“Madam, I can help you raise money to pay your hospital bill, if you can give me your placenta.” This was the statement of a middle aged man identified as Segun who specialises in buying and selling of placenta. It was part of a conversation between Segun and a woman, Mrs. Chidera Okereke who was recently delivered of a bouncing baby boy in a hospital located in Mafoluku area of Lagos State.
Investigations by us reveal that the trend which has been going on as secret deals between sellers and buyers is however assumed an alarming dimension proportion with the audacity with which placenta collectors now approach pregnant women to sell their babies placenta upon delivery.
Placenta is an organ which links the foetus to the mother in mammals for transfer of oxygen and nutrients to the foetus and waste products to the mother. Mrs. Okereke is one of those who has had an encounter with the evil merchants.
She told us that one of the collectors of the human part, Segun approached her with an offer to help her settle her hospital bill in exchange of her baby’s placenta. Narrating her experience, she said: “I was outside waiting for my husband who had gone to source for money to settle my bill, when a man who later introduced himself as Segun accosted me.
He claimed that one of the nurses directed him to come and meet me that I was in need of money to settle my hospital bill.It was then that he told me that he is a placenta collector and that he would pay as much as N500, 000. “I thought he was joking till he brought out his cheque book, it was at that point that I started shouting.
He ran away before people started gathering around. He claimed that he is a regular visitor in the hospital and used to deal with nurses but in recent times, the families demand their placenta after delivery.”
Also narrating her own encounter with one of the placenta collectors on the prowl, a nurse, Patricia (surname withheld) who works in a hospital at Mafoluku area of Oshodi, claimed that she was actually offered N2.5million to supply placenta to a certain landlord who lives close to the hospital.
She said: “He is popularly known as Baba Saheed and owns a house few blocks after the hospital. One day, he called me and asked me if he can buy placenta from the hospital. He promised to pay N1.5million for each baby’s placenta; I was shocked because that was a lot of money.
I told him that I was not interested and he increased it to N2.5million and I still refused. To convince me, he said that there were so many places he could get supply but decided to try me since so many women were giving birth in the hospital.
“On a second thought, I drew the attention of the doctor who invited him over. He threatened to arrest him but later relented when Baba Saheed prostrated and started begging for mercy. He claimed that he got the contract from a big company. Since then it is a matter of policy that every pregnant woman must go home with her baby’s placenta after delivery.
Although both cases point to a possible act of illegality, findings show that placenta is believed by some communities to have power over the lives of the baby or its parents. Many species of mammals consume their placentas. Human and animal placentas are also widely believed to be used as a source of extracts used as ingredients in various consumer products such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, hair care products, health tonics, and food products other than ritual consumption by the baby’s mother or family.
In China and Hongkong, the placenta is eaten, a practice known as placentophagy. It was also learnt that a company in Japan makes a drink called “Placenta Drink” which contains placenta. The company claims that “they use the placenta as raw material”, adding that the drink makes the body’s metabolism active.
Medical practitioners who spoke with us said that due to the fear of those on the loose scouting for the human parts they now insist that mothers should go home with their placenta after delivery. Dr Jide Adeleke recalled that it took the grace of God for him to survive a particular scandal that nearly destroyed his hospital.
“I had a situation where one of the mothers after two days, came back to demand her placenta. She claimed that her mother in-law asked her to collect it back from us. Her argument was that it has been sold out to someone else. Our saving grace was that the spot where it was buried was still there and the placenta was exhumed.
This is why in the labour ward it is boldly written, ‘remember to take your placenta.’ Another Doctor, Steve Maduekwe claimed that they bury them at the request of the family. “We normally advise our patients to go home with their placenta. It is a sacred thing and property of the woman who could either bury it or dry it up for storage.
In others some would ask you to dispose of it. It is unfortunate and it is also true that it is in demand. I was once contacted by an individual who wants to use them to produce cosmetics. He offered good money and I advised him to go and meet the women.” Mrs. Onolaja, who owns a maternity home in Orile, claimed that she had been confronted severally to supply placenta and paid huge sum of money.
Onoloja who spoke to us on phone said, “I am a Christian that is why I will never be party to that act. I was once confronted by a man who claims to be a representative of a cosmetic company in Lagos. He claimed that he wanted those placentas to produce hair cream. I refused despite the amount in question.I always insist that my patients should go with their placenta.
This is so because I cannot vouch for my staff, they are the ones who will dispose of it. Their offer is always much and could be tempting.” Another midwife who also owns a maternity home in Agege said that it is not a new thing but that most of the collectors approach them with the excuse that it is used to produce cosmetics. “I have referred several of them to the nursing mothers.
They own the placenta and have the right to dispose of it as they wish. It is humanly possible that they use it for ritual. That is why it is important that every mother should demand her placenta after birth. In my village each placenta is buried and a tree would be planted on it in remembrance of that birth.” continue below..
Also a laboratory scientist, Professor Sam Sokunbi argued that those collectors could be using them medically as it is in popular demand. He said “every production company believes in result and considering the benefits that could be accrued in the use of placenta, anything can be offered to get the product especially from a human being.
We cannot pretend that there are no evil men in the world but the truth remains that there is demand for placenta in Nigeria among the production companies. All they need to do is to enlighten Nigerians so that they can willingly offer their placenta for a certain price. We live in a world which believes so much in spiritual issues.