Since Thursday evening, many Nigerians have taken to the social media to express shock, sadness and outrage at the gloomy news of the kidnap and murder of a five-year-old Hanifa Abubakar by her school proprietor, Abdulmalik Muhammad Tanko, in Kano.
Elsewhere in Zaria, residents have been thrown into mourning after one Kabir kidnapped an eight-year-old Asma’u – the daughter of his next-door neighbour, Alhaji Shuaibu Wa’alamu – and killed her after spending over 40 days in captivity.
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The Kano murder
After Hanifa was kidnapped, Tanko, the proprietor of the school she attended before her death, was among the early callers at the parent’s house to console them and even shed crocodile tears to divert suspicion from him.
She was eventually killed by the proprietor upon realising that his late pupil had recognised his face and could expose him.
Her body was later discovered in a shallow grave after nearly two months of fruitless search.
Her gruesome murder has further raised questions as to how the moral fabric of society has lost its hue in the past years.
Hanifa, the only child of her parents, was named Murja, after her aunt, who is also her guardian since she was two years old. She was abducted in December and her captors had demanded a N6million ransom.
However, while trying to collect the ransom, security operatives arrested the 38-year-old proprietor alongside Hashim Isyaku, 37; Fatima Jibreel Musa, 27; and the wife of the main suspect; all of Tudun Murtala Quarters, Nasarawa Local Government Area of the state.
The mood in Kano metropolitan areas, with its over four million population, has been sombre since Thursday evening, with individuals gathering in groups to try to come to terms with the development.
The sad development has changed the thinking that children are safer in schools, with residents of the commercial centre of Nigeria still trying to wrap their heads around what must have been going through the mind of the main suspect to make him go ahead with the barbaric act.
While Kano is considered relatively the safest state in the North-West region of the country that has been battling with banditry, other criminal activities like the kidnap of children, drug abuse, prostitution, phone snatching, among others, have continued to send shivers down the spines of residents.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that cases of child abduction have been one of the major security challenges confronting the state, with several abducted children from the state traced as far as some South-East states.
‘What did Hanifa do to you?’
At the Kano State police command on Friday, the mood was further sombre when Fatima Abubakar laid eyes on the killer of her daughter.
Immediately she sighted Tanko, she charged towards him, raining slaps and blows on him as she demanded why he took her daughter’s life.
“What did Hanifa do to you? Why did you kill my daughter?” were the two questions she kept asking the suspect until policemen whisked the prime suspect away.
Daily Trust gathered that since the news of Hanifa’s death broke, the girl’s guardian has been acting in a strange way and taken to hospital as a result of the shock.
Hanifa’s father, Abubakar Usman, could not hold back tears when he spoke with journalists at the command.
“I am really in sorrow for what has happened. I can only thank God because this can happen to anyone, and it is said that everyone who lives today will die one day. So, I leave everything to God, but till I die, I will never forget this.
“Those who did this to me have not been fair to me, neither have they been fair to the world. God will fight for us,” he said amidst tears.
He thanked the security operatives and journalists for their efforts in finding the remains of his daughter.
He went on, “They (the suspects) will definitely face the wrath of the law. They are really wicked to the highest order, especially the principal suspect that has been her teacher for a long time. She regarded him too much, but he misused it and cheated her.
“This is somebody that, after he knew he had killed the girl, for many days kept threatening us to pay the ransom or else she would be killed. He finally collected the money. Instead of us to receive our daughter alive we ended up receiving her rotten corpse.”
Usman called on parents to be vigilant with their children’s movement.
‘I used N100 rat poison to kill her’
When paraded, the suspect, who did not show any remorse, confessed to using N100 rat poison to end the life of Hanifa.
He said that after picking her in a tricycle, he lied to his wife that she was the daughter of one of the women working in his school who travelled and that the girl would be staying with them for some days.
“I realised that the girl’s parents were informed that when picking her, she made mention of ‘uncle.’ This gave me the impression that they might be suspecting me as the uncle.
“After some days, some of my teachers visited my house very early in the morning, and when they came, I was also suspecting that they were sent over to the house to find out whether the girl was there with me; that was on the 5th day after the kidnap. That was when I conceived the idea of killing her,” the suspect said.
He narrated that it was around 11pm when the girl was already sleeping that he woke her up.
“I was drinking tea at that time, so I put the remaining one in an empty container of yoghurt and poured a rat poison inside and gave it to the girl,” he narrated.
He said he later took her to one of his schools, where she died, adding that he buried her in the school because he was not able to find any secure place to dig a hole.
Suspect reserved, kept to himself –Neighbours
Jummai Rufa’i, Tanko’s neighbour at his Tudun Murtala residence, said the entire community was still shocked by the gruesome murder he reportedly perpetrated.
She said that despite the fact that she operates a provision store beside Tanko’s house, she never had any reason to enter his house as he normally kept to himself.
Another neighbour, Muhammad Garzali, also said that despite being a close neighbour, he could not speak on the character of the suspect as “he is very reserved.”
“The only person you would see him associating with is the other suspect he was caught with – his school guard. He visited him often and they would stand, discuss and leave.
“Our children don’t enter his house. I even had my two children enrolled in his school; Northwest Preparatory before the school activities began to decline and I removed them this past term.
“It is unfortunate that someone people trusted with their children could go to this length. I couldn’t sleep yesterday,” he said.
Buhari condoles parents, orders prosecution
President Muhammadu Buhari Friday condoled the family of baby Hanifa.
The president, in a statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu, praised the police and the State Security Service for unravelling the mystery behind her disappearance, particularly the arrest of Tanko and other suspects.
Buhari said his family and the whole country, which followed up on Hanifa’s travail every day since her disappearance in December, were hoping that the girl would have been rescued alive and well.
He said the achievements of the security agencies would instil more public confidence in the authorities.
“When breakthroughs like this happen, people will talk differently of law enforcement,” the president stated.
He prayed for the repose of the soul of the little girl and urged her parents to bear the sad loss with courage and fortitude.
The president urged the police and the Ministry of Justice to uphold the integrity of the security agents that busted the case by preparing well and presenting a good case that would earn the respect of the court.
Kano gov’t shuts schools operated by suspect
Speaking to Daily Trust, the executive secretary, Kano Private and Voluntary Institutions, Musa Abba Dan Kawu, said the two schools operated by Abdulmalik Tanko were all legally registered, but henceforth cease to exist as they have placed closure notice on their premises.
The schools are Noble Kids Academy and North West Preparatory School. While Hanifa was buried in the latter, she was attending the former.
“This is the first time a murder is taking place in an environment like this, and unfortunately, a proprietor is involved.
“On our part, the leadership is going to sit down with all proprietors of over 5,000 schools registered in the state for a seminar in order to have an extensive review of the security situation surrounding these establishments and to caution all parties,” Dan Kawu added.
Also speaking, the state Commissioner for Education, Malam Muhammad Sanusi Sa’id Kiru said that in addition to the police investigation, a ministerial committee had been constituted by the ministry, with a view to assisting in getting to the root of the case and ensuring that justice is served.
While consoling the family of the late Hanifa on behalf of the ministry and the state government, he called on parents/guardians to be mindful of schools they enrol their wards.
Speaking on how to address the menace of the rising cases of abduction of children in the state, the state coordinator of the National Council of Child Rights Advocate of Nigeria, Hajiya Aisha Haruna Kabuga, said the government had to take measures to address the issue through providing enough security agents at all settlements in the state.
“As a parent, you have to teach your children that they can be assertive in order to protect themselves against abduction and exploitation. Most importantly, make your home a place of trust and support for your child’s needs,” she added.
We’ll ensure justice – Police, Ganduje
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Sama’ila Shu’aibu Dikko, said the case would be charged to court upon completion of the investigation.
“I want you to know that the Kano State Police Command will continue to strategise and liaise with other security agencies to make sure that suspects of whatever kind of crime are arrested and charged to court,” he said.
Similarly, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has vowed to ensure that justice is secured for Hanifa.
Ganduje, in a statement by Muhammad Garba, the commissioner for information, noted that government was disturbed that people entrusted with the care of children are now turning to murderer them.
He added that the state government had been in touch with the family of the child and would remain so until justice prevails in the case, to serve as a deterrent to others.
Another kidnap in Zaria
In the incident in Zaria, Asmau also known as Husnah, was said to have been lured by a neighbour identified as Kabir who later handed her over to his accomplices in December 2021.
The suspects were said to have killed the eight-year-old after collecting a ransom of over N3million from her parents.
The father of the deceased, Shuaibu Wa’alamu explained to journalists in Zaria that his daughter was kidnapped on December 9.
“At first, we thought she had lost her way home so, we placed announcements in various quotas before reporting the matter to the police. However, we later discovered that she had been kidnapped after a call was placed to us demanding the sum of N15million for her release.”
The father of the deceased said they continued to bargain with the kidnappers and eventually agreed to pay N2million for Husnah’s release.
“I was directed to take the money to a place at Rigasa, in Kaduna and I did. But to my dismay, after a while, they called and told me to bring another N1 million and N45,000 before they will finally release my daughter.”
Wa’alamu said he had hesitated for a while but because he had no option, he raised the additional amount of money.
“This time around I was instructed to take the money to Tudun Wada, near Albania Cinema in Zaria and I complied. Though at that time, I requested to hear my daughter’s voice to be sure if she was alive and they obliged me. That was when she said, ‘Daddy, it is Kabir.’”
He however said his daughter was not released and on January 9 he received a distressing call that his daughter was dead.
Our correspondent learnt that the said suspect has been arrested and is being interrogated by the police in Zaria.
However, when contacted, the Kaduna State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Mohammed Jalige, requested for time to verify if the suspect was in their custody. He had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.
From Clement A. Oloyede, Salim Umar Ibrahim, Lubabatu I. Garba (Kano) & Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed (Zaria)