✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters

Kano: Kidnapping for rituals on the rise

Kidnappers who abduct people for arcane ritual purposes are believed to be targeting children because their parts are efficacious when they are used to prepare…

Kidnappers who abduct people for arcane ritual purposes are believed to be targeting children because their parts are efficacious when they are used to prepare charms. It is also believed that the rise in kidnapping is based on the fact that witch doctors or oracles ask their patrons to supply children’s parts because they are innocent and pure. Although the quest for quick wealth is also pointed as a reason to lure and kill for ritual purposes, thirst for political power is also another reason.

Old danger, young targets

A few months ago, there was a scare in some boarding schools over kidnapping. Panicked by the ugly trend, many parents began to withdraw their children from schools. Until recently, when the police and government doused their growing fears, many parents opted to transfer their children to day schools.

 A 25-year-old child kidnapper who simply gave her name as Aisha was arrested last week trying to sell a 3-year-old boy she had abducted from Bauchi. Luckily for the stolen child, the woman enquired, from a man who would turn out to be a Hisbah official, about where she could go to sell the boy.  The Hisbah agent drove her straight to their head office, where she confessed stealing the child from Ningi in Bauchi State. The kidnapper revealed that it was not the first time she was coming to the state to sell children; she said on a previous occasion, she had sold two kids in the state, to persons she did not disclose.    

A few months ago, a teenager got missing after hitching a ride from Jigawa to Kano. When 19-year-old Ann Okafor, a Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) candidate, got an interval, her homesickness nudged her to visit her father, a soldier, who was away in Dutse. After spending a couple of days with him, she decided to come back to Kano and continue with her exams.

Mobile danger

Many people believe that the reason many motorists don’t stop for hitch-hikers is because of the fact that some dubious travellers camouflage as people in dire need of help. But to others, the motorists that voluntarily offer free ride to travellers could as well be dubious. The latter assertion was the case when a driver voluntarily stopped and offered a free ride to the military man’s daughter.

As many caring parents are wont to do, Sergeant Okafor ensured that he saw his daughter off to the motor park. While waiting, the Kano-bound vehicle at Fanisau Junction in Dutse, a man in a blue Nissan car pulled up and inquired whether the man in uniform was going to Kano. “Officer, you may come in if you are going to Kano,” he offered Okafor, who was in uniform.

Ukafor was not surprised by the motorist’s courtesy as men in uniform often get free rides from motorists. “No, it is my daughter that is travelling to Kano,” the soldier replied. The motorist then offered to take her to Kano, and willingly Sergeant Okafor obliged. And that was the last he saw of her.

International attention

Early this month, a staff in charge of announcements of missing persons on Kano-based Freedom Radio, Aisha Kabir, told an online news agency, AFP, that an average of 50 parents placed announcements on their missing children with the station every week, “compared to 20 such complaints before”.

 A further check by Weekly Trust on another radio station owned by the state government, shows that the tally is still rising. Out of the 50 cases of missing persons reported to the station as at mid-July, 80 percent are children between the ages of 2 and 14. The officer in charge of “lost and found” section of the radio house, Umar Wada Mika’il, said only 3 out of every 10 missing persons have been reported found. Mika’il does not, however, rule out the possibility that the parents are afraid that their children’s captors may come hunting again if they state what happened to the kids or where they found them. “So, what they do is call and say ‘we have found the child,’” Mika’il explained.

Alternate realities

But according to a deputy commander of Sharia implementation operatives, Hisbah, Murtala Mohammed Adam, other issues should be considered when dealing with the matter of missing children in Kano. He admitted that the matter is true, but cautioned that not all children that go missing are actually stolen. The commander pointed out that children who are new in the state and those who are too young to locate home get missing on a daily basis, not because they were snatched by anyone.

He, however, holds that cases of abduction of persons for ritual purposes make victims out both the young and the adult. To buttress his point, Adam related a recent incident where a councillor in Doguwa Local Government, Malam Musa Datti, was killed and his body mutilated in an apparent ritual.

Danger still lurks

Lending credence to the belief that the state is turning into a den of kidnappers, Adam said Hisbah has had to handle children who had been abducted in other parts of the country, especially at places like Jos, Kaduna and Zaria, and abandoned by their captors in Kano.

But the Public Relations Officer of Kano Police Command, SP Baba Mohammed, thought otherwise, saying the reported cases occur once in a while not as frequent as people suppose. He said most of the kidnappers in the state are relations of the abductees. While dismissing the fetish motives of kidnapping as conjectures, SP Baba noted that in some cases, relatives have kidnapped children in order to demand ransom.

But even as the issue is framed by conflicting reports, pointers from other parts of the country are also indicating an alarming rise in kidnapping of children. Hajiya Umma Abdallah, a parent, told Weekly Trust via phone that she’s now extra careful about her children’s movement. She spoke in Hausa: “When hawks abound, any good mother hen should spread her protective wings to protect her chicks.