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Mystery “Baby Esther”

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Medical tests show that she has no blood relationship with her “parents” and workers at a hospital  in Abia State, where she was delivered say they suspect no foul play during her birth. What really happened?

These are, indeed, trying times for Stephen Odimba, a homeopathic doctor and proprietor of Revival Specialist Hospital and Maternity, Umuode in Osisioma local government area of Abia State. In the last few months, Odimba has been making frantic efforts to exonerate himself from allegations of child trafficking preferred against him by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters, NAPTIP.

Odimba was arrested on December 6, 2011, by the agency in conjunction with detectives from the Abia State Security Service, SSS, following a petition written by one Dorothy Uju Okolie, a London-based house wife, who accused him of complicity in the alleged swapping of her daughter in his hospital. Dimba, all members of his family and Stella Sunday, a staff of the hospital, were detained for alleged child trafficking, but later released on bail after three weeks.

Since then, all has not been well with Odimba as he has been labouring to prove his innocence in the matter, while regretting the visit of Okolie to his hospital. He told Newswatch that the arrest of members of his family and staff of the hospital did a devastating blow on his career. “I was arrested like a common criminal. I have been a homeopathic practitioner for 20 years now and never had such an ugly experience. I have six children and all of them were delivered here. I have never indulged in any form of malpractice. The villagers can bear me witness. The security operatives really drilled me, even though they did not torture me. In fact, the incident has affected the fortunes of the hospital as there has been low patronage by patients. I lost more than a million Naira during the closure of the hospital. I am just suffering for what I know nothing about,” he told Newswatch.

Trouble started for Odimba when Okolie, a native of Ihiala in Anambra State but resident in the United Kingdom visited the hospital for delivery on November 9, 2010. Doctors in the United Kingdom were said to have confirmed that her baby had some complications. Patrick Okolie, her husband, was said to have sent her to a homeopathic hospital in Nigeria for safe delivery following the initial difficulty with the pregnancy in London. One Annabel Chinyere Igwenyere, a family friend of the Okolies was said to have directed the pregnant woman to the Revival Specialist Hospital & Maternity because of its pedigree in handling such cases. 

 Okolie and her friend arrived the hospital at 6 p.m. that fateful day and gave birth to a baby girl after three hours of labour. “The baby was cleaned and taken care of by one Chikodi Odumegwu, who is currently at large. The baby weighed 3.4kg. She was the only person that was delivered of a baby that day. The doctor was not away all this while. He was later informed and Okolie was later discharged from hospital the next day. Before then, she named her child Esther. She took photographs with the staff of the hospital. She was also issued a birth certificate before she left,” Sunday told Newswatch.

 A few weeks after, Okolie returned to London with her child after obtaining an international passport for the infant. The baby was issued with Nigerian e-passport number A0241664. Armed with this, mother and child applied for visa at the British High Commission. On December 15, 2010 the baby was granted a European Union, EU entry permit.  Newswatch gathered that Okolie and her child eventually returned to London on December 23, 2010. But an attempt to give baby Esther a proper medicare in London became a nightmare to the family. Some blood samples taken from the baby and her mother allegedly revealed that the baby had no blood link with the mother. A similar DNA test was allegedly carried out on the father and the test also showed that the child had no blood link with the supposed father too. The hospital authority then alerted the London police.

On March 10, 2011, the home of the Okolies was invaded by the police and officers of social services. The couple was arrested and the baby taken away by the social services officials. They were charged to court for kidnapping and child trafficking. After interrogation, they were released on bail. They were also excluded from taking care of the baby. The court ordered two more DNA tests, and the result also confirmed that the Okolies were not the biological parents of the child.

 On January 17, 2012, the court ruled that Dorothy falsely presented herself as Esther’s mother at the British High Commission in Nigeria in order to obtain travel permit to the UK. The court also commenced with local authorities the final arrangements for the adoption of the baby by persons other than the Okolies. “Scientifically, the baby is not ours. It’s not my fault because I arrived London thinking that Esther was my baby. I never knew some people were playing a very cruel joke on us. It is not fair that the child should be placed on adoption. We are willing to keep her while we get to the bottom of this,” Okolie told the court.

It was based on this scenario that the Okolies petitioned the Abia State command of the State Security Service. In their petition, the Okolies alleged that Dorothy gave birth to a baby boy as shown them in a dream and that the hospital might have swapped their baby with another woman who was desperate for a baby boy. They asked for an extensive investigation on the management and staff of the hospital and the role they played in the saga. “We want to know if there was any kind of discrepancy that took place during the birth of baby Esther. When we contacted them, as regards the problem we were facing in the UK, they maintained that she was the baby my wife gave birth to on November 9, 2010. But in the face of three DNAs, all confirmed scientifically that we are not the biological parents of the baby,” Okolie wrote.

The Okolies also wrote to Beatrice Jedi-Agba, executive secretary, NAPTIP, to help unravel the mystery surrounding the birth of their daughter in Aba, which would possible erase the trafficking toga London Court imposed on them. “We are writing to bring to your attention our recent ordeal. There has been serious communication between your agency, NAPTIP and Lambeth local authorities here in London, UK, concerning our child, baby Esther. Please attached are details of our initial complaints which were registered with the Abia State Security Service. We are, therefore, asking you to use your good offices to officially respond in details to Lambeth local authorities, London, UK, which is the Highest Family Court and which has ruled the case in its favour to place Baby Esther for adoption, as we are being accused of kidnapping and trafficking her,” Okolie wrote.  Newswatch gathered that the fate of the Okolies over the parenthood of baby Esther would be determined in April by the London Court.

On December 6, 2011, the two agencies stormed the hospital in a commando-like style and arrested Dimba, all members of his family, hospital staff and even passers-by.  According to Odimba, more than 15 security operatives armed to the teeth besieged the maternity and arrested everybody in sight. “They were fully armed and battle ready as if they were after some criminals. They  carted away many files and money.

Many people interviewed by Newswatch on the issue were also of the opinion that either there were discrepancies in the tests carried out by the hospitals in London or that Patrick might not be the genetic father of the baby.  Chinedu Mark, a resident of Umuode community said members of the area can vouch for the credibility of the hospital. “I was surprised when the security operatives invaded my area on December 6, 2011. I have not heard or seen any case of child trafficking in the hospital since 12 years I have lived in this neighbourhood. We suspect that someone might have fed the security operatives with false information,” he said.

An official of the SSS who would not want his name in print told Newswatch that investigations carried out by security operative actually exonerated the homeopathic doctor from any wrongdoing. “He was not involved in child trafficking. We have gone through the records; there was no mistake because the woman in question was the only person that gave birth that day. That is why we have not been able to charge him to court. The mistake, if there is any, may have emanated from the couple living abroad. The woman should be bold enough to tell the world what transpired between her and her husband. They should sort out themselves over there,” he said.


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