February 24, 2024

Prominent Christian Orphanage Home, ‘Arrow Of God’ In trouble after being Exposed for Selling Babies For N2 Million

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A prominent Christian orphanage home, Arrow Of God, has landed in child trafficking crisis after it was exposed for selling babies for N2 Million.

This was according to an investigative report done by influential journalist, Fisayo Soyombo of the Foundation For Investigative Journalism (FIJ).

In his investigation, he acted as someone who is interested in adopting a baby after he got information that babies are being sold in the orphanage home. The rumours was confirmed when he personally experienced the same thing even though it took him 19 months to conclude.

Read his reports below

The first woman who consented to becoming my ‘wife’ chickened out just a few weeks after accepting. Her family had feared she was grossly underestimating the risks of busting an infant trafficking ring; their reasoning was that the rot was deeper than just a suspected baby factory masquerading as an orphanage. They believed the orphanage’s more dangerous collaborators would come after her in vengeance if we managed to crack the story. They would reluctantly allow her to proceed only on one condition: she must be permanently relocated out of Nigeria after the story. Unable to afford that, I watched her walk away from a project that thoroughly excited her.

The damage of her exit was minimal, almost negligible. ‘Reverend Lieutenant-Colonel D.C. Ogo (retired)’, the President and Founder of the orphanage home, had not answered our calls the few times we dialed the number I peeled off the Internet. However, when Ifeoma, a fair-complexioned beauty with glistening skin, chubby cheeks and voluptuous build, accepted to be my new wife, we opted not to call but physically present ourselves at the headquarters of Arrows of God Orphanage located off Oke Ira Nla Road in Eti-Osa East local council, Ajah, Lagos. There, Oluchi Onyia, a diminutive, dark-complexioned administrative staff, redirected us to Rev. Lt. Col. D. C. Ogo, an ordained Minister, a former Principal of the Nigerian Army School of Nursing and Midwifery, a former Chief Matron, and a retired Army Colonel. We did not find Rev. Ogo during the visit, but Onyia passed her number to us with the caveat that we couldn’t tell her how we secured it. It took us 18 months to discover it was all a game.

Unlike my first wife, the new Ifeoma was a journalist. She was still seeking her big break in journalism and was more risk-tolerant, despite acknowledging that this story could alter her life forever: she would have to start looking over her shoulders, a discomfort she had never experienced.

Luckily, the first time Ifeoma dialed Rev. Ogo’s number, she answered. This was on Monday January 17, 2022, three days after our visit to Oke Ira Nla. It was a brief conversation during which she asked a few expected questions: Why do you need a child? Where are you from? Where is your husband from? How old are you two? They were questions I had anticipated. As Rev. Ogo’s name gave her out as someone from the South-East, I knew it would be easier to break the ice if my ‘wife’ was Igbo. My ‘ex-wife’ is from Imo, but the current one hails from Enugu.

‘THE IMPORTANT THING IS YOU’RE FROM THE EAST’

When Rev. Ogo asked Ifeoma where she hails from and she answered that her father was from Ogun but her mum Enugu, she instantly switched to Igbo, consequently consigning me to the dark. Rev. Ogo described Ifeoma’s Igbo heritage as crucial to our chances of buying a baby.

“You see, it is in the East that you are going to buy this one,” she said, much to our suppressed shock considering this was our very first phone conversation and we had never met in person. “Alright. Now, today is Monday, there is a bit of a challenge going on in the East right now. I am in Lagos now, but I’ll return [to the East] at the end of the month. Will you call me back next week? Next week, towards the end of the month. Hmm? Then I’ll tell you what to start preparing. The important thing is that you’re from the East.”

But she wasn’t done. “The important thing is that you have somebody in the East. Your mother is from Enugu?

“Yes, ma.”

“Then you have an address in Enugu?

“Yes, ma.”

“So, when you call me, I’ll tell you what to do, how to go about it.”

“Yes, ma.”

As the call wound down, Rev. Ogo again asked to know Ifeoma’s full name. When she mentioned a Yoruba first name and surname, Rev. Ogo reminded her to “put your Igbo name when applying, because I will send you the requirements for adoption”.

It was the last time we heard from her, for several months.

Ifeoma and I rang her the next week as instructed, but she wouldn’t answer. We dialed the following week, but her two lines rang out. We dialed again towards the end of the third and fourth weeks; still, there was no luck. We then limited the calls to once every week and, finally, monthly. We did not make the calls in June and July. In August when I reached out to Ifeoma about resuming the calls, a lot had changed. Ifeoma informed me she had found love in the arms of a foreign-based Nigerian, and they were going to be married soon.

“In real life or in the world of the undercover investigation we were planning?” I asked, to be sure.

“In real life.”

SEARCHING FOR THE NEXT IFEOMA

The marriage rites were a matter of weeks away, to be followed by Ifeoma’s permanent relocation abroad. I had become wife-less; and even if Rev. Ogo was finally ready to take my calls, I had to produce Ifeoma herself — or an Ifeoma, any Ifeoma, anyone who could become Ifeoma. On the surface, this looked a straightforward task, save for that January 13, 2022 visit to the Arrows of God in Ajah. Two staff in Ajah had seen and interacted with Ifeoma at close range. It meant that not only did I need a third wife, she needed to share some physical resemblance with Ifeoma. The search for ‘Mrs. Right’ began all over again.

Sometime in 2021, a lady had messaged me on Twitter asking for an opportunity to work with me on an investigation. I retrieved that message, scoured her Twitter timeline, found her on Instagram and Facebook, and randomly asked our mutual contacts about her. Satisfied, I engaged her a number of times without declaring my specific plans, then offered to meet up. She was excited we would finally work together; I was relieved my new Ifeoma was almost here. Well, when she showed up for our meeting, she was, by my estimation, five to six months pregnant. How could a pregnant woman request a baby from an orphanage?

It wasn’t long before I found Chidinma, another late-20s lady who shares both similarities and dissimilarities with Ifeoma. Like Ifeoma, Chidinma is fair and her skin shiny. She wasn’t a journalist in that sense, but she had been on its periphery for years in the hope of someday breaking in. Like Ifeoma, who found me on LinkedIn, Chidinma had found me on Instagram. Like Ifeoma, Chidinma also wanted us to work together. But unlike her, we had no mutuals; as a result, my private checks were lengthier and it took almost forever for me to finally decide to work with her. I did not mind the wait at all; I needed many months of gap between Arrows of God’s contact with the old Ifeoma and the new one; I needed the gap to be long enough for them to have forgotten her name, voice and looks. Finally, Chidinma was low-risk, having voluntarily opted to adopt a pseudonym rather than use her real name. Nobody was ever going to find out who she really was. Well, unless she divulged the information to someone.

IF MOHAMMED WON’T GO TO THE MOUNTAIN…

Chidinma and I rang Rev. Ogo on the final day of October 2022 but there was no answer. Therefore, on Friday November 4, 2022 we showed up in Ajah to re-present our case for adoption. I was unsure if the administrative staff who attended to me was the same I met in January, but it felt so. I only became sure when I asked her to remind me of her name and she answered Oluchi Onyia. She herself was uncertain if she had seen me before or not, so I figured there was no way she would remember Ifeoma’s face, much less her name. Restarting the conversation with Chidinma playing my ‘wife’ proved far easier than anticipated.

Onyia apologised profusely for the months of unanswered calls, explaining that Rev. Ogo’s phone had been bad. This seemed inconceivable, seeing the number was never unreachable whenever we dialed. It always connected, and it always rang out. Still, we needed access to Rev Ogo; and since the bad phone had been presented as the only obstacle, it felt like nothing would change unless we addressed it. At that point, my ‘wife’ and I offered to immediately buy Rev. Ogo a new phone. Excited, Onyia asked to be excused so she could ring Rev. Ogo. To our utmost shock, she returned within five minutes with a phone clasped to her right ear, Rev. Ogo on the other end. Hadn’t she called Rev. Ogo on the same phone she just said was bad?

Onyia handed us the phone to speak with Rev. Ogo, who thanked us profusely for our magnanimity and linked us to a certain ‘Deborah’ with whom we were to check our phone options before paying for one. We headed to the SLOT outlet in Ajah to select two phones. We then placed a WhatsApp video call to Deborah to present her our shortlist. Her choice was a Tecno Spark 9 that cost N133,700 at the time.

From SLOT, we returned to Arrows of God to hand them the phone. With that singular action, we raced several steps upwards on Rev. Ogo’s priority list. The talks progressed at an accelerated pace from that moment, starting with the issuance of a list of documents we needed to file for adoption: four passport photographs, two full-length photographs of the couple together, marriage certificate, medical fitness from a government hospital and birth certificate. The final five documents to round off the list were an application letter to the Founder of Arrows of God; another one to the Commissioner, Ministry of Women Affairs, Awka, Anambra State; and three reference letters from the couple’s pastor, head of family and any important person. The paper handed to us by Arrows of God showed we were to pay a registration fee that was originally typed as N10,000, erased and re-typed as N15,000, then erased and handwritten as N20,000. An extra, unwritten, N5,000 was to go to the young man who would take the documents from Lagos to Anambra. We were told his trip to the East was scheduled for Wednesday, November 9, 2022. It meant we had only five days to forge 10 documents.

FORGING THE DOCUMENTS

To figure out the documents in such a short notice was never going to be problematic. I forwarded the e-version of the list to a contact on Friday evening and by the following morning, Saturday November 5, 2022, it was his knock on my door that roused me from sleep. After a brief period of debriefing and with a fairly healthy budget of N85,000, he went to work. My ‘wife’ and I timed my phone and struck a couple-like pose, then slipped into new attires and repeated the process. We forwarded the pictures to him. Till date, I do not know exactly where he headed, but by evening he was back with every single document on that list! There were a few typos; these he fixed on Monday.

On Tuesday November 8, 2022, my ‘wife’ returned to Arrows of God to submit them. Onyia momentarily stared at them with faint interest one after the other, and passed them all without verifying any of the information. All the phone numbers on each document were fake and unreachable; nobody at Arrows of God attempted to dial any of them. Neither Onyia nor Rev. Ogo nor her right hand man Monday dialed the phone numbers on the reference letters by my supposed pastor, head of family, and the important person.

My ‘wife’ and I listed a fake address in Ikorodu as our residence; nobody from Arrows of God visited it. Nobody from the orphanage made the journey from Ajah to Ikorodu to physically confirm the address of a couple they were going to sell a baby to. Nobody from Arrows of God met anyone who could testify to my character or my wife’s in our family, office, neighbourhood or church. Nobody verified if we were not child traffickers or ritualists!

After Onyia accepted the documents, payment was next. My ‘wife’ and I desired an account number to process it into, but we were instructed to use the personal account of a certain ‘Olakunle Adeniyi’ with Zenith Bank. Onyia told us the money would be withdrawn with a Point of Sale (PoS) machine, hence costing us an additional N500 charge. We paid a total of N25,500.

‘ONCE YOU HEAR PACHA, RUN!’

“Once you hear kpem,” Onyia warns us, snapping her fingers, “pacha; remove your slippers like this, run. You go go there o [to Anambra]. You and your husband, when the time comes, two of you, go there. But she [Rev. Ogo] will give you the right one [baby].

For reasons my ‘wife’ and I do not understand, Onyi urges us to be flexible in our choice of a baby. “Whether it is a boy or a girl, you and your husband will decide,” she says. “But don’t say [a particular] one. Whether it’s a boy or girl, I am for it.

“At times, money can be a problem. God will give you the money. God will give you the money. Just prepare yourself.

“Please, just be readying yourself [for a child]; don’t say it must be a girl or boy, because once you catch it now [sic], all the stress is over. Once the baby enters your hand [sic], that’s all. You are done; you are done. The baby has become your own.”

By Onyia’s unintended revelation, buying a baby at Arrows of God is not as difficult as it sounds if you let your money do the talking for you. “You did wonders; you tried,” she says in reference to the Tecno Spark 9. “It’s just like one lawyer sometime ago. As the lawyer came, we were talking about school fees. He just took the school fees off mama.”

“Immediately,” she adds with a bang on the wooden table, “within a few days, mama called him straight up [for his baby].”

Returning her gaze to me, she adds: “As we are saying, before the end of this year, you would have gotten your own [baby]; you have tried.”

Onyia’s words filled us with hope. This was eight weeks until the end of 2022. Little did we know we would wait more than eight months!

THE ETERNAL WAIT

My ‘wife’ and I gave Arrows of God a few weeks before resuming the calls. They were seamless this time. If we called, Rev. Ogo answered. If she missed our call, she rang back, even if it sometimes took days. The year ended without any noteworthy development. We talked in January and again in February. By then, the conversations had become routine: be patient, I haven’t forgotten you, just keep praying, God will do it soon. And so on.

March was stalemated; and by April, I had started to wonder if my cover had been blown. Had they found me out? Did they call one of the fake numbers on the letters and found it unreachable? Did they call another, and then another, all unreachable, and then began to suspect me? Had they discovered my real name, that I actually wasn’t Paul Runsewe?

On Friday June 2, 2023, my ‘wife’ woke up to 11 missed calls from a strange number: This was followed by two more calls from the designated Arrows of God phone number. Our baby was ready. Until this point, nobody from Arrows of God had given us the slightest hint of how much we were buying the baby for. Just before they kick-started the conversation on money, they sent us a picture of the baby — something in the realm of proof of life sent by ransom-seeking kidnappers to families of their captives.

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Everything about the baby exuded peace. Her hair was dark and lush, her two hands in an unconscious tangle as she gazed knowingly into space. I fell in love with her at once.

THIS BABY WILL ‘COST A LOT OF MONEY’

“What is left now is to start processing the documents,” Rev. Ogo announced to me on the phone, “but it will cost a lot of money.”

“How much exactly are we looking at?” I asked her.

“Well, it’s a lot of money.”

“No problem, mummy. But how much exactly?”

Rather than answer, Rev. Ogo summons her right hand man’s name: “Monday! Monday! How much will it cost?”

Monday takes over the phone and tells me I would have to cough up N2 million. I tell him I would send a million ahead and then complete the payment on the day I pick up the baby, but he kicks, saying: “You have to pay the N2 million at once.”
My verbal confirmation of my intention to pay the sum marks a remarkable turnaround in the tone and frequency of our phone conversations. In the past, we were the only ones who called Arrows of God. Over the course of the four weeks that followed, they called at least once a week, sometimes even every other day. On Monday, June 5, 2023, I made a N2 million transfer to beneficiary name, ‘The Arrows of God Orphanage’ with Zenith Bank.

‘WE WILL GIVE THE POLICE AND THE COURT THEIR ENTITLEMENTS’

The next challenge was how to get myself to Nigeria; there were two impediments. I was outside the country at the time, so I needed to figure out flights and duration of a trip to Nigeria. I was also on the verge of applying for a visa for a separate, imminent transatlantic trip; this would require submitting my international passport to an embassy in London, thereby rendering me ineligible to enter Nigeria. To aid my planning, I asked Rev. Ogo and Monday to give me a sense of how long it would take to process the documents.

“Two to four weeks,” Rev. Ogo answered during a phone conversation witnessed by Monday.

“Can’t it be done within a week or two?” I asked.

“Yes, it is possible,” Rev. Ogo tells me confidently. “We just have to give them their entitlements. You see, the police and the court, once we give them their entitlements, they will be fast with the documents.”

In a matter of days, work on the documents had progressed significantly. “Hello, good morning. Sorry for coming late,” Monday wrote me in a WhatsApp message on Tuesday June 13, 2023. “Your documents are in process. What name do you want to give your baby? Write them in full, with the surname.”

I named the baby ‘Oriade’, because I imagined she was predestined to be great in life; my undercover ‘wife’ named her Uchechukwu, that is ‘God’s will’. Monday would call multiple times over the next two weeks, until June 24 when he delivered the all-important message: “Good morning; your paper is ready.” By that, he meant we could finally come take Oriade away.

HARVESTED FROM LAGOS, DIVERTED TO ANAMBRA

From then on, I could make pinpoint plans for the trip. On Wednesday July 5, 2023, my ‘wife’ and I flew into Anambra from different states. I was first to arrive but I was literally stranded at the Anambra Airport, Umueri, because Monday and Rev. Ogo had repeatedly failed to send us the address of Arrows of God in Anambra. I rang them as I awaited my luggage at the carousel but they did not answer. When my ‘wife’ did, they simply said the orphanage was in Nkwelle. But where exactly in Nkwelle? They only danced around the question. They subsequently offered to arrange a lodge for us close to the orphanage but we rejected it, fearing it could compromise the investigation.

The following day, Thursday July 6, 2023, we left Awka for Nkwelle Express in Oyi Local Government Area. Monday’s instruction was for us to ring him when on the expressway. When we did, he told us to keep driving until the road bifurcated into two. He said he would be waiting for us at that junction, but he wasn’t. After a fruitless 10-minute wait, we compelled him to tell us which of the two turns to take. It was the right one. We then drove for some seven to nine kilometres until we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere; it was half-road, half-forest. We sighted an ‘Arrows of God Orphanage’ signage, suggesting we were no longer far from our destination. But there was no building in sight, much less a childcare home.

‘WHERE BLOOD IS WASTED…’

In our confusion, we spotted a hilly road to our right. From our spot, we couldn’t pick out any building on it. But there was no habitable structure ahead of us, either, so why not try the right turn? It proved a test of roadworthiness for our taxi driver’s rickety car, but after advancing and then faltering as though it would roll back, the car managed the climb, leading us to an expanse of cleared forest, a fraction of which housed a small, gated compound.

From outside, we could neither see nor sniff what was going on inside, thanks to the pale walls and faded black gate with splashes of brown and rust. Splashed on the gate were six stickers, one of which read: “Where blood is wasted, mine shall never be wasted.”

Inside, we were welcomed by two contrasting individuals — a thinly-built teenager who patently cut an unhappy figure, and a tough-looking adult with a bulky build, probing eyes and suspiciously black lips. A few more teenage eyes aimed furtive glances at us as they glided past. Seven minutes after we were offered a seat, Monday walked in, followed by Rev. Ogo another 12 minutes after.

“We have been looking for you,” Rev. Ogo exclaims in pidgin, accompanied by a tired laughter to announce her entrance into the waiting room. She holds out her right wrinkled hand to me in greetings; I accept it with my two hands. The wrinkles are no surprise; Rev. Ogo is quite elderly. She looked aged in the few clear pictures of her on the internet, published in 2007; she could not be less than 60 at the time. Right now, Rev. Ogo must be nearing 80, if she hasn’t already crossed it.

Once settled in her seat, a plastic yellow chair stationed against a bare, wooden table, she hands me an envelope containing the adoption papers. The first of the documents is a police crime extract diary claiming that at about 13:10 hours on March 29, 2023, a certain Victoria Onoja Anita of Otupo Village in Benue State filed an affidavit with the police stating she lacked the capacity to nurture her then seven-week-old baby, as she was jobless. She reportedly handed the child to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Child Development, Awka, Anambra State, through the Arrows of God Orphanage.

The second suggests that my wife and I sat with the Social Welfare Officer of Nnewi Local Government before ‘His Worship’ L. S. E Uzuodu, the chief Magistrate of Nnewi Magisterial District court, and Okoro Joy Obiageli, the Assistant Chief Registrar 1, on Friday June 16, 2023. On the said date, I was not in the country, while my ‘wife’ was in Kano, faraway from Anambra!

‘GOD IS INVOLVED’ IN THIS CRIME

“Nanny!” Rev. Ogo calls out while I peruse the documents. “Tell her to bring the baby.”

After examining the documents, I ask her if Victoria Onoja Anita would someday disturb us.

“No, no,” she says, pointing to the documents. “They should refer to this. This is Anambra State court. That’s all; nothing else. God is involved, the police… see the next paper, the police are involved, I am involved, the ministry is involved in the second paper. Our names are there; I think you understand.”

I nodded.

The nanny appears with the baby and hands it over to Rev. Ogo. Rev. Ogo pats her on the back, pets her and motions her towards us.

“Go and take your baby,” I tell my ‘wife’. She receives the baby from Rev. Ogo, and hands her over to me, giving me the first close-up view of the innocent girl. Oriade would prove to be the most peaceful baby I’ve held in my arms. For instance, during the over 10-hour road journey from Anambra to Lagos the following day, Oriade cried only once, for less than a minute, and it was hunger-induced. For the rest of the lengthy journey, she did not whimper, much less cry.

The handover starkly contrasted to Arrows of God’s declaration in its promotional pamphlet to “strictly adhere to adoption rules” or to “work hand in hand with the government to see that the children are given the best”.

‘IN THE NAME OF JESUS’ AFTER SALE OF BABY TO UNKNOWN WORLD

In no time, Rev. Ogo announces she would hand over the child to us “physically and spiritually”.

“Father in the name of Jesus, we want to thank you for this family. We thank you for journey mercies and for bringing them here safely. We thank you for their lives; we thank you for their desire to have a child,” she begins.

“I hand over this child spiritually, physically. We thank you in the name of Jesus. Father, as we release this baby onto them, the baby will bring them joy in the name of Jesus. It [sic] will bring all your heart desires into your home in the name of Jesus. All that they need to raise this baby, father, release upon them in the name of Jesus. You will never lack any good thing in the name of Jesus. The baby will be a point of contact for other babies to enter into the home in the name of Jesus. I release joy, laughter, and all that they desire in the name of Jesus.

“As they go back, we ask that you grant them journey mercies. Let the angel of the living God guard and direct them in the name of Jesus. They will never lack any good thing in the name of Jesus. Go before them in the name of Jesus. No weapon formed against them shall prosper in the name of Jesus. It will be well with you in the name of Jesus. Thank you, Father. We close this prayer with the blood of Jesus. In the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, in the name of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ mighty name we have prayed.”

Returning to Lagos by road was on Rev-Ogo’s insistence. “Enter motor, e no far,” she said when we told her we would be flying back to Lagos. “I don’t want this baby on a plane. We are not happy to see the baby on a plane… we are not happy; that is, the ministry.”

An Air Peace staff who asked not to be named subsequently told us we would have been arrested if we tried to fly with the baby. “Those documents with you would have been scrutinised; and since you did not get the baby through the right channel, you would have been arrested.”

SOURCE: https://fij.ng/article/arrows-of-god-one-of-nigerias-biggest-orphanages-is-trading-babies-for-cash/

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