test purportedly conducted by a firm in Lagos recently which Saturday Vanguard referred to in one of its publications is being withheld by the sponsor. The source stated that “we have made several attempts to reach the person but we have not heard any thing. We called their line, they were not picking. Probably, they were waiting for the release of Precious before they act on it.”

Apart from arraigning the suspect in court last Tuesday, the police have uncovered one of the places she allegedly gave birth to five of the seven babies. The owner of the home, Nurse Blessing, a Port Harcout based native maternity nurse who Precious claimed took deliveries of five of her seven babies, has been arrested and as at press time, was still in police detention. When Precious appeared in court last Tuesday, Nurse Blessing was not arraigned with her.

However, Precious, who was full of gratitude for Saturday Vanguard has been telling even inmates in the Police cell in Owerri that it is only the DNA that can save her from prosecution and persecution.

In spite of her firm decision to have a paternity test, quite a lot of people still do not believe her story and therefore wonder that under this inexplicable sequence of her claim medically, she could still damn the consequences by insisting on a DNA test, just as some say she might be out of her minds. Before the test was carried out, this reporter engaged her in another discussion and the interaction ran thus:

Could you please tell us the truth about the babies?

They are my babies, I’ll continue to say that and that is why I said I was ready for a DNA test.

Are you very sure?

Yes! I am very sure.

What would you do if the DNA turns out negative?

Never, and I say never. The babies are mine.

According to Dr Segun Isioye of Pathcare Lab, the result will be ready on or before 14 days. As we await the result of the DNA test anytime from next week, the case will unravel the puzzle of this miraculous birth as well as a new angle to a new issue that will emerge.

LET'S SEE HOW POLICE WILL PROSECUTE HER- Barrister D,C. Ndiokwere

Precious Donatus has been in detention for more than three weeks now and under our criminal legal system we have a complainant and the accused. But in this case, since I have been following this case, there has not been anybody that has come out to say he or she lost a baby.

I really got angry but the Police kept her for more than three weeks until today (last Tuesday) that they brought her before the court. It is in the first place a violation of her fundamental rights. Under the constitution, the Police can arrest anybody suspected to have committed offence, but they are supposed to bring such person to the court within the stipulated time. But the police seem to be operating a jungle system. The Police are not helping out matters.

The way I see it is that the Police are unduly taking advantage of people’s ignorance of the law. Most often, I doubt if the Police even know the law, but they ought to know.

Now that the woman has been brought to court, the charge to me sounds very vague, because that charge never disclosed a complainant. The charge says that these babies are being deprived of ‘unknown parents’. Let us see and know how the Police are going to prosecute her.

But meanwhile, I think they’ve been able to achieve their aim which is to have the woman dumped in the cell awaiting her formal trial in the high court. What it means is that the woman will now remain in prison custody, pending her trial at the High Court, and with the clumsy nature of our trial system, that woman could remain there for months, because Police may not even agree to release the file.

My submission in court today:
I filed in an exparte application about two weeks ago. We have approached the Police to grant her bail which she is entitled to but the Police refused, saying they are still conducting investigation. To me, it is an infringement on her fundamental rights. So, I brought an application for bail, which was granted today (being Tuesday).

But I was not aware Police would arraign her today (being Tuesday)
The substantive case has been adjourned till 29th of September. You know the High Court is going on vacation.

I’m optimistic she’ll not stay there any longer again, because the bail conditions are not difficult to meet – 3 years tax clearance, and getting somebody who owns a landed property, and a member from her constituency. These will be met very soon.
We will be ready to defend her at the High Court whenever Police decide to bring her to court again.

Under our legal system, if somebody is accused for an offence and the court convicts the person, that’s her problem. But we should be able to assert our rights. You can not arrive at a conclusion when somebody is not yet on trial or convicted. That is why the courts are there to try people on the offences they have committed. That is our grouse. If on trial, she is convicted, she’ll suffer for it. The law will take its course.

Two courts sat on her case, bail application granted by another court

Last Tuesday, two courts in Owerri sat on the case of Precious Donatus Ogbonna. While the police arraigned her at Magistrate Court1, Owerri, on child trafficking in suit number OW/289C/2011 alongside her Personal Assistant, a 30-year-old Adangozi Onuigwe, the counsel to the accused, Barrister D.C. Ndiokwere who had earlier filed an exparte application for bail was also at the High Court 3, Owerri to argue for her bail. The suit number is HOW/355/2011: which is between Precious Donatus Ogbonna vs Commissioner of Police, Imo state.

The two cases was were heard about the same time and did not allow the counsel to the accused to present his defence. Briefing Saturday Vanguard after the sitting, Barrister Ndiokwere said that he was not aware that the accused would be brought to court that day. “I was not informed about her arraignment, and you can see the police did not even want me to discuss with her,” he said.

He however disclosed that the exparte application he brought before the court has been granted by Justice Ngozi Okpara of High Court 3, Owerri, adding that he would endeavour to meet the bail conditions.

Meanwhile the charges preferred against her by the police states as follow: “The charges against the suspects read: “That you Precious Ogbonna, Adangozi Onuigwe and others now at large, between the 6th day of May 2010 and 2nd day of April 2011, at Umuelele, Irete, Owerri, in Owerri Magisterial District, did conspire with one another to commit felony to wit: trafficking in persons and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 516 of the Criminal Code Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, as applicable in Imo State.”

The two female suspects were equally accused of intending to deprive the parents, guardians or other persons, who had the lawful care or charge of the seven children.

The two women were accused of taking possession of the said children forcibly or fraudulently take or entice away or receive or harbour the children, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 19(1)(c) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003, as applicable in Imo State.

Scores of women gathered around the court discussing the issue in hushs tones as they saw Precious and Adangozi being whisked away by the police.

HOME WHERE 'MIRACLE BABIES' WERE DELIVERED:
It was easylocating Nurse Maternity Home in Port-Harcourt where Precious Donatus Ogbonna claimed she was delivered of five of the seven babies.

In spite of the frustrating gridlock-traffic along Rumuokoro road, down to Rukpakulusi along Eleme road, compounded by the heavy downpour that afternoon, the mission was clear: to confirm her claim that she was pregnant of the children, take pictures of the place and also find out why pregnant women patronise the home since it was clear the nurse is being detained by the police in Owerri, Imo state. But the whole exercise revealed other issues as neighbours and those who knew Nurse Blessing readily gave information.

Saturday Vanguard gathered that Precious Donatus might not be the only one in this incredible story of multiple births in months. According to the neighbours, people patronised the Maternity Home, and there are those who had delivered there at different times which we immediately explored.

As we report this, another woman who is based in Warri, Delta State but who did not want her name in print following the controversy which the story of Precious Donatus has generated, claimed she also gave birth to three babies in two years in the same home. She claimed she delivered her first baby in May 2009, another in October 2009 and the last one in June 2010. All deliveries she said took place in Nurse Blessing’s native Maternity Home.

Like the story of Precious who also claimed to have had her five of her babies there, she stated that scan did not detect the babies in her womb. But when SaturdayVanguard visited her home for an interview, she declined saying she has been warned against it until the issue of Precious Donatus is resolved. She hinted that Nurse Blessing uses native materials, such as leaves, roots, and water. “She will massage you with hot water to test the growth of the baby and ascertain whether it is time to deliver.

“When you deliver, she will give you a room and observe you for few days before you are discharged,” she added.


•Side view of the home where deliveries take place
The other woman who was said to have also delivered a baby in the home could not be reached as at press time. But other information about the woman in charge of the home suggest either a spiritual manipulation of the multiple births or a huge racket of sort yet uncovered.

Recently, Abia state police command had raided the baby factory and rescued about 32 teenage expectant inmates from a certain clinic in the state where teenagers are kept until they are delivered of their babies.

According to the reports, the babies are usually taken away and their mothers discharged after being paid certain amounts ranging between N25, 000 and N30, 000, depending on the sex of the babies.

In the same vein, a natural clinic in Ugwuaku, Okigwe, Imo State, was believed to be the ‘solution ground’ for baby-seeking habitue. But behind the high fenced walls, all manner of the absurd takes place, away from the prying eyes of the public and law enforcement agents. Unknown to many, this was a hugely thriving baby factory, where women who pretend to be heavily pregnant deliver their ‘babies.’ But not without a price!

Could it be the one our source is referring to? Could it be a deception to cover up child-trafficking? Time will tell.

Nurse Blessing’s Home

At her house located on Ohonda close, in Rukpakulsi, the black iron gate is as tall as the building and you could hardly see anything from outside.

Hamzat, the gateman, who has been working with Nurse Blessing for several months, refused to let the guest in, saying he was warned never to open the gate for anybody. The reporter had to slip his camera under the tall gate from which position he managed to take some shots. Hamzat however said that Nurse Blessing left the house about three weeks ago and has not returned ever since. He said her husband who is based in Abuja was around the previous day and had travelled back to his base. He confirmed that Nurse Blessing used to take delivery of babies, adding that she has not done that for a couple of months now. “She used to travel and deliver pregnant women of their babies but for some time now, she has not taken any delivery,” he said.

Another woman who preferred anonymity told SaturdayVanguard that Nurse Blessing had been doing the business for years now.

“She is a fairly rich woman; we heard that she just delivered twins some months ago.We also gathered she collects as much as N300, 000- N500,000 for each delivery depending on the complications. She collects big money, sometimes 500,000 and sometimes less,” a source said.

“We also gathered that Nurse Blessing got her tutelage from a popular woman in Okigwe; Imo state who treats all kinds of spiritually attacked pregnancies for N1million. The Okigwe woman we gathered had trained several women in the business and Nurse Blessing is one of them.”

A few distance from the house, a resident said Nurse Blessing was known in the area for the business of delivering pregnant women by massaging, and using warm water on the women’s belly. It is like a native hospital.

She also hinted that she used to stay on Jacob Ahonda street (pointing to the place) before she moved to where she now stays some metres away.” When the reporter narrated the story of Precious Donatus Ogbonna to see if there is any confirmation of it or similar story, she declined knowledge of that but revealed that women quietly come there, give birth and leave most times without people knowing the details.



 

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