A fresh controversy has broken out in Zaria, Kaduna State, over alleged ‘abduction’ of a ’15- year old’ school girl, Ifeoma Nicodemus.
Her teacher father, Nicodemus Odugusi, said she was ‘abducted’ on September 14, 2014, when she was 14 and had since been held against her will for the past 18 months by one Shehu Abdullahi, who runs an Islamic school in the Samaru area of Zaria.
But the police denied Ifeoma was abducted, saying her parents were merely twisting the story.
Mr. Abdullahi too said he did not abduct or marry Ifeoma, saying he was merely keeping custody of her based on the order of a court.
Ifeoma also told PREMIUM TIMES that she was never abducted by anyone, describing Mr. Abdullahi as a father figure to her.
Ifeoma is from Ebonyi State in South-East Nigeria, but her parents are resident in Zaria, and at the time of her alleged abduction, was a student of Total Child Bible Secondary School in Samaru, Zaria.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on telephone from Zaria, human rights lawyer, Ezekiel Dyagas, said Ifeoma has been held against her will for the past 18 months in the home of Mr. Abdullahi.
He said that when the girl was traced to the home of the Islamic teacher by her family, Mr. Abdullahi simply told them he had duly married the 14-year-old after converting her to Islam.
But Mr. Abdullahi denied ever making any such remark, saying he was already married and could not have claimed to have taken Ifeoma as wife.
In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Ifeoma’s father, Mr. Odugusi, said he had been in agony since his daughter was taken away from him.
Mr. Nicodemus, a schoolteacher, lamented that the most painful part of it all was “that he knows where his daughter is being kept but is powerless against the forces that are holding her hostage”.
Narrating his ordeal, Mr. Odugusi said on September 14, 2014 when his daughter did not return home, he searched everywhere for her.
He said the following day, September 15, 2014, he received a call from a school in Zaria informing him that his missing daughter was with them; that she had converted to Islam and was now married to Mr. Abdullahi.
The embattled father said for the last 18 months, he had been engaged in a lone fight with Mr. Abdullahi who he said mocked every attempt to free Ifeoma from his captive.
Mr. Nicodemus said Ifeoma was in SS2 at the time of her alleged abduction, and that he reported the matter to the Samaru Police Station in Zaria and subsequently got a lawyer to file a case of abduction in court.
“I am a schoolteacher, so you can imagine my pains at watching another man truncates your child’s education,” Mr. Nicodemus said. “I have been to the Police; I have been to the Court and all the court said fell on deaf ears as far as Alhaji Shehu Abdullahi is concerned.”
The lawyer, Mr. Dyagas, said he suspected conspiracy in Ifeoma’s case, saying he had since found that the proceedings of the case against Mr. Abdullahi was not recorded.
But in his reaction, Mr. Abdullahi said it was Ifeoma herself who approached a Sharia court asking to be converted to Islam.
He said following her conversion, the court ordered him to keep custody of her after she stubbornly refused to return to her parents.
He said the police was called in to persuade her to return to her parents, but she refused especially after her father threatened that she would not be allowed to practice Islam in his home.
“We even engage people close to her family to persuade her to return to her parents, but stood her ground. So I pleaded with her parent to be patient while we continue to try to reconcile her with them.
“I was the one who called the attention of her parent, and asked them to come and take her home, but she refused to follow them.”
The Divisional Police Officer in charge of Samaru, where the case was first reported, said the problem was not with Mr. Abdullahi, but with Ifeoma.
“She converted herself to Islam, and then refused to return home,” the DPO, who refused to give his name, said. “We intervened here, the commissioner of police intervened, and three times she ran away from her parents. The court then handed her over to Mallam Shehu and co. for custody.
“One day, we brought her to the station, and asked her parents to take her away. She refused. She said she preferred to be detained in our station rather than go home with her parents. We couldn’t keep her in the station because if she disappears, the commissioner of police will hold us responsible.
Ifeoma corroborated the police’s version of the matter, insisting that she was not abducted.
Her parents said she is 15, but Ifeoma claimed she is almost 19.
“I’m married now, not to Mallam Shehu but to someone else,” she said. “My parents are aware, and my sister recently came to my house. I just don’t wan’t to go home because I can’t live with my parent anymore.”
She warned a PREMIUM TIMES reporter not to refer to her as Ifeoma anymore.
“My name now is Aisha, and that’s what you should call me,” she said on telephone.