An Awka-based doctor, Dr Chudi Nwoye,
named by the Police in Kano as been involved in child trafficking in conjunction with Du Merci Orphanage is now telling his story, which suggests it is an orchestrated persecution with a religious tinge.
His story made available to Nigeria Everyday:
My first contact with Du Merci Children Development Ministries was in 1997 when they began bringing sick children from the orphanage to my hospital, Assumpta Clinic and Maternity, then at 15 Inibi Avenue, Nomansland, Kano, for treatment. The home was then located at 14 Freetown Street, Sabon Gari, Kano.
The children, as I was then informed, had been going to the Nasarawa General Hospital, but were not receiving adequate attention and care there. Upon learning about this, as well as the fact that the children were orphans, I started treating them for free.
It was at that point that the proprietors of Du Merci Children Development Ministries, Professor Solomon Musa Tarfa and his wife, Mercy, approached me to express their gratitude for the help I was rendering to the children. I was later formally invited to be a member of the orphanage’s Board of Trustees. This, I discovered, was also one of the requirements for obtaining proper approval from the Kano State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, as well as the Corporate Affairs Commission in order to operate formally as an orphanage home and adoption center.
Other members of the board at the time included Rev Mrs. Julie Bello of Calvary Life Ministries, Dr. Fred Umoh, Elder Eme Awa and Barr. Offiong (SAN), who serves as the Ministry’s legal counsel, among others. Part of our duties included working towards ensuring the home was ready for proper registration and approval, soliciting for financial help and seeking for benefactors to support the work of the home. We focused on safety, hygiene and adequate accommodation for the children in the home as well as tasking ourselves to financially and materially support the home, especially on the occasions when the children were in dire need of food supplies.
In 2003, the home relocated from Sabon Gari to 15 Inibi Avenue, the old premises of my hospital. I had talked to the landlord about renting the space to Du Merci as it was more spacious, (given the increasing population of the children in the home) than their previous location.
Majority of the children were permanently displaced orphans — babies abandoned after birth on the streets, refuse dumps, and similar odd places. They were rescued by good Samaritans, including even the police personnel of Nomansland Police Station and were brought to Assumpta clinic for resuscitation and initial review and treatment or to the center. There were also children whose mothers had died at childbirth and were temporarily kept at the home pending when adequate arrangements were made for their definitive care. A few parents found it a safe and affordable daycare place to keep their children while they were at work.
I also assisted young women with “crisis pregnancies” i.e. young girls and women who were pregnant out of wedlock — some of whom were even teenagers in school, disowned by their parents, or sent away from school with the attendant social stigma. Many of these girls sought to have abortion, which is illegal in Nigeria with the penalty of significant jail time.
I and my late wife Veronica, a nurse-midwife were wholly involved with counseling young women on their health care needs and possible alternatives to abortion. We offered them free antenatal and delivery services, including free surgical deliveries where necessary. Some of them stayed at the Du Merci Centre, learning skills and helping with chores and running the home, as well as caring for the babies there.
While staying there, some of their parents were contacted and spoken to and indeed a good number, who hitherto did not know the whereabouts of their daughters, relented and reached out to these girls for reconciliation and took them with their newborn grandchildren home. Some others, especially the undergraduates, left the children in the care of the home and went back to school to finish their studies but were continually visiting their children and bringing in supplies to help with the children’s upkeep.
As Kano state refused to grant the home the permission to give up these children for adoption, their population continued to increase and was obviously putting much strain on the proprietors.
The community appreciated the good work the home was doing and rallied to the home’s assistance. Almost all the churches in the Kano at different times donated materials to the home. These included neighboring St. Charles Parish, St. Stephen’s Parish, St. Rita, Calvary Life, New Generation, among others. Several town’s unions hosted the home at end-of-year visitations; and several philanthropists gave their support. Some of the schools in Sabon Gari offered free admission to the children to get an education.
It was not surprising to see the community rallying behind the children given the history of non-indigenes in Kano. We predominantly occupy the Sabon Gari (the designated “foreigners’ quarters”) and surrounding neighborhoods like Sarkin Yaki and Nomansland and come together to support each other in areas often overlooked or neglected by the indigenous government.
Over time, the center became overcrowded with children because the Kano state government, through its Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, refused to grant Du Merci permission for the children to be adopted, one of the aims and objectives under which the home got its registration. The reason for the refusal was obviously known to us as it was purely on religious basis. Du Merci orphanage is run by Christians. This was one of the biggest challenges that the orphanage faced, and it put a huge strain on its resources. The government, to the best of my knowledge, never gave any grant or assistance whatsoever to the home to run its services.
Another branch of the home was later opened in Kaduna state. The Kano location, having met all the necessary requirements was formally registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in 2007.
At no time were Prof. and Mrs. Tarfa selling children in the context of these latest charges levied against the center by the Kano State Police Command. This is not the first time the state has made these claims against the facility. In 2002, the police command raided the home during the tenure of former governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso even though it was already registered and properly documented. The High Court cleared the center of all charges and granted them permission to continue operating. It has operated legally ever since. A copy of this ruling, as Barr. Offiong, Prof. Tarfa, and Lord David Alton of Liverpool have pointed out, is easily available.
It is equally shocking that news agencies, including the reputable BBC, ran these statements from the Police Command without conducting further investigations and dissecting the historical precedents and religious context of these events. The facility has been in existence for over two decades and has produced graduates and gainfully employed individuals and members of society, who got a chance to be contributing members of society because of Prof. Tarfa’s ministry and devotion.
I remained the orphanage’s primary physician until I left Kano shortly after the Boko Haram attacks in January 2012 and by God’s grace, I still counsel young ladies in Awka, my new location, who have crisis pregnancies and I offer them free antenatal and free delivery services. Unfortunately, we do not have a facility like Du Merci that can cater for their residential needs.
It was truly a privilege and blessing for me and my family to have had the opportunity to offer our services to the home and to care for these children who were given a chance to live and thrive because of the vision and intervention of Prof. and Mrs. Tarfa. I surely and categorically have nothing to be ashamed of, or any regrets about the humble services I rendered to these least of my brethren.