Nigerian police have raided a home and freed 16 pregnant young women who were allegedly being forced to have babies to be offered for sale for trafficking or other purposes, police said Thursday.
They said they arrested the man suspected of running the home, adding he was arrested on similar accusations two years ago but it was unclear what happened to the previous case or why he had been freed.
"The operation was carried out by the DSS where 16 expectant mothers, aged between 17 and 37, were found," Abia state police spokesman Geofrey Ogbonna told AFP.
The DSS is the Department of State Services, a domestic intelligence and police force.
He said the raid on Cross Foundation in the southern city of Aba was carried out on Tuesday and the proprietor, Hyacinth Ndudim Orikara, had been arrested.
"The suspect is a serial human trafficker. He claims to be a medical doctor. I could recall that the same man was arrested in May 2011 and 32 teenage girls were rescued from his home," he said.
He said the girls confessed that they had been offered to sell their babies for between 25,000 and 30,000 naira (around $200), depending on the sex of the baby.
Ogbonna said the previous incident had been referred to the state-run agency fighting human trafficking, the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.
"I don't know what became of the matter and now he has been arrested again for the same offence," he said.
A spokesman for the anti-trafficking agency said it does not have jurisdiction over such cases and had handed the man back over to police. He was unsure what occurred after that.
Nigerian security agents have uncovered a series of alleged baby factories in recent years, notably in the southeastern part of the country.
Last month, six pregnant teenage girls were freed in a raid on a house in Enugu where three people suspected of planning to sell their babies were arrested.
The incident came just five days after police in nearby Imo State freed 17 pregnant girls and 11 small children from a home in the town of Umuaka.
The girls, aged between 14 and 17, said they had been impregnated by a 23-year-old man who is currently in custody. The owner of the building is on the run.
Human trafficking is widespread in west Africa, where children are bought from their families to work in plantations, mines and factories or as domestic help.
Others are sold into prostitution, and less commonly they are tortured or sacrificed in black magic rituals.