Dr Suleiman Auwal and his neighbour Alhaji Jibrin Panti are going through a rough patch. Panti’s son, along with another suspect, is standing trial for abducting and murdering the doctor’s son. This has driven a wedge between the two men with the doctor accusing his neighbour of trying to intimidate him into giving up his quest for justice for his son. Over the two men, a deep sense of loss lingers.
It has been a year since Abubakar Sadiq Suleiman, 19, was kidnapped, murdered, and buried just three houses from where he lived in the Ibrahim Bako area of Bauchi Metropolis.
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His suspected murderers named by the police as Mohammed Jibrin, 19, and Abdulrahman Sulaiman, 29, were his neighbours and had demanded N10 million from the victim’s father for his release. They got N5.5m but they murdered the victim and buried him in their compound until he was discovered and his corpse exhumed following their arrest.
A year after the gruesome crime, Dr Suleiman Auwal, the victim’s father is still struggling to process his son’s death.
“There was a time I went back home after work and met my daughter tugging at her mother’s wrapper, asking that they go to my neighbour’s to bring her brother (the victim),” he said. “Both my daughter and my wife were crying and I was equally depressed.”
He confesses that living in the house, close to where his son was murdered has been challenging, especially with the suspects’ family living so close by and with the threats he has been receiving not to pursue justice for his son.
“I received two threats,” he said. “One was placed on my office door and another was placed on the mirror of my car.”
Both letters warned Dr Auwal to withdraw the case or face consequences.
“They will not fold their arms to allow me to convince the court to kill their sons; that they were ready to kill another of my sons if I step into the court again. They told me that a word is enough for the wise,” he said.
Last year, the then Bauchi Commissioner of Police Philip Maku had announced the arrest of suspects in connection to the abduction and murder of Abubakar Sadiq Suleiman.
“Detectives from the Anti-Kidnapping Unit arrested the following suspects; Muhammed Jibrin AKA Al-Amin, 19, of Ibrahim Bako behind AYM Shafa Filling Station, Bauchi. He confessed that on 04/04/2020, he and one Abdulrahman Sulaiman, 29, criminally conspired, killed and buried the victim, Abubakar Sadiq Suleiman in their compound and that they used part of the ransom paid through his account to buy a Mercedes E320 4matic at the cost of one million six hundred and fifty thousand naira (N1, 650,000), and an iPhone at the cost of one hundred and fifty-six thousand naira (N156, 000,” he said.
Dr Auwal suspects, his neighbour, a parent of one of the suspects, is behind the threat letters.
“The father of this boy keeps on going from one place to another spreading all kinds of rumours. He keeps on involving my relations, bringing them into the issue, knowing fully that the body of my son was exhumed from the backyard of his house,” he said.
Dr Auwal said the constant interventions to have him withdraw the case would not work because this is a criminal case and he is only a witness and the visits only add to the pain he and his family have to endure over the loss of their son.
“There is going to be a day that I cannot control myself. Because I can categorically mention the names of the people that he has sent,” he said.
Alhaji Jibrin Panti, the father of the suspect, denied allegations he has been trying to scuttle the case, which has left him very disturbed as well.
“On the issue of threatening his life, I am not aware of it, I am not responsible for it and I did not ask anybody to do it. I don’t know anything about the threats and I will never do so to anyone not to talk of my neighbour,” Alhaji Panti said.
However, Dr Auwal insists the plot to scuttle the case at the Bauchi State High Court has grown bigger.
“During the second sitting, many of the witnesses refused to appear. Why they refused to appear, we don’t know. The Chief Judge was angry. How can a witness be called to appear before a court on a murder case and not appear,” he said.
“And another thing I realized is that the bank where the account belonging to the boy who killed my son, in which I deposited [ransom] money, refused to give us the bank statement up to the moment that I’m talking to you. The police have made efforts and some court officials made efforts, all to no avail,” he said.
He said bank account statements of other suspects and witnesses, such as the dealer who sold a car to the suspects, and the phone seller had been obtained and wondered why it was taking so long to get the main suspect’s.
However, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Bauchi State Police, Command SP Ahmed Mohammed Wakil said, “Yes, it is true that the bank had earlier not released the bank statement as demanded but they have subsequently released the statement and the case has continued without hitches.”
Dr Auwal did not only lose his son in that ordeal. He lost a lot of money as well. The N5.5 million he paid in ransom to save the life of his son has gone into luxury items the suspects purchased after their crime.
“When my son was killed, the governor came to console us. He deeply sympathized with us and he felt bad that this kind of thing is happening in his state. He promised that he will do everything he could as the chief security officer of Bauchi State to ensure justice is done.
“The governor said he wants to see me to offer me some relief for losing my son and equally losing my money. And up to this moment, I have not received any kind of help whatsoever,” he said.
He has made several attempts to see the governor, each time he had been unsuccessful.
“I went to the Government House several times as he asked me to. I met with the Secretary to the State Government and he kept telling me that the governor is busy and I should come back again,” he said.
His three visits to the government house have affected his practice as each time, he had to leave his patients to do so. He is hoping that whatever the governor can offer him would help him relocate his family from where they suffered the loss of their first son.
But he also has another worry.
“My biggest worry is the impression the father of the boy who killed my boy is giving. He is claiming that the governor is from his place and he will secure the freedom of his child and send him abroad where nobody is going to see him,” he said. The refusal of witnesses to appear for the case has left him worried that his son might never get justice.
However, Alhaji Panti, the suspect’s father, has denied making any such claims.
“This is a baseless allegation because I have never contacted the governor or any government official about the case,” he said. “Yes, it is true that I hail from Alkaleri LGA, where the governor hails from but I have never contacted him or any official from the government about the case. I have left everything to the court and for justice to take its cause.
“I am also going through terrible experiences as a result of the incident and I am also sharing the agony of my neighbour, Dr Auwal, because his son was like my son and as a Muslim and responsible citizen, I will never tamper with the course of justice. Whatever the decision of the court, I have left everything to God,” Panti said.
What is clear is that this dreadful murder of young Abubakar Sadiq Auwal has torn the two families apart and left both men reeling, one from the loss of his son, the other from the possibility of losing his.