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General News of Saturday, 21 August 2010

Source: Daily Graphic

Kids For Sale...By Orphanages

Some orphanages in the country are said to be engaged in the illegal sale of children under their care to wealthy foreign buyers. The officers in charge of Orphanages at the Department of Social Welfare, Ms Helena Obeng-Asamoah, said the department was investigating a number of such cases and warned that it was illegal for orphanages to charge money for the release of children under their care.

Condemning the phenomenon, she said, “Orphanages have no right to collect money from any individual who expresses interest in a child,” adding that various education programmes had gone o to educate orphanage officials on such negative practices, the last one being about a month ago.

The latest case before the Department and the Bureau of National investigations (BNI) involves an American citizen, Mrs. Jill Wiggins Smith, who accused the founder and Executive Director of the Hohoe Christian Orphans Hone, Nicholas Abibu Koku Victus Azakpo, of demanding $7,000 from her to adopt an eight-year-old boy from his orphanage.

Jill had earlier in 2008 adopted a two-year-old girl from the same orphanage. She told the Daily Graphic that she first paid $9,000 to No Greater, an agency in the US, to adopt the girl. However, No Greater Gift ceased to exist immediately after she had adopted the little girl.

Jill alleged that later when she arrived in Ghana to take the child away, Nicholas extorted $2000 and $300 from her on different occasions at his orphanage. She said the move to adopt the boy had stalled because of her refusal to pay the $7,000 demanded by Nicholas. When reached by the Daily Graphic for his comments, Nicholas denied the figures and said “I just received $100 and another $200 and a few other hundreds later to process the papers”. He declined to answer further questions.

The biological father of the girl, Peter Lartey, waded into the saga by claiming that he did not know that by consenting and signing the documents brought to him by Nicholas, he had lost all rights to the child. He said Nicholas had told him that the girl would be brought to him by Nicholas; he had lost all rights to the child.

He said Nicholas had told him that the girl would be brought back to him at the age of 18 and added that being unschooled; he signed the documents without knowing its contents.

According to Mr. Lartey, he had the girl whose mother died in 2006, sent to the orphanage because he did not have the financial wherewithal to provide her needs. Jill had told the Daily Graphic that when she adopted the girl, she did not know that she did not have to pay any money to the head of the orphanage.

She added that when she realized that it was wrong to have paid the money to Nicholas; she refused to pay the $7,000 demanded for the adoption of the boy. Currently, the boy, who has lost both parents, had become the subject for a tussel between Nicholas and the child’s stepfather. Mr. Issa Amegashitsi, a taxi driver. As a result, the boy was taken into police custody on July 26, this year and is still in their custody.

Mr. Amegashitsi told the Daily Graphic that he feared that the boy would be quietly handed over to Nicholas to be given to the said Italian who had expressed interest in him. The move, he said, appeared not to have gone down well with Nicholas, who later sought to convince him to bring the boy to the orphanage because a rich westerner had expressed interest in him and money could be made out of the deal.

According to Mr. Amegashitsi, he refused and a few days later, he was invited by the Bureau of National Investigations, (BNI) at Hohoe and quizzed on why he had withdrawn the child. He was asked to formally write through the Department of Social Welfare to the orphanage to withdraw the child, which he did on April 23, this year.

He later sent the boy to Accra to live with a relative and attend school. He said on July 23, he was called by the BNI and accused of taking the child out of Hohoe without permission, to which he replied that he had informed the Social Welfare Department before taking the action. Mr. Amegashitsi said he was asked to produce the child within a few hours and after he did, he was arrested and sent to Accra and detained at the Cantoments Police Station for three days without charge.

“I was only interrogated. They did not charge me with any offence,” he said. He said the boy was taken from him and could not tell whether the child was with the police or had been handed over to Nicholas.