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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Interview Reveals Fertility Clinics Taking Advantage of Vulnerable Nigerian Girls

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Babajimi Benson, a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives (APC-Lagos) is leading a fight against the exploitation of young women by fertility clinics. In the first part of his interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Bakare Majeed, Mr Benson spoke about insecurity, constitutional amendment and other matters. In this concluding part of the interview, the lawmaker speaks on his motion to end the exploitation of young women by fertility clinics.

Excerpts:

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PT: Tell us about your motion on the exploitation of young women by fertility clinics due to a lack of regulations.

Benson: It is about protecting the vulnerable people. You know we live in a challenging environment in Nigeria. And I noticed that for young ladies, it is also a challenge that affects the female gender. A lot of them are approached to sell their eggs. Donating eggs is okay but donating it with a form of inducement, where the donors are given between N100,000 and N150,000 to do it, is wrong. They then harvest from them and sell higher to other bigger people in the society.

PT: Within Nigeria?

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Benson: Sometimes they export them to European, Asian or American countries. You find out that our young girls rather than do menial jobs will look at this as an easier way out. Assisted reproductive techniques are good but exploiting the donors is what we frown at. So that’s what pushed me into sponsoring the motion. Because we now realise that it is a multi-billion dollar business and it is not regulated effectively in Nigeria. It involves the extraction of eggs from a woman’s ovaries, and transferring it to an egg bank. Fantastic! Good technology and good innovation but exploiting and milking vulnerable people in the guise of donation is what we want to be regulated.

PT: What is the status of that investigation?

Benson: The motion was passed to the committee on health and it is something I have vowed to follow up in this first quarter. So, I am not sure enough needle has been moved but I do know the needle will be moved shortly because there is still going to be a lot of pressure on the committee to fast-track it.

PT: But there is a concern that legislative intervention by the National Assembly could take forever and sometimes such resolutions are not implemented.

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Benson: I think this one should be an exception because the world is watching us. I got a call from a Bloomberg correspondent the other day on this matter. It is a matter that the females will also be looking critically at. The women affairs ministry – we have a Committee on Women Affairs – and everybody is geared up to make sure that this industry is regulated, and regulated appropriately to be able to protect the very vulnerable people of the society. Trust me, it is something that we are going to ensure that thorough scrutiny is placed on.

PT: Talking about regulations, we know that regulation and government bureaucracy often lead to high costs. What is the National Assembly going to do to protect the industry?

Benson: That is part of the regulations we want to do. There is going to be a public hearing. People are going to come and we will look at the comparative studies in other jurisdictions. How they do it there and how they do it is that it doesn’t infringe on the rights of the poor nor will it infringe on the rights of the rich. That is why we passed it to the appropriate committee. We intend to ensure a win-win position is achieved so that no one gets the wrong end of the stick, either the vulnerable or the non-vulnerable.

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PT: Many Nigerians believe that the problem is not the lack of laws, but the lack of enforcement, would this law be different?

Benson: So enforcement has to do with the executive and our job is to prepare the law and make it available. It is the job of the executive to make sure the law is implemented or enforced. So it is also good to shout and put them under scrutiny, somebody who is supposed to be given a directive to ensure these people are treated. We need to expose these persons, we need to put them in public and be sanctioned. If there are no sanctions the law is as good as just papers they are written.

PT: This statement you made raises a question on the oversight capacity of the legislature. We cannot absolve the National Assembly of blame in this.

Benson: Yes, we should also monitor the executive, the people who are supposed to enforce or implement the laws and bring them out to the public if they are not doing a good job.PT: Is there a timeline for this investigation? Also, would this investigation produce a bill on regulating the sector?

Benson: Yes, like I said, by the end of the first quarter, I am going to interact with the committee that is in charge. We need to also look at the law. Does the law permit this practice? Does the law adequately shield donors from exploitation? Those are the things we need to look at. Is there a law that needs to be passed? I understand the national health law also gives tacit approval to these exploitive activities. So we need to look at it and tighten it. And make it more effective and bring it to the world’s best practice.

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