‘Over 400 Lagos challenged children get lifeline abroad’
Wilfred Ndidi is the Nigerian revelation and one Leicester City’s shiny stars after a dream 17 millions pound move to the English premiership side from Belgium in January.
Born in Lagos State on December 16, 1996 to a soldier and taking to football from the streets of Lagos, Ndidi’s quick adaptation to European life and football was largely aided by a Belgian couple, Theo van Vlierden and his wife, Marleen, who adopted the emerging star on his arrival at Genk in 2015.
He ended the season being voted as Leicester City’s Young Player of the Year and is today an inspiration to many Nigerians, including Kemi Adebayo, a physically challenged footballer, picked up from the streets as a destitute child by the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development, but today living her dreams in Europe with her adopted parents.
Adebayo is one of the over 400 children abroad across Europe, Asia, and America that have been given out to foreigners and Nigerians in diaspora by the ministry, which has handled a total of 1,237 applications in the last one year for adoption and fostering, out of which 1,145 were for local adoption.
The Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Pharm. (Mrs.) Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf, who disclosed this in an interview with The Guardian, said the state government was burdened by the dilemma of abandoned babies and abused children being rescued, the reason why it decided to partner with inter-country adoption stakeholders such as Spanish Consular General, Future and Child Agency in the Netherlands and Office of Children Issues in the U.S. Department of State to improve on its child welfare and development mandate.
According to her, 237 abandoned babies were rescued from the streets of Lagos in the last one year. This comprises 106 male and 131 female. This is higher than the corresponding figure of 149 children that were rescued in 2015, while between January 2017 till April 30, 53 children have so far been rescued.
“Though we provide adequate care and protection to vulnerable children, abandoned, homeless, and abused children in our care or those whose rights and privileges as stipulated by the Child’s Rights Law (2007) had been trampled upon, I didn’t see the need for keeping a large chunk of abandoned children under our care, because I believe they also need the family setting to develop.
“So, we opened up the adoption process and somewhat reduced the incidence of child trafficking. The process in Lagos is clean and clear. Many couples have become parents through this process. Before I came on board, government had stopped the adoption policy but when I assumed office, as a mother who knows what couples face when looking for babies, I was able to reform the policy and today, more than 200 babies have been adopted, apart from children and grown-ups.
“The reason why we extended the policy to international partners was because many people who come forward to adopt babies don’t like taking challenged children. I was able to encourage Nigerians in diaspora and foreigners to adopt some of our challenged children because of the good medical facilities abroad.
“We visit them to see how they are faring. Last year, we visited four countries to see our children and they are all doing fine. Over there, there don’t worry about their ailment because there are medical and educational opportunities for every condition.
“We let them realize that wherever they are in the world, they are still Nigerians, and proudly Lagosians. The other time, I met with Kemi Adebayo. She is so excited about her new life that she is very happy to return to Nigeria to give back to this country as a footballer.