In this report, Deji Lambo writes on the tortuous journey of a mother of three, Fortune Obhafuoso; her failed plan to make her life better through surrogacy; and other risky episodes that culminated in a policeman allegedly conniving with yet-to-be-identified persons to pay her N185,000 after collecting her newborn against her will
Fortune Obhafuoso, 35, was embittered as she gave an account of how her day-old child was taken from her at a Lagos State police formation where detectives investigating high-profile criminal cases are domiciled.
The mother of three said after the baby was taken, a policeman, Samuel Ukpabio, threatened her never to return for the child.
Afterward, she was conciliated with N15,000 and thrown out.
“All I want is my baby; I gave birth to him around 12.30am on Friday, December 23, 2022, and immediately named him Joseph. I only breastfed him once because, on the same day I gave birth to him, I was arrested and taken alongside my three children to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba, Lagos State.
“The last time I saw my newborn was at the SCID, where a policeman, Samuel Ukpabio, connived with people who pretended to help me and stole my baby.
“Ukpabio warned me never to return to the station; he said if I returned, my remaining two children would also be taken away,” the 35-year-old, who relocated her family to Lagos State from Benin, Edo State, told our correspondent.
Teacher turn surrogate
Until she got embroiled in her current predicament, Fortune was a teacher at a primary school in Benin, Edo State.
As a single mother who had been fending for herself and her two children for over six years after she and her live-in lover separated, Fortune said she survived on a meager salary of N15,000.
For a period of nine years, the aggrieved mother said she fervently impacted knowledge in pupils at a primary school in the Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area of Edo State, until she grew tired and frustrated.
“It was from the N15,000 that I earned as salary that I fed myself and two children, saved to pay for the one-room flat we lived in, while the director of the school assisted with my children’s school fees,” she said.
Perplexed by her condition, Fortune hatched a plan.
According to her, if the plan panned out successfully, she would be able to raise money to run her dream business of selling foodstuffs.
While in Edo State, the 35-year-old said she watched a movie on surrogacy, researched it online and while surfing through social media, linked up with a surrogate agent on Facebook.
“I never met the agent in person but during our discussion, I was told to come to Lagos State for the surrogacy and I said I had nobody to accommodate me there.
“But when the agent promised to give me accommodation, I left Edo State with my children to do surrogacy in Lagos. I was tired of the life we were living.
“The payment plan was that after delivery, the couple who wanted to do the surrogacy would pay me N1.4m. But the whole plan was based on me conceiving first.
“The agent said the couple would pay N50,000 on transfer day and after confirming that I was pregnant, I would get N100,000. The agent said the couple would also put me on a N50,000 monthly allowance, and give me N100,000 wardrobe allowance; secure N300,000 accommodation for me; pay me N3,000 for transport every time I visited the hospital; if I delivered the baby through a cesarean section, they would pay me N200,000, and then also pay me N1.4m as compensation for one baby and N1.6m if they were two babies,” she added.
Fortune, who alongside her two children had been residing at the temporary accommodation provided by the surrogate agent in Lagos, said the process for the surrogacy was done at a hospital in the Magodo area of the state.
She explained that she never met the couple whom the agent was interfacing with when she was contracted for the surrogacy until the day of confirmation at the hospital.
The Edo State indigene said immediately the doctor announced that the result was negative, “the woman (client) started crying. I felt pity for her and even suggested that we try again, but while crying,” she declined and said she and her husband had tried it with someone else but got the same result.
Fortune said she attempted to convince the woman but her mind was made up, adding that things took another turn when the woman asked if she could get pregnant and give up the baby for adoption.
“She said the process for the adoption would be done legally and I agreed. But the woman insisted that she needed to seek the consent of her husband before agreeing on terms with me.”
Week in and week out, conversations went back and forth between Fortune and the woman who reportedly expressed reservation that Fortune could default on the agreement by returning years later to claim the baby.
“I assured her nothing of such would happen but she kept saying she was still trying to convince her husband to agree to the idea of adoption. The discussion was still ongoing for about two months when I got impregnated by another man who was not ready to father the baby.
“I informed the woman but she kept saying her husband had yet to agree and that was how the discussion between me and the woman ended. So, I was left alone,” she added.
As Fortune grappled with her new situation, another challenge was brewing from the surrogate agent who temporarily accommodated her and her children at a location in the Igbe area of Igbogbo Local Council Development Area of Lagos State.
Since the surrogacy plan did not work out, Fortune and her family, who had stayed for a considerable time, were asked to leave the house.
Back to base
However, Fortune, who bagged a Nigeria Certificate in Education from the National Teachers Institute, Edo State, with some years of experience in teaching, secured employment at the Bloosmead School, Igbe, Igbogbo, and was paid N25,000.
After working in the school from March till June 2022, the teacher said she secured another teaching job in August at the Esther Crown Primary School, Igbe, where she was paid N30,000 monthly.
The Edo State indigene said she also enrolled her two kids in schools and pleaded with the surrogate agent for more time to get another accommodation.
“When the time elapsed, I had to plead with the owner of Esther Crown Primary School for me and my children to be sleeping in one of the classrooms pending the time I would secure another accommodation.