Magnus Eze; Molly Kilete
Strange happenings have been taking place in Zuba, a town on the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, connecting Gwagwalada Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with Niger State.
Recently, a teenager, Khadijat Yusuf, was abducted by unknown persons suspected to be ritualists at Angwan Gade in Zuba.
Within the vicinity, seven children were also reportedly abducted in Zuba main town; two went missing the same day in December 2017, while five cases were recorded in one week in January.
On January 9, 2018, Ismail Mohammed, 5, and Ishaka Yahaya were declared missing by their parents at Angwan Madaki, Zuba, and till date their whereabouts are still unknown.
Surprisingly, there appears to be a culture of silence among parents of missing children in the community. Local sources told Daily Sun that most of them preferred to keep sealed lips over the incidents, instead of making formal reports to the police.
It was indeed like pressing water out of stone to extract information from many of the parents whose children were reported missing for over two months now.
When our correspondent visited one of them recently, near the Agora of Zuba’s palace, she declined to comment on the issue though, through an interpreter, it was gathered that she had reported the case to the traditional ruler.
Nevertheless, Ismail’s mother, Hafsat Mohammed, said she would not keep silent over her misfortune. She confirmed that her only son allegedly went missing when he joined other children to play within the compound.
According to her, the missing boy is her only surviving male child out of the three she has had so far, after years of marriage.
Hafsat said, “My child doesn’t go anywhere to play with children except those in the compound with him; besides, Ismail doesn’t just accept anybody, if not someone he knows very well.
“I can’t understand how come he left me inside the kitchen while I was cooking around 4pm; shortly after the father returned by 5pm, he started asking after him but I thought he was outside with other children. We called, but no way, we even engaged a search party. Till date, he is nowhere to be found.”
Another parent, Murtala Muhammed, who worked at the Zuba health care clinic, said his son, Kabiru, diappeared within Angwan Madaki too.
Muhammed regretted that, since the issue of missing children started late last year in Zuba, no arrest has been made.
“When we reported to the police, they said, after 24 hours (they would investigate), but till date nothing has been done, rather more are missing,” he said.
Meanwhile, the FCT Police Command last month burst a gang that specialised in trafficking children from communities in the territory.
No fewer than eight children had been reported missing in Zuba in two months, while two others disappeared in Runji community, near Dei-Dei, in Abuja Municipal Area Council.
Police confirmed that nine persons suspected to be human traffickers were arrested in a hotel at Runji.
The divisional police officer in charge of the area, CSP Dankwano Wilson, said the suspects had lodged at the hotel for some weeks from where they allegedly coordinated the abduction of children for trafficking.
Though the police were yet to name the suspects, sources said they were seven women and two men.
A community leader, Sani Abubakar, told our correspondent that the two men believed to be the arrowhead of the gang came from Lagos, while their seven female accomplices came in from Katsina State.
He said their arrest followed the recent disappearance of two children within the area, Abdullahi Kasimu and Aminu Ishaku, aged four and three, respectively.
Father of the Runji missing children, Kasimu Abdullahi, confirmed the incident. It was gathered that the increasing rate of missing children in Zuba, and the recent disappearance of the two children in Runji raised the concerns of residents of the area, which led to the arrest of the suspects.
Wilson said the suspects have since been transferred to the FCT Command for further investigation, while the command’s spokesman, Manzah Anjuguri, disclosed that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) was already handling the issue.
He assured FCT residents that the police would keep doing their best to safeguard life and property.
Increasing crime wave
Zuba is one of the biggest towns in Abuja South connecting Niger State through Madalla and Yimi-Shenegu. Residents said the Yimi-Shenegu axis is open to all manner of crimes because of alleged poor security arrangement in the area.
A leader of the vigilance group in Yimi, Haruna Ibrahim, said criminals use the area often because “from Yimi to Shenegu and other villages to Izom in Niger State, there is no security checkpoint let alone police division or outpost.”
Ibrahim who said, “Robbers enjoy operating in this axis because nobody challenges them; we have been trying our best but without support from anybody.” He also disclosed that suspected ritualists and other criminals have adopted different tactics, especially on the outskirts of the nation’s capital city.
He alleged that they study the porous areas in the security network and launch their operations either in the day or night without being challenged.
Some of them have rented houses in various villages and move from one area to another to take cover, after carrying out operations in one area. Sources further revealed that the hoodlums do not stay more than a month in a particular location due to fear of exposing their identity.
However, Zuba unit commander of FCT Vigilante Command, Musa Alhassan, stated that the group recorded six cases of missing children recently.
Alhassan, who spoke through the head of administration, Ahmad Yunusa Idris, blamed the situation on absence of security personnel in the area.
August, 30, 2017, will forever remain a sad day for the family of Mr. and Mrs. Abubakar Adamu.
It was the day their little son, Buhari, just one and half years old at the time, was stolen from their residence at Madala Zuba.
Life for the 32-year-old man and his wife has not been the same since that sad day.
The father of two, a driver with Coscharis Motors, Abuja, who is now living in hell on earth, told Daily Sun that it would have been better if his son had died and he buried him than live in the permanent trauma that the people who kidnapped his son have subjected him and his family.
Since the day of the abduction, Adamu said he has not known sleep because each time he closes his eyes, he sees the little boy running to welcome him from work.
An indigene of Niger State, Adamu said he was at work on the fateful day when his wife called to inform that their son was missing.
He did not believe what his wife told him over the phone because he felt the boy must have gone to play with other children in the neighbourhood and told his wife to exercise patience.
But when the woman kept calling to inform him that she had searched everywhere and still did not find the boy, his heart began to pound.
The first thing he did was to quickly ask for permission to go home to find out things for himself.
On getting home, he joined his wife and his neighbours in the search for the boy, with no success, and decided to report the matter to the police at Madala.
The police carried out a search in the entire area but could not find the boy. He was advised to travel to neighboring states like Kaduna, Niger, Kogi and others to search for his son with the help of the police. He did just that but his efforts were fruitless.
And while he was still wondering what next to do, a friend posted the picture of his son on his WhatsApp platform informing him that a Good Samaritan had seen the boy wandering on a lonely road and picked him up. The news and the picture brightened his day and put a smile on his face for the first time. He contacted the friend to ask how he got the message so he could bring the boy back home.
Sadly, nobody has come to say by whom and where the child was found let alone where he can locate him even as the picture of the little boy was trending on the social media for days.
He told his story this way: “My name is Abubakar Adamu, I am a driver with Coscharis Motors in Abuja. I am 32 years old and hail from Niger State.
“It was on August 30, when my wife called me at about 12, O’clock in the afternoon that my son was missing that she could not find him. I was shocked and asked her when he went missing and she told me it was about 11 O’clock and I again asked where she was when he went missing and she said she was inside the house doing her house chores because it was during the sallah celebration and it was when she finished and came out to bathe him that she could not find him.
She said she asked the other children with whom he was playing and they said he was with them but they could not find him. Since then, till today, I have been looking for him.
“I went back home immediately and we started looking for him and then I reported the matter to the police station and we went to Madala, Zuba, Suleja and other places where we also reported the matter to the police, and still we did not find the boy.
“My son, Buhari, was just one and a half years old when he was stolen; he was born on May 17, 2015, and was stolen in August 2017.
“After I reported the matter to the police, I told them there were some houses I was suspecting so we went there but the police said they could not just go into people’s houses to search their homes, so we left.
“The search for my son has taken me to so many places, inter-state, I even traveled to Niger State and went to their control room, where they made several radio messages across their divisions. I went to Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi, and other states and even visited several motherless babies’ homes in search of my son but did not find him.
“Just recently, some people started posting the picture of my son on various Whatsapp platforms that they found him on one lonely road and picked him. Unfortunately, there was no telephone number and address on how I can get in touch with those who found him.
“Notwithstanding, I replied the message and told them this boy is my baby and has been missing since August last year and begged that they help me take him to any of the police stations or media houses like radio or television stations but I am yet to get any positive response from the people.”