After months of discreet investigation, the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) is set to release ‘The Thing Inside Your Belly: A Woman’s 4-Year Pregnancy Exposes a Crime Ring in Eastern Nigeria’, an exposé of the underground fake pregnancy scheme called cryptic pregnancy in some parts of the country.
The story, to be published on Thursday January 5, is a product of face-to-face encounters with criminal perpetrators in Owerri, Enugu and Awka, and in-depth evaluation of their victims by Damilola Ayeni, Editor of FIJ..
Women desperate to have children run to fertility clinics for help and are loaded with drugs that induce pregnancy symptoms. For nine months or more, they carry what feels like pregnancy, and then they are made to go through labour (or what looks like it) so that when they wake up to arranged babies beside them, they truly believe they are theirs.
FIJ met Rose, who was looking for N3.6 million to birth the ‘cryptic’ twins she had been pregnant with for four years; ‘Mama Chidera’, who already had five kids from the process; and Juliet, who, as a teenager, worked at a baby factory supplying the ‘cryptic’ pregnancy industry. It was on the back of women like this that FIJ rode into the dark industry run by bloodless humans.
‘The Thing Inside Your Belly’ is a story of pain. Imagine medical tests just revealing that what you’ve carried as pregnancy for four years is an empty belly pumped up with pregnancy hormones, and that your liver is now enlarged as a result; or DNA just showing that your five children, including nine-year-old triplets, belong to different mothers and none is truly yours.
Fertility clinics were tracked and filmed in three eastern states, and some of their owners caught on camera. In what looked like an antenatal session, several women sat at a clinic in Awka waiting for one Madam Christiana, a ‘cryptic’ nurse. Christiana appeared with some herbs looking like ginger, and one patient paid N50,000 for it.
At ‘cryptic’ clinics, you first pay to get pregnant, and then pay millions for delivery later. But it’s all fake. One ‘cryptic’ nurse in Okoh, Anambra State, told our reporter she charged up to N450,000 for pregnancy drugs depending on the number of babies sought. “Money for one is N150,000,” she said. “Money for two is N300,000, and money for three is N450,000.”
Some women are aware of the fraud and perpetrate it with the connivance of fraudsters just to escape being called ‘barren’, while women like Rose and Mama Chidera are completely unaware of the manipulations, but ‘cryptic’ pregnancy will change their lives (forever) anyway.
“The Thing Inside Your Belly” is a lot of disturbing revelations. Watch out!
This report was produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation
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