By Dayo Johnson, Akure
The dust over the mystery disappearance of the one-year-old Gold Kolawole during a service at Sotitobire Miracle Centre Akure, Ondo State capital has not settled in the last one month.
Operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), last week, arrested the General Overseer of the church where the boy got missing on November 10, Prophet Babatunde Alfa.
Alfa was whisked away and has remained a guest of the security agency since Tuesday.
The DSS action one month after the boy’s disappeared among over 200 other children in the church children’s section with 14 helpers in attendance calmed frayed nerves.
Public outcry had allegedly been ignored by Ondo State Police Command which claimed it is not a magician and that what needed to be done had been done to find the missing child.
But many observers across the state believed the alleged reluctance of the command to effect arrest over the missing boy was suspicious.
Some people even alleged that some high profile members of the church may have been working underground to sweep the matter under the carpet.
However, with the intervention of the DSS although said to be belated, many still believe the mystery behind the disappearance of the boy would be unravelled.
An eyewitness told Sunday Vanguard that the General Overseer was picked up at his Oda Road residence Tuesday evening by operatives of the DSS and whisked to their office for questioning.
His members, who got wind of the arrest, reportedly mobilised that night and have been keeping vigil at the road leading to the Alagbaka office of the agency.
A source in the agency said Alfa was being quizzed following a petition by Gold’s parents, Mr and Mrs Temitope Kolawole, to the agency.
Sunday Vanguard equally learnt that agitations by interest groups across the country may have prompted the intervention of the DSS.
The Kolawoles were said to have petitioned the security agency following the alleged unsatisfactory way the police was handling the matter.
The Deji of Akure, Oba Adelusi Aladetoyinbo, had intervened and the parties concerned took oath at a shrine in the monarch’s palace to prove their innocence.
The mother of the victim, Modupe, had taken the boy to the church in search for a miracle on the day he went missing.
The mother was allegedly given tally number 87 after she dropped Gold with children’s teachers only to return and discover that the boy had disappeared without a trace.
‘Act of God’
The parents of the missing boy confirmed the arrest of the General Overseer of the church but denied that they petitioned the DSS.
“We did not know where this help came from, but I know that we cried out when the police asked us to go back and continue to worship in the church. lt is an act of God”, one of the parents, Modupe, said.
“We didn’t report to them, they are God sent. They came when all hope was almost lost. The police left us to our fate. “For over one month they, watched us as if it was a goat that got lost. Even if it is a goat, won’t the owner look for it?”
Gold’s father, Temitope, confirming the arrest of Alfa by the DSS, said, “He is in their office in Akure and was not taken to Abuja contrary to speculation”.
The father, who expressed concern over what he called foot-dragging by the police for over a month over the case of the missing boy, believed there was more than meets the eye on the part of the police.
‘He is not one of us’
A twist was introduced to the missing boy saga as the Ondo State chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) disowned Alfa.
The group said “the pastor is not one of our members and the church is not listed under our body”.
State Chairman of the PFN, Bishop Joshua Kolawole Opayinka, said it was quite unfortunate that such an incident will be recorded in a church.
According to him, security agents must investigate the matter and establish the truth.
“Our member churches are scandal-free. It is very unfortunate that this is happening. I, for one, condemn the act. Such act should not be heard of in the church but I know that nemesis may be slow but it will catch up with the perpetrators of this evil act”, he said.
“Sotitobire is not a member of the PFN and not listed under our umbrella”.
While sympathising with the family of the missing child, Opayinka urged pastors to beef up security in their churches in order to forestall reoccurrence.
We are no magicians; we did our best —Police
Speaking on the arrest of the cleric by the DSS, police spokesperson in Ondo, Femi Joseph, recounted the efforts of detectives to unravel the case, saying the parties had earlier been invited just as investigations were ongoing.
Joseph, who said the police were contemplating the arrest of the church children section teachers for conspiracy and stealing of the child, said the police will continue their investigation as it is independent of the DSS.
“What people want to hear is positive result. I share the sentiment of the parents; maybe they were not satisfied with the way it was being handled but we are not going to rest on our oars”, he said. “The most important thing is to get positive result.
“The Commissioner of Police invited all those concerned including the General Overseer of the church, the children’s teachers, ushers and parents of the missing boy.
“They were grilled personally by the Commissioner for over three hours. So the allegation that we are not doing anything is far from being true.
“ The matter had been handed over to the Criminal Investigative Department for proper investigation by the Commissioner.
“Police are not magicians; we are sad about the incident and would unravel those behind the kidnap of the boy during church service.
“We are digging deep into the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the boy and l want to assure you that we will come up with the facts and make them open to the public”.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Women’s Societies of Nigeria (NCWSN) and other concerned women groups have protested what they described as the nonchalant attitude of security agencies towards the disappearance of the boy.
The women described as the “wickedness of the highest order” by security agencies for not making any arrest so far.
They displayed placards with inscriptions such as ‘Bring back the child’ and ‘Police do your work’, among others.
The leader of the protesters, Pastor (Mrs) Jumoke Aborode, said that women in Ondo were sad over the disappearance of Gold.
According to her, the police and other security agencies had not been fair over the case as none of the teachers in the church’s children department when the child was brought had been interrogated.
She called on well-meaning Nigerians to intervene so as to fish out the perpetrators and rescue the boy.
Human rights group worried
Also, a human rights group, Sunshine for Integrity and Justice, frowned at the way the police were handling the matter.
A statement by the coordinator, Mr. Odion Mathew, accused the police of being lackadaisical in their investigation of the matter.
“For over three weeks, nobody has been arrested or interrogated among the care givers in the church under whose care the boy went missing”, the statement said.
“How could a boy go missing among many children at the juvenile section of the church and the police are keeping quiet? This is not good for the image of law enforcement in a country like Nigeria.
“We believe we are not in a jungle. So the police must act on this matter”.
Sources in the church told Sunday Vanguard members of Sotitobire have been holding vigils since Tuesday when their prophet was arrested to seek the face of God for his predicament.
A leader of the church said, “Yes we have been praying for his release. This is a trying time for our prophet and the church, we are not discouraged by the antics of the devil and we shall surely overcome. The church and our prophet will come out of this stronger”.