The father of one of the children rescued in Anambra State has narrated how his son was kidnapped.
“When the police told me they were going to Onitsha in search of missing children, I never thought the investigation would yield any results concerning my son,” Muhammad Ali said.
Mr Ali’s five-year old son was one of the children missing in Kano that the police recently recovered in Anambra State.
“Days after, they called me on the telephone that they were back, we should come and identify our children. I rushed to the station and when I saw my child Usman, I was emotional with tears running down my face. I thank the Almighty Allah and Mr Babagana (the police chief overseeing the anti-kidnap section in Kano).”
Mr Ali, a resident of Sauna-Kawaji, Nasarawa Local Government Area in Kano, told PREMIUM TIMES how his child was kidnapped when Muslims were celebrating Sallah this year.
“On day two of the celebration, Usman went out to visit my younger brother’s house close to our house. That was where they lured him and took him away. We searched for him all over but we could not find him. We reported the incident to the police and left everything to God.”
The elated Mr Ali commended Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and Kano residents for their support throughout the trying times.
“I hope the government will intensify efforts to rescue the remaining victims and that justice will be done to us.”
The police said nine children were kidnapped in Kano in separate incidents and were allegedly renamed and sold off in Onitsha, the commercial city in Anambra State.
After their rescue, the police commissioner in Kano, Ahmed Illiyasu, at a press conference at the police headquarters in the state, presented the children to their parents after parading the suspects.
Mr Illiyasu said the police busted the syndicate behind the crime and arrested eight suspects. He said the group specialised in kidnapping, concealment and confinement of kidnapped persons, buying and selling of minors and trafficking in persons.
He said the police carried out the operation in Onitsha following a five-year public outcry in Kano over reports of missing children. The Command’s tactical teams of Operation Puff Adder was detailed to investigate the cases. He said anti-crime strategies using community policing tools were employed during the operation.
Protection of Children’s Right Paramount Responsibility – Gov Ganduje
The Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, has vowed to ensure justice is done for the nine rescued children. He said all legal instruments would be used to address the situation.
The governor’s spokesperson, Abba Anwar, said in a statement that no criminal will go unpunished in the state.
He said the government would prosecute arrested kidnappers and their accomplices would be prosecuted.
The governor said he would set up a committee on the matter, with a view to identifying the root causes and prevent recurence.
Mr Ganduje appealed to parents to always be “extra vigilant” over their children.
Justice must be served – Group
A group, Kano Concerned Citizens Initiative (KCCI), called for justice for the nine children.
The head of the group, Bashir Tofa, in a statement commended the police for resolving the case. Mr Tofa said the crime was special because it has ideological undertones.
Mr Tofa, a former presidential candidate, said other kidnappers demand ransom unlike in this case where the children were abducted for certain purposes which the police are yet to reveal.
“Whatever was the purpose of these abductions, it is still frightening because of the newspaper reports of the horrendous experiences the children underwent.
“This is a specialised organised crime that manipulates religion to exploit the innocent children. It is widely reported that the names of the children were changed and they were “converted” to Christianity,” Mr Tofa said.
“This is a very dangerous dimension. We, therefore, call on all umbrella religious associations of Christians and Muslim to condemn this evil act and take the necessary steps. If we recall when one Esie Oruru of Bayelsa State was claimed to have been taken by her lover who converted her to Islam, Muslim leaders condemned the behaviour and took the appropriate steps since the girl was under-aged. The press also made several headline stories and commentaries.
“So we now expect nothing less from them on this issue of abduction of nine children who were abused in the name of converting them to Christianity. And, possibly, they were being taken for other purposes such as slavery, human sacrifice for rituals or use in baby factories, which have become rampant crimes of such kind of abductors.”
The group called on the police not to relent in their efforts of unearthing the motives of the abduction.
“In addition, we call on the Nigerian Police and the security agencies to do their utmost to investigate if there are any more of these captive children and adults from other states enslaved anywhere else in the country, not only in Anambra State,” the statement added.
“We call on the law-abiding citizens of Kano State to remain calm and report any suspicious activities to the police. The criminals who abducted these children for diabolical reasons would face the wrath of the law. Even though they are from a particular part of the country, they don’t represent their ethnic group. Therefore, no one should profile that ethnic group in this regard. They are responsible for their actions before the law and they should
face it irrespective of where they come from.”
Suspects to be arraigned in Kano – Police
The police spokesperson in Kano, Abdullahi Haruna, debunked speculations that the arrested suspects were transferred to Anambra State for the continuation of the investigation.
He said the suspects are in police custody in Kano.
“What I can assure the public is that the suspects would soon be charged to court in Kano as soon as investigators complete their work,” Mr Haruna said.
Kano Needs Child Protection Law – CSO
The head of Transparency and Development Information Initiative, a civic group, Ibrahim Garba-Maryam, blamed the government and parents for the rampant cases of child abuse. He said this was as a result of poor governance, corruption and non-existence of laws to protect the children’s welfare.
Kano State government, unlike Kaduna, is yet to domesticate the children protection law. The state has reviewed the law to suit its culture and religion, but has since kept it on the shelf, Mr Garba-Maryam said.
“What is the government doing in protecting the children in the state? The government is more concerned about revenue generation than the welfare of the children which was itemised in the neglected child protection law in the state.”
He said parents need to know that, children at a particular stage of their lives need the protection and guidance of adults. They need care and love, which will later manifest in their later life, if we don’t care about their rights and well-being, they would always fall on the trap of their abusers.
Go After Human Rights violators across the country – President Buhari
The presidency commended the police for the discovery of the child-theft racket in Kano State and urged them to sustain these good efforts across the country.
Reacting to the incident, President Muhammadu Buhari, through his media aide, Garba Shehu, said such arrests were in line with his commitment to human rights and dignity of the citizens regardless of their age, religion and ethnicity.
Mr Shehu said President Buhari will not support criminality under any guise, including the abduction of children and selling them off illegally.
The president appealed to Nigerians to remain vigilant and assist security agencies in crime prevention and control by reporting the existence of criminal activities around their communities.
“The sharing of human intelligence is everybody’s responsibility in order to make our society safe and this government is ever committed to supporting the police to be more effective in the performance of its duties through proper funding and motivation of its personnel,” Mr Buhari said in the statement.