Niger's Hama Amadou flees over baby-trafficking scandal

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

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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.

All of those accused have denied any wrong-doing.

The babies are allegedly sold for thousands of dollars each.

'UnIslamic'

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.

Start Quote

It is not with a light heart that we have decided this”

End Quote Daouda Malam Barte Deputy parliamentary chief

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.

"It is not with a light heart that we have decided this. But the government has itself handed over one of its ministers this weekend," Reuters news agency quotes the deputy parliamentary chief Daouda Malam Barte as saying.

He was referring to Abdou Labo, who has been sacked as agriculture minister and arrested on Saturday in connection with the scandal. After he was dismissed he lost his immunity from prosecution as he is not an MP.

A full parliamentary session would be needed to lift Mr Amadou's immunity.

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.

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