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Fresh worries as kidnappers target kids


•Why children are prime targets of kidnappers —Security expert •Lucky moms narrate miraculous recovery of their 3-year-olds two days after they were abducted


Many Nigerians appear to be getting used to the news of adults being abducted by kidnappers who demand heavy ransoms for their release. But the new worries center on the abduction of kids, many of whom are less than six years old. GBENGA ADERANTI examines the trend and the reasons for the spike in kids’ abduction cases.

THESE days, a week hardly passes without a case of kids being abducted by some evil-minded fellows either for ransom or for money rituals. About a week ago, there were reports of three girls aged between five and six years being abducted in one of the communities in Ogun State.

A member of the community who spoke with The Nation revealed that the perpetrators of the act came fully prepared.

According to him, two women, probably in their 30s, rented a one-room apartment in the neighborhood, claiming that they would be staying for three weeks.

The neighbors, who had no inkling of the evil mission of the two women, fell in love with their friendly nature.

Two days after they arrived in the area, they took two children of their co-tenant out, pretending that they were going to buy them biscuits.

On their way out, they met the child of another co-tenant and requested that she should join them and she consented. That was how the ladies took the three children away without a trace.

The matter was said to have been reported at the Ajuwon Police Station.

The spokesperson of the Ogun State Police Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, while confirming the incident, said: “We heard about it. The case is under investigation.

“The kidnappers came to rent an apartment in the building. They recently moved into that place and other occupants of the house never knew that they had a game plan.

“Since they came into the house, they started playing with all the children, showing signs of good neighborliness.

“The parents relaxed, thinking that they were good people until they ran away with about three kids from that place.”

Oyeyemi said some people were invited for questioning on the matter.

But while the dust raised by the abduction of the three kids was yet to settle, the news broke of another set of under-four kids abducted by a yet to be identified ‘Big Daddy’.

Unlike the kids abducted in Ajuwon, Ogun State, the two kids abducted in Ijesha, a Lagos community were found two days after, but the trauma their parents went through was unimaginable.

“We suffered, we prayed, we did everything and went everywhere,” one of the mothers of the abducted children said in a chat with The Nation.

For three days, the homes of the two kids, Wasiu Dauda and Alimeen Ibrahim were in turmoil as ‘Big Daddy’ and his gang refused to release the three-year-old kids.

Narrating how the incident occurred in a chat with The Nation, an aunt to one of the kids, Omotunde Moore, said on that Friday, the kids were outside playing while their mothers were in their shops at Ijesha Akorede Market, Lagos. At about 6:30 pm, a stranger took the kids to a Malam who was selling provisions at a section of the market to buy biscuits for them.

Unknown to the Malam, the stranger that brought the kids pretended as if he was a family member, so there was no way he could have suspected that the abductor had a sinister motive.

“He put the two kids inside a mini-bus popularly called Europe and he drove off.

“It was later when we did not see those children that we started searching the shops, thinking that they followed someone somewhere.

“From that Friday, they started searching for the kids until they were informed that they were sighted inside a bus within the community on a Sunday morning within the community,” Moore told The Nation.

“I think the person that abducted them brought them back and dumped them inside the bus,” he added.

Moore said it was a long wait for the parents of the abducted children as they were highly traumatized.

“All the people in Ijesha were touched because it was probably the first time something like that would happen in the community,” he said.

The Nation gathered that shortly after the children were found, the first thing the parents did was to take them to the hospital. Although the kids have since been discharged, they were taken outside the community for a short holiday.

Alimeen’s mum, Toyin Ibrahim, who spoke with our correspondent, said it was an incident that fouled everybody’s mood. She said the kids were traumatized and could not explain where they were taken to.

Asked whether the kids gave any lead on the abductors, she said: “How do you expect them to know where they were taken to? They are not even four yet. They will be four in two months.

“My boy was traumatized. All the efforts we made to make him tell us about his abductors were unsuccessful as he kept talking about one ‘Big Daddy’. Maybe that was what they were calling the person where they took them to.

“We have emaciated as we were traumatized by the trouble we went through searching for the kids. The effect is telling on our body.”

Ibrahim told The Nation that it was intense prayers that brought the kids back, “many people joined us in prayers. I think it was a miracle that the kids returned.”

She advised parents to keep serious watch over their children, saying they should not allow anybody to give them biscuits.

“Parents should go out with their kids rather than leave them at home. Carrying pregnancy for nine months is not easy,” Ibrahim warned.

 More kids abduction cases

In a similar incident about a week later, a four-year-old girl was abducted in Akure, the Ondo State capital. According to a report, the four-year-old girl, Esther Olisa, was abducted by some gunmen.

The gunmen, who were said to be four in number, reportedly abducted Esther in the Danjuma neighborhood of the state capital.

The gunmen had allegedly robbed the victim’s family of their belongings before abducting Esther and getting away in a black Toyota Camry Sedan.

Curiously, while the three incidents aforementioned were perpetrated by adults, the video of an alleged 18-year-old girl kid abductor, Blessing John, from Michika, Adamawa State recently went viral. Innocent-looking Blessing, who was caught with a four-year-old boy, was quoted as saying that her quest for a car led her into the act.

She said her client had told her that if she could bring a kid, she would be given the money to buy a car.

Unknown to her, the picture of the missing boy was in circulation. In the process of taking the boy to where she would be given the money to buy a car, she was caught.

Two weeks ago, a couple, Olatunbosun and Ganiyat Abbass were arrested by the Osun State Police Command for stealing a six-day-old baby.

According to the Osun State Commissioner of Police, Wale Olokode, who paraded the couple, the baby was stolen from one Jemilat Musa on Thursday, March 24. Ganiyat, who was said to be the arrowhead of the crime, gave the mother of the baby N200 and some wraps of cornmeal to distract her.

According to Olokode, shortly after the baby’s mother left home to buy bean cake in the neighborhood, the suspects abducted the baby, put her in a sack, and ran away.

The suspects were arrested in the early hours of Friday, March 25, 2022, in collaboration with the civilian JTF.

But while the above cases were reported and arrests were made, there have been many unreported cases.

The abduction of children is not particular to Nigeria. According to a report by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCME), 421,394 children in the US were reported missing in 2019.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1984 by the United States Congress. According to statistics from the center, one out of every 10,000 missing children reported to the police is not found alive while about 4,600 children are abducted by strangers every year in the United States.

Why phenomenon is on the rise —Security expert

Explaining why kids have become prime targets of abductors, a security expert, Mr. Lekan Ojo, said rather than blaming the security agencies and government for the trend, the situation should be blamed on the nonchalant attitude of parents.

According to him, “some parents treat their children as if they bought them from the market.

“Some even take care of their domestic animals better than they do their children.

“They tie their goats well, cage their fowls well but let their children loose, meaning that they value those animals more than their children.”

Ojo also blamed the trend on a part of African culture that allows these kids to hawk not only within the prism of the place where the parents live but kilometers unguarded.

“What happens to these children during hawking?” he asked.

He also observed that the economy of these parents also contributes to the vulnerability of their kids as many low-income earners live in shanty areas in urban centers.

“Most of the houses do not have fences. This makes it easy for these kids to stray away from the sight of their parents and become soft targets for would-be abductors,” he added.

He advised the government to do something about the Child’s Rights Act.

“There is no law that protects children in this country. That is why you see all these careless parents.

“Imagine a kid of four or five years moving to and from school unprotected and unguarded. This makes it easy for whoever wants to take them away. These are the problems.

“Do you blame this on the government? No. There should be a child’s rights act just like we have in the western world.”

He also blamed parents, both literate and illiterate, who are fond of hiring house girls without bothering to find out about the history of the would-be house help or get adequate information before engaging them.

“The housemaid cannot be traced anywhere. Just because your neighbor brought the housemaid, you begin to leave your kids with her.

“There have been many instances where the housemaid sold or abducted the kids they are supposed to protect and all of them would be looking for the kids together,” he noted.

On the way forward, Ojo advised the government to work on protecting children by enforcing the Child Rights Act. Until this is done, he said, kids remain soft targets of abductors.

A psychologist, Dr. Bala  Abdullahi, speaking from the perspective of abducted children in the Northwest and the Northeast, said there had been a surge in the abduction of kids because the perpetrators of the heinous crime want to give it global interpretation.

Abdullahi said: “If they abduct people like you and me, it will not carry any weight. But abducting children gives a global interpretation.

“There are international organizations that are addressing the global vulnerability of children.

“It also portrays that they want to get international popularity and sympathy by abducting these children.”

He said the inability of the government to arrest the abduction of future generations shows the incapacitation on the side of the government.

On arresting the trend, the don advised that the government should reactivate its surveillance system to monitor abductors at the point they are communicating.

He said that while child abduction cannot be eradicated, parents should review their childbearing and child-rearing practice so they don’t give birth to more than they can train.

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