Adaeze Ugorji’s world figuratively crashed to a bruising halt when she told her boy friend that she was pregnant.Her illusions of marriage was shattered as the man denied responsibility; her future plans for graduate studies were crushed as her outraged aunt denounced and threw her out of their Festac home; and she found herself at the mercy of the elements as she roamed Lagos streets in a desperate search for shelter and determined not to abort her baby.
“I don’t have any plans for now,” said the young mother. “I was
living in Festac, but my aunt and her husband asked me to leave their
house when they found out about my pregnancy. My mother is late; she was
the person that I was staying with before she died and I moved in with
my aunt, no other person is around for me.”
Ozanam House, a transit home for the displaced, run by Catholic nuns,
eventually provided shelter and ante-natal treatments for Ms Ugorji
until she gave birth to her baby.
“For now, there are a total of six inmates, and five of them have
given birth to babies while the remaining one is still expecting,” said
Theresa Duru, Director of Ozanam House.
The home is supposed to provide temporary shelter for any person who
is displaced, but it turns out that teenage pregnant ladies constitute
more than 90% of the population in the home at any given time.
Shade Popoola’s case is worse. She botched an abortion attempt last
year, which caused injuries to her womb, because she could not afford to
incur the wrath of her parents, more so when the man responsible for it
abandoned her and fled their Ijesha neighbourhood.
“I just regret the whole thing,” she said. “Now, na only God I just
dey pray for make this problem no make me childless for life.”
Despite the flood of abstinence/contraceptive use awareness campaigns
organised by government, non government organisations and international
agencies, millions of Nigerian teenagers still engage in unprotected
sex often resulting in unwanted pregnancies. In Lagos, these pregnancies
have led to a population explosion of orphanages and illegal abortion
The National Bureau of Statistics indicates that, as at 2004, a mere
60% of male citizens of Lagos State used condoms, while 39% of women did
so. The National Action Committee on Aids also revealed that an average
of 14% persons between ages 15-24 used any form of contraceptive in a
five year survey.
The baby care unit of the Little Saints Orphanage, located at
Palmgrove Estate, reveals that they receive an average of five unwanted
babies a month.
“These numbers are discouraging,” said Enyinwa Eke, a psychologist
and university lecturer. “In this age, we should no longer be preaching
the importance of contraception usage to our youth. The sheer number of
unwanted babies being abandoned at orphanages all over Nigeria is a very
He also urged parents to join the campaign against unwanted teenage
pregnancies by being more active in the sexual education of their
children, and ensuring that children are not exposed to pornography.
The reconciliation efforts of the nuns at Ozanam House, which ran for
seven months, resulted in a grudging forgiveness from Ms Ugorji’s aunt,
and subsequently paved way for her return to Festac.