By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
On October 29, 2020 when Ibrahim Yahaya, a successful businessman from Ogane-Enugu in Dekina Area of Kogi State was about to embark on a business trip, his six-year-old-daughter, Farida, grabbed him. “Don’t go without me this time around,” she cried dragging his father. After a warm embrace, he assured her that he would be back. Little did Mr Yahaya know that it would be the last time he would see her as suspected kidnappers led by 23-year-old Friday Domozu invaded his home and took her away on a journey of no return.
Now in police detention, Domozu, a former army trainee, is, according to Yahaya, well known to his family and the community as a young man who was sent back from military training because of an injury he allegedly sustained while on course. On the day of the abduction, November 2, Domozu and five others believed to be on a mission to abduct Yahaya decided to grab two of his kids, Farida and Abdulraheem, when they couldn’t get their original target. But while 14-year-old Abdulraheem escaped after five days in captivity, his sister, Farida, was not so lucky as she was, allegedly, murdered by her abductors.
Tracking down the ringleader
According to a police source, despite Abdulraheem’s escape the kidnappers kept calling and asking for ransom but refused the family to have access to Farida. On December 29, 2020, the family summoned up courage and begged the IGP to intervene and help bring their daughter home. Operatives of Intelligence Response Team (IRT) who were immediately deployed to wade into the matter were able to track down and arrest Domozu at Sheria, a suburb of Oguma village in Bassa on January 10, 2021.
During interrogation, he opened up and told operatives that Farida died while in their custody. He took them to Jarkama where the village head, Micheal Kure said that they were also looking for a contractor and an operator of Timber wood cutting machine who was kidnapped at about the same time. The 40-year-old-contractor identified as Ibrahim Madaki a native of Aza village in ToTo area of Nasarawa State was not released although a sum of N1.5 million was said to have been paid on his behalf as ransom.
On realizing that the game was up, he confessed to the operatives that they were also responsible for Madaki’s kidnap. He then took them to Gabije forest where they dumped the dead bodies. He claimed that Madaki was killed because he attacked them while Farida who was sick died after drinking some native concotion of medicine they gave her.
He took them to the spot where what was left of their decapitated bodies were dumped. It was discovered that their heads were missing while major parts of their bodies were set ablaze. Madaki was identified through the shirt that he wore on the day of his kidnap while Farida’s body was burnt beyond recognition. Their carcasses had since been taken to the morgue where an autopsy will be conducted. Also recovered were some of the valuables including phones stolen from Ibrahim Yahaya’s house.
Yahaya’s angle of the painful story
Although grateful to God that one of his kids came back alive, Yahaya is nonetheless heart-broken over the death of his dear daughter. In a phone chat with Saturday Sun he wondered what crime he committed against Domozu that made him kill his daughter. “I am still in shock because I have invested time and money on that boy even though he is not my blood. On the day of the attack and abuction, at about 8pm, some hoodlums entered the compound and chased my family inside the room. They grabbed two of my kids and dragged them into the bush. Unfortunately, I was not at home when it happened. The following day, they called me that they are kidnappers and that I should bring N12 million. We started negotiating. Luckily, Abdulraheem my son, escaped after four days. He came back and at about 5pm they called to say that one of our children is with us. I told them that it is not possible since we are negotiating for ransom.
“They stopped calling till about 27 days later, they called and asked why they have not heard from us. We demanded to hear the voice of my daughter but they declined. At that point, they reduced the money to N8 million. We kept begging and they brought it down to N4 million. We were still waiting to speak with my daughter when they switched off the line. They waited for more than 20 days before they called us again to demand for money. We told them that the N200, 000 we raised had been tampered with but we could give them what is left if they allow us to speak with my child.
“They gave the phone to a small child from their tribe. I was able to decode that that is not our child. They took the phone and said that my daughter’s condition is bad. He said that we should either bring the money or they would come in the evening. They said that they have about seven AK-47s and they would use them to finish the community. I told them to come but tell us the time they are coming because we are fed up. It was at that point that we decided to look for people to help us get these people dead or alive. We were advised to write a petition to the IGP and he asked IRT to investigate the matter. They came to the village and were there for nine days.”
But he was shocked to his marrow when Domozu, a face well known to him and members of his family, including little Farida, turned out to be the mastermind. “Just like in movie, they caught Domozu who I believe to be the leader of the gang and the one who asked them to attack my family,” he said. “He confessed that my child is dead and took us to the thick forest where we found what was left of my child. We discovered that they have cut off her head.”
According to Mr. Yahaya, the suspect kept visiting the area and relating with everyone as if nothing happened. “Our house is very close to where he normally stays any time he comes visiting. Even on New Year day he was at a beer joint and even exchanged pleasantries with us,” he recalled. “He is a very wicked man. They killed her and removed the head. We thank God that they were able to get them. If you see how he was moving about, you will not suspect him at all. Everyone in my family knows and relates with him. I do not know what I did wrong to warrant such treatment. Although they have arrested him, we are still receiving threats from his other gang members,” he stated.
Emotional at this point, Yahaya said that late Farida was so special to him that he fondly called her ‘mummy’. “I never called her by name because everything about her reminds me of my dearest mother,” he said. “The last time I spoke with her was on October 29, 2020 at about 9am when I was about leaving home for a business trip. She cried so much that I should stay back and I assured her that I would be back soon. Four days later, they grabbed her. If I had any sign that the evil boy would come to my compound, I would have stayed back. Probably, I am the one they would have taken. It is painful and I pray that her soul will rest in peace. As for that boy, let him know that he who kills with the sword must surely die by the sword,” he prayed.
Abdulraheem’s story of lucky escape
Recounting how he escaped, Abdulraheem said he ran as fast as his legs could carry him when the man guarding them slept off. “We came back home late in the evening and after eating at about 8pm, two armed men jumped into our house. Two others were at the exit gate while two were at the community secondary school close to our house. I tried to escape with my stepmother but the ones at the exit gate caught me. They were carrying guns; they took me and my sister, Farida. We trekked throughout the night till around 4am. They took turns to carry my sister. When we got there, they tied my hand and leg and also blocked my eyes in the morning so that I would not see them. In the morning they untied my hand and leg so that I could eat. In the evening, they asked me if they untie me if I would run away. I told them no. They let me be till on the fourth day after we finished eating, five of them left and left us with the one person guarding us. He slept off and I escaped. I ran to the nearest village. I saw a house and went there. I saw a woman and she took me to their village head. The king now called my father because he knows my father.”
According to Abuldareem, they were fed with only piece of yam in the morning and one at night. “They fed us with yam and my sister kept complaining that she has stomach ache. All they did was to pluck leaves from the forest, cook it and force her to drink. It stopped at that point. She was still alive when I escaped.” He insisted that it was Domozu that wore a mask while he was there. “Although he wore a mask, I could remember his voice. I always saw him at my friend’s house.”
The family’s ‘friendly’ foe reveals his involvement
In tears, Domozu told Saturday Sun that there was no initial plan to kill anyone except the woodcutter who attacked them. But he admitted being deeply involved in the abduction of Farida and her brother, though unwittingly, to use his words. “I am from Jarkama village in Basa area of Kogi State,” he said when Saturday Sun tried to probe into his roots and identity. “I have a lot of family and friends in Ogane-Enugu and I am a regular visitor there. Sometime in November, I went there to see a herbalist who is helping me to work on my fractured leg. Some guys from Nasarawa State that are known to me met me where I was drinking and asked me to join them to pick one man. They told me that the man owed them. Initially, I refused but they convinced me. Since I knew the owner of the house, I was told to wait outside and watch out for vigilante people while the four of them entered with their AK-47. In less than 10 minutes, they came out with two of his children and we took them to Gabeji area inside the thick forest. We contacted their father and started asking for money if they wanted to see their children alive.
“It was then that they told us that the small one is a sickler and we told them to hurry up and pay the ransom. We fed them with roasted yam, banana that we found in the forest and water from the stream. Unfortunately, on the fourth day, the boy escaped because the person watching him slept off. We went to the forest to look for him that was how we found one man that said his name is Ibrahim cutting wood. He challenged us that he knows what we are doing in the bush. He claimed that he saw the boy and would report us if we do not release the girl. We overpowered him and tied him up while we called his boss to send money if they wanted to see him alive.
“We took him back to the forest where the girl was kept but the following next day the girl died. She was shouting that her stomach is paining her, so we mixed some herbs and gave her to drink. Unfortunately, she died. We were still contemplating what to do when the man that we also abducted picked a matchet and hit one of us on the head. We got angry and killed him. We picked the two corpses and dropped it by stream. We all ran away but kept communicating with both families with the hope to get small money. It was the boss of the man that later sent N120, 000. It was when police arrested us that we saw that the body was burnt. We did not take anything that day, maybe it’s the people that burnt the body that did that.”
On why he was thrown out of the military, Domozu said he was not dismissed but withdrawn because of an injury he sustained during one of the training sessions. “I joined the military in 2020, I was amongst Batch 79 intake and we were sent to Zaria camp for training. I was not dismissed but withdrawn because of the accident that I had while in training. We organized a boxing competition in the camp and I was one of the boxers. When it was my turn, the plank that we used to construct the boxing ring broke and my leg was affected. They rushed me to the hospital and the X-ray showed that my leg was no longer good to allow me to be a military man. The rule is after five days, if a recruit stays away from training such a person should be withdrawn. When I returned, I went into farming before Friday, Fari and 77 decided to confuse my life. Someone has died and it is actually a child. I am married with children, so I understand the pain of losing a child. I swear that I would never kill a child and I have seen her play,” he said in tears.
Queried why he did not stop his gang members from attacking the Yahaya family since they were well known to him, he claimed he would have been killed if he had tried to do that. “I know the family very well because the community is so small. They even contributed money for me when they heard I was going to Zaria for training,” he said. “I had no reason to allow that to happen but those boys forced me. Even when the girl died, I was shocked. If I tell the family those boys would kill me; that’s why I had to continue visiting the community so that they would not suspect that I was part of it. I also needed to know if they have gotten information that their daughter was dead. I was surprised when police picked me up. They had so much information about my involvement. I had no choice than to confess. I am so sorry but I know that my fate is in God’s hand.