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Kano child theft tragedy

The Kano Police Command announced on Saturday, October 12 that it had rescued nine children who were abducted in Kano and trafficked to Anambra State.…

The Kano Police Command announced on Saturday, October 12 that it had rescued nine children who were abducted in Kano and trafficked to Anambra State. Speaking to reporters at its headquarters in Bompai, Kano, state Commissioner of Police Ahmed Iliyasu said the ring of human traffickers, which has been operating for more than five years, was smashed by the command’s Tactical Team and the Inspector General of Police’s Operation Puff Adder.

Iliyasu said the children are between the ages of two and 10 years and were kidnapped five years ago by a gang led by one Paul Owne and his wife Mercy Paul, who reside at Dakata Quarters, Kano. The Commissioner said that the two suspected kidnappers were arrested while trying to take one of the kidnapped victims to Onitsha in Anambra State. The victim, he added, was kidnapped last month on his way back from an Islamiyya school at Yankaba Quarters in Kano.

So far, Iliyasu said, six suspects have been arrested in connection with the kidnapping, buying and selling of the children. He said the children were not only sold out but their identities have totally been changed to reflect the customs and tradition of their buyers. Since this revelation, there have been cries by other parents in the city about their missing children.  Chairman of the Association for Protection Against Abduction of Children, Malam Isma’il Ibrahim Muhammad, said his association has 47 missing children on its list.

The revelation in Kano of this most sordid, most tragic and most inhumane cruelty and criminality elicited condemnation across the country and a demand for security agencies to do more to rescue many children in similar circumstances. We believe this issue is just a tip of the iceberg as over the years there had been many reports of missing children across the country and many parents had resigned themselves to their fate of not ever seeing their loved ones again. While it is some relief to know that the stolen children were not killed for ritual purposes as initially suspected, it is cold comfort for missing children’s parents. Even death is not as painful as disappearance. While death at least brings a closure, parents of a missing child with live forever with the pain and trauma of not knowing what happened to their child. It is most despicable that this evil couple, in the search for money by ameliorating the feeling of childlessness in their clients, in turn unleashed untold pain and suffering on their victims and their parents.

What this incident had shown is that with more commitment on the part of the police and other law enforcement agencies there is likelihood of more of such gangs being found out and more innocent children rescued. The police and other security agencies should please intensify their efforts in this direction and leave no stone unturned in bursting such criminal gangs.

Another important issue that must be addressed in this saga is that this action must be treated for what it is – heinous crime committed by criminal gangs against innocent children and their parents. The police and indeed Nigerians must see it from this perspective. Already, some clerics and others have seized on one aspect of the criminality, i.e. changing the identities of the young victims. They allege that the child theft was an agenda of religious conversion. It was not. The goal was criminal and commercial and the identity change was simply intended to make the stolen victims marketable. We must not compound our problems as a country by profiling the criminals and blaming other innocent persons for the deed of their ethnic clansmen and women.

The culprits must be visited with the harshest punishment provided in the laws. Similarly, we urge parents in Kano and other places to increase their vigilance in the protection of their children. With criminals such as Paul and Mercy lurking around, eternal vigilance should be our watchword.

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