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4 Months after, family drags Kaduna govt, DSS, to court over missing activist

On August 2, 2019, unidentified men abducted Abubakar Idris (Dadiyata) from his home while his wife watched. He has not been seen or heard from…

On August 2, 2019, unidentified men abducted Abubakar Idris (Dadiyata) from his home while his wife watched. He has not been seen or heard from since. Now his family is asking a Kaduna high court to compel the Kaduna State Government, the Department of State Services and the Police to produce him while his 6 year old daughter waits for her father to fulfill the promises he made her.

Since Abubakar Idris, 34, a lecturer at Federal University Dutsin Ma and social media critic was abducted from his Kaduna residence at about 1am on August 2, 2019, in a gestapo-styled operation, his family and friends have been worried what state he is in or even if he is still alive.

Desperate for her husband’s return or any news about him, his wife, Khadija Ahmad, 24, is suing the Department of State Service, Kaduna Command, the Commissioner of police in the state, Kaduna State government, and the state attorney general to “unconditionally release” Dadiyata and pay him the sum of N50m in damages for illegal detention.

“We are asking the court to compel them to produce him, because under the constitution, no one can be held for 24 hours where there is a court of law,” Barrister Muhammad Ismail Ashir, of MK Mustapha and Associate Chambers, who is filed the affidavit on behalf of the family, told Daily Trust.

Ever since his abduction, there have been speculations that Mr. Idris, better known as Dadiyata is being held by the secret police, information Barr. Ashir believes is crucial to their case.

“The wife believes, based on the information we have, that the DSS is holding him on behalf of the Kaduna State Government,” he said. “On this grounds we are demanding for his immediate release and the payment of damages as contained in the affidavit.”

The affidavit, a copy of which was seen by Daily Trust and signed on December 23, is also demanding that the respondents publish apologies to Dadiyata in two national newspapers and desist from re-arresting him on any issue pertaining to the case.

The Abduction:

Shortly after Dadiyata drove his BMW into his residence at Shagari Quatres, Barnawa, Kaduna, at about 1:05 in the morning of August 2nd, he was accosted by two armed men, who forced him into the car, drove out with him and shut the gate before disappearing with him and his car into the night.

His wife, Khadija, witnessed the incidence from her living room window as she was preparing to welcome her husband. She heard him drive in and I could hear him on the phone. When she looked, he was sitting in the car making a call. She left the window for a minute, she said.

“Then I heard him scream,” she said. “I thought it was an accident. So I rushed to the window and saw two men holding him. They had guns. I thought they were carjackers.”

Terrified, she had taken her phone and called neighbours for help but to her horror, she, saw them bundle her husband into a car and drive out of the compound. One of the men stopped and closed the gate before they drove off.

That was the last time she saw him.

At around 2am, the police arrived. They told Khadija that they saw a car matching the description of her husband’s around Tudun Wada Area and they are trying to track it. They never did.

In the four months that have followed, Khadija has had to lie to their six-year-old daughter that her father had travelled. As of now, her daughter is expecting her father to return home and buy her the bicycle he had promised her. Her other daughter is only a few months old.

She is worried about her husband’s state of health. He is susceptible to cold and goes about with two cardigans in his car. For the months he has been missing, she wonders how he has been faring with the cold and his toothache.

‘We don’t have him’

At the DSS offices off Yakubu Gowon Way in Kaduna, an official met this reporter and said they normally would not speak to the press, but they were making an exception.

He said he was not authorised to answer any question but only to find out how they might help.

When informed of the nature of the visit, he asked that a letter be written and submitted to their office, which they would eventually respond to. Daily Trust wrote a letter formally asking them if they had Dadiyata in their custody and if they may be holding him at a specific detention facility.

Weeks later, the DSS have still not responded.

The only time the secretive organization, with questionable human rights records, might have formally denied having Dadiyata in their custody was in a letter to the Kaduna State Police Command.

Lawal Muhammad and Ibrahim Mu'azu, lifelong friends of Dadiyata
Lawal Muhammad and Ibrahim Mu’azu, lifelong friends of Dadiyata

“Part of the suspicion is that he might have been taken by any other security service,” Deputy Superintendent, Yakubu Sabo, the command’s spokesperson, told Daily Trust in his office, “We wrote to the DSS to ask if the person in question is in their custody and they have written in the negative to say he is not in their custody. A copy of that letter is in the case file of the investigator.”

“We have tried using technical methods of tracking to find him but none of that has yielded any result,” he said. “There is no word from the abductors and we are hoping on hints from the family to help us find him.”

Even for Sabo, his abduction is unusual. No call has been made to demand for ransom, as has been the case with other abductions, and the fact he was taken alongside his car, which has still not been found, makes the case even more peculiar.

Gaps

However, gaps have appeared in the investigation. Dadiyata was accosted while on the phone. The security agencies have not identified the last person he was on the phone with and no one has come forward to say he had been on the phone with him when he was abducted.

At around midnight, he was on the phone with a known political associate in Kano who was identified as Abdullahi. He also called his wife at around 12: 40am, she said to inform her he was stopping to buy suya along the way. But who was he on the phone with at the time he was taken? Why haven’t the authorities identified this person?

Friends of Dadiyata have raised concerns about the investigations. Lawal Muhammad, 35, who grew up with Dadiyata is one of them.

“We expected that after reporting the incidence to them, they would have come and interviewed people and conducted proper investigations, but none of that has happened to our knowledge, other than his wife who they asked some questions,” Lawal said.

Dadiyata’s immediate older brother, Usman Idris Usman, has been deeply affected by his brother’s disappearance and has reasons to suspect the authorities are illegally holding his brother.

“On the 8th of august, we wrote the commissioner of police to ask them to intensify their efforts to find my brother but as I speak to you now, they have not written back to us with any assurances,” he said. “These are some of the concern we have. Later they moved the case from Barnawa to State CID and an officer was assigned to investigate the case. We have written to the IG but we still have not heard from them. We have written to the DSS to enquire and we have not heard from them categorically telling us that they don’t have him. There are procedures for detaining people and presenting them in a court of law. If he is with them and they are holding him for a reason then they ought to present him before a court or let him go,” he said.

DSP Sabo, however, assures that the police is doing its best to find him.

“The command has been doing all in its power to find out where he is and reunite him with his family,” he said.

Threats and warnings

Khadija said Dadiyata is a quiet and calm person who has not been known to get involved with any kind of trouble, something his parents attest to. He reads his books and does his social media activism. Other than that, she said, he kept to himself.

But underneath his calm demeanour, Dadiyata had somehow managed to provoke someone enough to want him disappeared for this long. There were warning signs, his family said.

“There were times he had told me that he was being targeted,” she said. “He told me several times they had sent people to take him and I said to him but you didn’t do anything wrong, you only said the truth,” she said.

His truth might have been too much for some people to handle, his brother, Usman said.

“If you look at his twitter handle, you will discover he has been very critical of the government. In some instances, you would think well, he is going overboard with his criticism or is being too hot with it. The people he hammers with his criticism, some might be able to take these blows, and others might not. These are the reasons we are suspecting some people,” he said.

On several occasions, they have had causes to call Dadiyata and asked him to tone down his criticism. Muhammad Lawal remembers several instances of this.

“I once got a call from someone close to people in the Kaduna State government who knew I was friends with Dadi and asked me to talk to him because he was being talked about in certain circles. He asked me to caution him,” he said. “I tried to reach him but couldn’t so I called his younger brother who called his older brother who talked to their parents to talk to him. This was around October last year,” he said.

Usman too had called him and warned him after he had become aware of threats against his brother. Several times he had asked their parents to talk to his brother.

“There was a time he did not spend the day at home. I kept trying his phone but couldn’t connect so I called his wife. She said he was with her and I asked her to pass on the phone to him. I asked him what was wrong and he told me he had been told they had sent people to “take him”. He spent close to four days without sleeping at home. This was around the general elections period this 2019, before Kano’s inconclusive elections.”

Everyone agrees though that Dadiyata had a clear conscious. His friend Ibrahim Mu’azu, 35, said they had gone out once to wash his car and Dadiyata invited him to take a stroll while they waited.

“I told him it was dark and I won’t take the risk of walking around in a place like this. He only laughed and shook his head,” Ibrahim said. “His conscience was clear, not that he is that kind of daring person.”

Distraught, his parents are pleading for his release and safe return
Distraught, his parents are pleading for his release and safe return

But Khadija confirmed that sometimes he worried about his safety, even if he never took extra measures to secure himself.

“Around the time of the election, he got several phone calls I think from his friends who were warning him that he might be wanted by security personnel for his critical comments. He once told me that he was afraid they might come and take him,” he said. “Often I have asked him about his security and he always said he relied on God.”

But the threats were not only about his safety. His political associate, Yusuf Sharada told Daily Trust that Dadiyata had told him of some threat he had received.

“He told me once that someone, and he mentioned the person’s name but I can’t remember now, told him that if he did not stop what he was doing, they would ensure he was kicked out of his job,” he said.

Hon. Sharada, who works with Dadiyata in promoting the political interests of their principal, Rabiu Kwankwaso, said they have been organizing prayer sessions for Dadiyata and advocating his release through the #freedadiyata campaign.

Broken

Dadiyata’s disappearance has left members of his family broken emotionally, some of them physically. In his family compound in Kaduna, his uncle was sitting on a wheelchair in the mid-morning sun, unable to speak or move.

“Look at his uncle,” his mother, Fatima Abubakar, 60, said. “When this thing happened, every time he returned, he would come and ask if there was any news. Three weeks after, he suffered a stroke. We suspect this thing caused him to suffer this fate because every ten minutes he would come to ask if there was any news.”

Fatima has always had a playful relationship with Dadiyata who is her second son. He was called Daddy because he was named after her father and that increased the bond between them and informed how they related. Later he would modify the pet name to Dadiyata.

“I miss him a lot. A lot,” she said and for a long time she looked down at her fingers. “If he comes here, he behaves like a child. He would insist on laying his head on my lap and say this is where I want to be. Sometimes when I scold him, he would say, am I not your father? And I would say, no, you are not, my father is in his grave. And he would say, but are you not the one who said I am your father,” she said, looking down at her fingers.

It was Dadiyata’s way of deflating his mother’s anxieties about his criticism of government on the several occasion she has spoken to him about it.

His father, Idris Usman Yaro, 67, looked distraught but calm. His eyes were hollow. Since his son’s abduction, he had been losing weight, everyone said.  In the circumstances, he could do little so he has resorted to the only thing he could.

“Since they left with him, we have no information but we are here praying for him. Everyone who comes has been praying for him and we know prayers do not go unanswered,” he said.

Barrister Ashir is confident of some result in court. While the family is waiting for their date in court, sometime soon in the New Year, his six-year-old daughter is waiting for her father to return with the bicycle he promised her and to help her put together the Lego set he had bought for her.

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