A 10-year-old boy, Robinson Emmanuel, was taken from Numan Local Government Area of Adamawa State to Masaka in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State on the pretense that he would be enrolled in school on scholarship but has ended up in an orphanage.
In the midnight of February 12, 2019, his mother’s cousin, one Thompson Tutu, knocked on his mother’s door at Numan where they had taken refuge from herdsmen attacks.
Tutu came with a strange man who Robinson remembered as being dark in complexion, stout in stature and with a flat nose.
The two men wanted to take Robinson to Jos where they claimed he would continue with his education on scholarship, having left school after herdsmen attacked his village of Gweda Mallam in Numan.
Pwadumadi Elias, Robinson’s mother, felt she could trust her cousin so she gave her nod to the idea of her son going to school in Jos, but not after consulting with Robinson’s father who at the time was also in Jos undergoing a Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) training.
So the following day, Robinson was handed over to the stranger, who was supposedly taking him to a missionary school in Jos, but the stranger ended up taking the boy to Divine Elpidi Restoration Foundation Orphanage, Area 1, Masaka.
“I was always hungry at the orphanage and I would cry all day long for my mother. I was missing my mother and I did not want to stay at the orphanage because the food they used to serve us was not sweet,” Robinson recalled his days at the orphange.
He said they were fed akamu and bread every day and that he took bathe once a day for close to two months that he lived at the place.
He also said he was attending school at the orphanage but that he did not like the school because they were not taught well.
“They often beat us up mercilessly. I remember I was flogged with a horsewhip by Mummy Grace, the owner of the orphanage, and I was wounded in the knee,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tutu was still deceiving his cousin in Numan that Robinson was enrolled in a school in Jos.
However, Robinson’s cries reached heaven and he was soon saved by his kinsmen who he had never met any of his family members.
In mid-April, Robinson heard some people speaking his Bachama language and he ran out of the fenced orphanage to greet them. The people became curious as to how he was living in an orphanage.
Confidence Ngurdi, Chairman of Bwatiye, the socio-cultural association of the Bachama people in Masaka, said the three men enquired about Robinson’s parentage and discovered that his parents were alive, so they came and reported to him.
“I went with the three men to the orphanage and we sought to speak with the boy but the owners of the home denied us access to him. We decided to go to the police to report because based on what the boy narrated to the three of our people, we suspected child trafficking,” Ngurdi said.
Ngurdi added that when the police called the woman to bring the child to the station, she did not do so, rather, she came alone and was asked to bring the boy the following day.
“She failed to bring the boy to the station, so the police went there to arrest her, but she was not around. So they arrested a man there who claimed he was a pastor. There was back and forth but the boy was released to us on April 17, 2019,” he said.
The mother of the boy, who was then called to come and pick up her son in Masaka, regretted trusting her cousin, but thanked God for protecting her only child.
She explained that she became vulnerable the moment she and her Robinson were displaced from their village by herdsmen, adding that if she was still at Gweda Mallam, he would not have been taken to the orphanage.
Efforts to speak with the owner of the orphanage were unsuccessful. When our reporter visited the home on Monday morning, he was told the director was not available to speak with him. He called her mobile phone number severally but she did not pick or return the calls. She, however, responded to a text message demanding to know how the boy ended up in her orphanage yesterday. She directed our reporter to the father of the boy and the director, social welfare department, Karu local government.
When contacted, the director, Mr Mustapha Isa, said he was aware of the case and confirmed that the boy was registered in the orphanage. But he said he did not suspect the orphanage of engaging in child trafficking, adding that it was not unusual for parents to leave their children in such homes.
He, however, blamed the parents of the child for negligence and the director of the orphanage for failing to carry out background check on the man who brought the child in the orphanage.
The Divisional Police Officer of Masaka, Boniface M, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), who facilitated the release of the boy and subsequent reunion with his mother, declined to comment, saying he was not authorized to speak to the press.