Some states in the South West region are introducing new measures to ease the process of child adoption to curb sharp practices or illegalities.
This was the outcome of a survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) across the region and Kwara.
The various state governments expressed worry over what they described as illegal means to adopt babies, saying due process must now be respected by all stakeholders.
The Ogun Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development says the process of child adoption in the state had been made hitch-free.
Anselm Sotubo, the Director Social Welfare Service, said the process in the state was also in line with international best practices.
According to him, anyone who wants to adopt a baby must first declare an intention by writing an application letter for adoption.
The director explained that after the formal request, the ministry would conduct an investigation into the home of the prospective adoptive parents after which they would be presented to the courts.
“This is where our own activities stop and the court will then scrutinise the documents and conduct an interview for the prospective adoptive parents.
“If the court deems it fit that they are free to adopt the baby, then an interim order will be made releasing the baby to them for a 90-day trial period.
“They then report back at the adjourned date, after which a final order will be made by the court and this makes it a legal adoption.
“We have two forms of adoptions; one is relative adoption and the other is normal adoption.
“Normal adoption is when you want to take a baby from the government and relative adoption is when you want to adopt one of your relatives,” he said.
Mr Sotubo also said the ministry often picked up babies where they were abandoned, adding that a panel would meet and match babies with the list of adoptive parents.
He added that an adopted child has equal rights with biological children while an adoptive parent has the same rights he has on biological children on an adopted child.
The director said the state House of Assembly had earlier passed the Child Rights Act, noting that the juvenile justice aspect of the act was omitted.
“We have, however, gone back to the Assembly and it had been amended; we are now waiting for the governor’s assent,” he said.
His counterpart in Oyo State, Sunday Kolajo, also says the process of adoption in his state was not cumbersome although due process must be followed.
Mr Kolajo also said no orphanage had been empowered to give out a child without the involvement of the Department of Social Welfare.
“I would not say that the process of adoption is cumbersome, but the rules must be strictly followed.
“This is because we want to make sure that we are placing a child with the right people and sometimes the process may take up to three years.
“It is important to note that the adoption process is in stages; before a child is given out counselling and home visit will be carried out by a probation officer.
“This is followed by the interim order whereby the child is placed with the adopter on a three-month trial.
“There is the final adoption order because we want the best environment for our children.
“We have monitoring officers who pay unannounced visits and make evaluations.
“This is important because we want our children to be adopted into a happy and loving environment,” he said.
According to him, a woman is recognised as the adopter and in the case of marriage, the husband is also required to submit a letter of consent stating his total support of the wife’s intention to adopt a child.
The husband, he said, must make a pledge to take care of and recognise the child as his.
“The law stipulates that the adoptee has the rights accruable to a biological child and the adopter must be ready to accept and recognise those rights.
“Traditional rulers and religious leaders play no role in adoption and it is important to reiterate that the Social Welfare Department is the only government agency vested with power to carry out adoption in the state.
“We also have biological parents who relinquish custody of a child for adoption due to poverty and other factors,” he said.
Grace Lawal, a social worker at Shekinah Orphanage Home, Ibadan, said while the procedure of adoption was not cumbersome, there were more adopters than babies available for adoption.
According to her, giving up any child for adoption in any orphanage in the state is the sole responsibility of the state’s Department of Social welfare.
“A prospective adopter will approach the Ministry of Women Affairs to express interest,’’ he said.
In Kwara State, the state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Toibat Ahmed, says childless couples have the opportunity to adopt babies without hurdles although a formal procedure was in place.
“In this ministry, the procedure for adoption is very simple; the couple will write a formal letter for adoption and there after fill a form.
“They will also conduct a medical checkup in a certified hospital and get an approval from the court of law and the child will become their own,” she said.
The commissioner, however, said that adopters would be given six months probation, after which they have full right parental rights on the child.
“Guardians have full right on their adopted babies once they fulfil all the requirements.
“At the same time, an adopted child has all the rights of a biological child.
“This is contained in Number 9 of the Child Right Act that was made law on December 20, 2006.
“The Act explains the procedure of child adoption and also states that there should be equal rights with the biological child,” she said.
A forensic expert in Ondo, Peter Paul, however, identified the main challenge inherent in child adoption in Nigeria as not the absence of policy but widespread corruption integrated into all facets of the society.
Mr Paul said the absence of sanctions against those who fail to enforce the legal provisions on adoption were compounding the process.
According to him, the security agencies are complacent in the enforcement of the provisions of the law which criminalises the operations of the so called “baby factory’’.
“How many of those involved in the many widely reported arrests of baby factory operators have been reported to have been prosecuted after the initial TV show?
“I don’t know of any,” he said.
Mr Paul, a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, urged government to revamp the police and the justice system to uphold the rule of law.
On her part, Latifat Giwa, the Osun Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, said the Child Rights Act was still in the process of being domesticated in the state.
Mrs Giwa, who said that the state House of Assembly was still working on the act, added that there were other laws on child protection in the state.
On child adoption, Mrs Giwa said applicants must be married and also pay N5,000 for application form with passports attached.
She also said other documents would be in line with the specifications of the courts.
The Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) Orphanage in Osun State, however, said the level of child adoption in the state was not encouraging.
Kudirat Oladunmoye said the orphanage has more than 77 children across five local government areas due to low level of adoption.
She urged the state government to create more awareness on child adoption in the state.
The Ekiti State Government, on its part, said it was committed to tackling child labour and irregular adoption of children.
The state Commissioner for Information, Youth and Sports, Lanre Ogunsuyi, said violators of the state’s Child Rights Act risk a minimum of 10 years imprisonment without option of fine.
He regretted that the state has only one home for motherless and abandoned children.