By Luminous Jannamike

The joy of the family of 8-year-old Marvelous, 6-year-old Alex, and 2-year-old Rehoboth (Chinenye) knew no bounds when the three kids were reunited with their parents in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, two weeks after they went missing.

 Saturday Vanguard gathered that the three little siblings lived with their biological parents in the suburban Kabusa area of Abuja, but they reportedly went missing on their way back from school on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

The children’s father, Sunday Ani, said he would have died, if they had not been found. He also said the family was set to stop at nothing to raise the money needed to search for them.

According to him, it all began in the morning of that fateful day as he watched his wife, Joy, prepare the children for school. He had a sort awkward feeling, but couldn’t place his fingers on anything unusual.

So, Sunday Ani bade his children goodbye as they left for school, committing them to the protection of God. Soon afterwards, the awkward feelings he had hitherto sensed disappeared and everything seemed normal and progressively so as the day went by. 

However, in a dramatic turn of events, life suddenly gave way for grief and anxiety took centre stage in the household of Mr. and Mrs. Ani following the abduction of their three surviving children as they were said to be returning home from school.

On each passing day, the couple went through harrowing pains in fruitless search for the charming three kids, day and night.

At the height of the anguish, they felt fate was too harsh on them. The gruelling heartaches persisted for about two weeks until Monday, April 4 when cheering news filtered in from the Wuye District Police Division about 31 kilometres from Kabusa community.

Little Marvelous, Alex, and Rehoboth had been found in near  Abuja Games Village located in Kaura District.

Joy overwhelmed their parents like a raging torrent. It shook off the despair that seemed to have found permanent abodes in their hearts. Friends and families joined in the ensuing euphoria. It was wonderful!

Speaking, Sunday Ani told Saturday Vanguard that after two weeks of fruitless search for the children, the family was almost settling for the worse, but kept on praying for the safe return of the children.

He said his children’s return was an indication that their prayers were answered as many residents had assumed that they must have been killed for ritual purposes.

Narrating his family’s experience, the father-of-three said, “On the day they went missing, I was at home when my wife prepared the children for school. After they left, I went to work. About past three o’clock my wife called me to say that she went to school to pick the children, but did not find them.

“I called the school owner, asking for the whereabouts of my children. All she kept telling me was to calm down and take things easy. So, when I got back home, I didn’t see my children. I went to the school myself and also didn’t find them there. That is when the journey of sorrow and agony began for us.

“We looked for the children everywhere, even in the bushes. By this time, my wife had reported the matter to the police. Since then, we have gone here and there in search of them. My wife and I have not sat down to rest or even to eat. I don’t wish this kind of pain for any other person including my enemies. It is not easy. I would have died, if these children not been found.

“Today, I am so happy. The prayers of people, including those I didn’t know in person, have been answered by God, because many people offered prayers for my family both in churches and mosques. I am a Christian, but sometimes, random people not just pastors even Imams will call my phone line and introduce themselves. They will encourage me to keep my hope alive, stressing that my children will return.”

Like the excited father, the children’s mother, Mrs. Joy Sunday, let out exultant cheers to celebrate the joyous moment.

“I was crying. The two weeks of living in fears and uncertainty were like many years to us, but we are very happy now. It is like the heaven has opened for me,” she told Saturday Vanguard.

Describing her feelings when she first heard that her children had been found and the very moment when she eventually saw and held them again, Mrs. Joy Ani said: “I shed tears of joy and kept asking myself if it was true. Sincerely, I did not know what to say because it was too good to be true as if they have risen from the dead.

“Many people had said on the social media that they must have been killed for ritual, particularly as politicians are getting set for 2023 elections. So, I was just shouting and crying. The moment was so precious. It is something I will never forget. The fears and the pains I felt all disappeared immediately I saw and touched my children again.”

On how the three missing children were found after their strange disappearance, the FCT Commissioner of Police, Mr Sunday Babaji, painted a vivid picture of the what transpired on the night they were spotted loitering on the streets of Kaura district.

According to Babaji, “When we received the complaint about the missing children about two weeks ago, we made an entry of missing persons and immediately swung into action by putting all our men and assets on the alert.

“We deployed all our intelligence assets and informed all our neighbouring states through the signal, describing how the children looked like, from what the family told us and the pictures they supplied us.

“We also worked with all the community leaders, vigilantes and hunters. We also searched the bushes; the school authorities were also invited to the police station for questioning over negligence.

“Last Sunday at about 8.30 pm, our tactical men on a stop-and-search foot patrol team in Wuye division, which is the Games Village area, saw these three children in a state of distress. So they rescued them, took them to the station where a female officer questioned them.

“Afterwards, they were taken to the Muhammadu Buhari Police Hospital for medical checks. Various tests were carried out and the children were found to be okay, but they will have to undergo psychological tests and therapy sessions because of the trauma they must have been through for the past two weeks.”

Asked what efforts the police are making to identify, apprehend and prosecute those who masterminded and executed actions that led to the mysterious disappearance of the children, the FCT police boss simply said that Star Heritage Academy in Kabusa, which is the school the children attended, was under investigation.

“The school authority was invited by the police for questioning on the allegation of negligence,  and the case is still on,” he added.

CP Babaji, however, advised parents and guardians to be vigilant and observe the movements of their children and wards, saying “I want to use this opportunity to appeal to proprietors of schools to be cautious about who takes and brings back children to and from school.”

While the police are still investigating the mystery-riddled case and the family of Mr. Sunday Ani continues to revel in the afterglow of an eventful reunion with their three little children, some key questions are begging for answers as the children, while loitering the streets of the highbrow Abuja Games Village in Kaura district of the nation’s capital appeared to be well-fed and cared for even the two (girls) out of the three kids adorned new hairstyles.

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