By Ochereome Nnanna
AS the hoopla over the abduction of 14 year-old Ese Oruru from her parents’ home in Yenagoa, Bayelsa to Kano was dying down, more similar stories have been crawling out of the woods.
From the two year-old case of Miss Charity Uzoechina who was abducted from her school in Bida, taken to the palace of Etsu Nupe (Emir of Bida, Niger State) and forced into Islam with Aisha for a new moniker (seems Aisha, also given to Ese, is a favourite name reserved for these Christian captives) to one Miss Ifeoma Ndubuisi, who at the age of 14, disappeared from her parents’ home in Zaria, got forcibly converted to Islam and married off to one Alhaji Shehu Khalil, the list is lengthening.
Another blood-chilling case of savage child snatching happened to one Mr. David Ejeh, a Christian from Kogi State. Their daughter, Miss Lucy Ejeh, was 15 when she was stolen from her parents way back in 2009, meaning she is 22 years-old after seven years in the hands of her captors. She and her parents lived in Talata Mafara in Zamfara State, the first state to forcibly introduce Sharia penal code in the North in 2000 under Governor Ahmed Yerima.
Lucy, an SS1 student of Government Girls College, Talata Mafara when she was kidnapped, was found after only three days in the lair of an Islamic preacher called Alhaji Awaisu, but her father said he was not allowed to take his daughter home in spite of her open declaration that she wanted to go with him. Lucy was put under guard by Awaisu, who hired some armed youths to follow her wherever she goes.
Members of the Ejeh family, who are Catholics, were daily threatened with death because of efforts they were making to retrieve their daughter. Ejeh’s bank where he worked transferred him to Nasarawa State to keep the family safe.
But that also meant putting a huge distance between them and Lucy. In 2012, Ejeh was forced to resign from the bank over his frequent visits to Zamfara to get back his daughter. According to this maddeningly annoying story, the Ejeh family went to the Police for help and met a brick wall.
They brandished a petition dated 28th January, 2010 to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo, as well as evidence of receipt of the letter by the office of the IGP dated 3rd February 2010. The Police have NEVER responded to this heinous crime since then!
Instead, Lucy was taken to the palace of the Emir of Talata Mafara, Dr. Bello Mohammed Barmo and hidden there. Please laugh with me – this emir was a member of a so-called “peace delegation” that visited Governor Rochas Okorocha’s Imo State on a “peace mission” after the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB’s) riots of last year resulted in a mosque assault in Onitsha, Anambra State. Peace? What does “peace” really mean?
Back to Lucy Ejeh. The embattled family also approached the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), whose officials made some efforts to do their job but had to back off when they found out that the abductors had the protection of the Emir of Talata Mafara, Mohammed Barmo. The worst was yet to come.
According to this story published in PUNCH newspaper, Awaisu made up his mind to marry Lucy. He called Lucy’s parents, but not to seek their permission to marry her but to rub insult into their injuries. I quote from the story:
“When he called me, I told him never to try it, but he said he would go ahead with the plan and there was nothing we could do to stop it. He said we should do our worst,” Mrs. Ejeh, a mother of seven told SUNDAY PUNCH.
Lucy’s father also confirmed that he received a similar call from Awaisu.
“I asked him if he was her biological father, but he said I should do my worst. But, on March 1, he (Awaisu) called me again that the wedding had taken place on Saturday (February 27),” he said.
Look at the common threads in all these gruesome girl-child abduction stories: (a) They are all Christian girls; (b) they were abducted by Muslim men; (c) they were kept in the custody of emirs or Muslim scholars in Arewa North; (d) except for the case of Charity, they were all under-aged children at the time of abduction; (e) they were forcibly converted to Islam by their abductors and kept out of the reach of the families and (f) all efforts by their family members to recover them from the dens of their abductors were rudely and arrogantly rebuffed with threats to life .
And this: (g) the Nigeria Police and other agents of security charged with the responsibility to safeguard the freedom and constitutional rights of Nigerian citizens failed to do their duties (h) In particular, all Inspectors-General of Police, from IGP Ogbonnaya Onovo to IGP Solomon Arase, were too lily-livered to effect the rescue of these citizens reduced to slaves in their own country by their supposed countrymen with whom they are bound by the same laws.
Unfortunately, we Nigerians have lost our sense of outrage, humanity and civic consciousness. Is this the same Nigeria that fought the White British colonialist and won their freedom to live in dignity and self-determination? If fellow citizens could do this to their compatriots and boast that “nothing will happen” and nothing actually happens, what manner of free people are Nigerians? Is this not worse than slavery? Was this possible thirty years ago? How did we come to this?
What is it about emirs that Nigerian IGPs cannot send Mobile Policemen to rescue abducted girls and put these agents of wickedness and evil on trial to show that “something happens” to those who break the laws of Nigeria or violate the civil rights of its law-abiding citizens?
When will the President we voted to protect us do his job without first considering the fact that these agents of evil are his kinsmen?
Nigerians, when, when, WHEN?