‘Baby-trafficking’ speaker flees

Niger's speaker of parliament Hama Amadou in June 2014Parliamentary speaker Hama Amadou, whose wife was arrested in June, has fled to Burkina Faso

The speaker of Niger’s parliament has fled the country after a parliamentary committee agreed he could be arrested over a baby-trafficking scandal.

Hama Amadou, considered a presidential contender in 2016, says the allegations are politically motivated.

His second wife and 16 other people were arrested in June accused of illegally buying new-borns from “baby factories” in south-eastern Nigeria.

The babies are allegedly sold for thousands of dollars each.

The BBC’s Niger correspondent Baro Arzika says the case has proved fortuitous for President Mahamadou Issoufou’s party which has been looking for ways to remove Mr Amadou as speaker since he fell out with the ruling coalition.

The scandal has also shocked many in the predominantly Muslim country as it is seen as unIslamic to pass off adopted children as your own, our reporter says.

It has been reported that some of the women claimed to be pregnant and went to Nigeria before returning with their babies, he says.

The National Assembly’s top committee, which includes deputy speakers and the heads of parliamentary committees, met on Wednesday and agreed that police could arrest and question Mr Amadou over the allegations.

Six opposition members refused to attend, but enough were present to take the decision.

A full parliamentary session would be needed to lift Mr Amadou’s immunity from prosecution.

Some 30 children are at the centre of the baby-trafficking allegations, our reporter says.

According to the AFP news agency, the case allegedly involves forging and altering birth certificates to switch the names of mothers.