In recent years, children from Kano State were kidnapped and sold to willing buyers in the southern part of the country. Some of the victims who were rescued by the police shared their experiences when they were reunited with their families.
This week, seven more children purportedly abducted from Kano and sold to other parts of the country were uncovered. The first nine children were found in October 2019.
There have been several hues and cries about children missing from the state; hence several pressure groups were set up to ensure their return.
Finally, government set up a commission mandated to ensure the safe return of all the missing children in the state.
The chairman of Kano Missing Children Forum, Comrade Ismail Ibrahim Mohammed, said from their available records, no fewer than 118 children were still missing.
“We got the first set of children after we contributed money to sponsor the police.
“They went and got 10 back; but they told us that they could have done more if they had stayed longer in the areas they visited because they believed many missing children were still there.
“Our plea to the government is to provide funds to that police team to revisit the area, but nothing is being done.
“We have reached out to the National Assembly, but nothing is happening about our case. And northern elders are still silent.
“Concerned stakeholders must rise to ensure the return of other children still missing,’’ he said.
He said five of the seven children in the second batch had since been identified by their parents.
He revealed that the team was at two orphanage homes in Anambra State, precisely in Onitsha, Awka and Ogidi.
“We didn’t come with the children; we took their pictures and sent to our members, and five of them have so far been identified.
“They were handed over by the state commissioner of police, who also told us that 12 children were taken by the Gombe State Government, out of which four have so far been reunited with their parents.
“We shall move to Gombe to ascertain if the remaining 8 are ours. As I am talking to you, we found that some children are also in Port Harcourt,’’ he added.
The commissioner for information in Kano State, Muhammad Garba, said government was concerned about the situation and would do everything possible to reunite the children with their biological parents.
Recently, some mothers in Kano State staged a protest, accusing the committee set up by the government of not doing enough on the case.
During the protest, the spokesperson of the mothers, Zainab Abdullahi Giginyu had said, “We are disturbed over the incident.
“Over the years, we have been complaining, but the government has remained adamant over our plight.
“We want them to do the needful and return our children.’’
She said most of the children were from Hotoro, Kawo, Yankaba and Gama areas of the state.
Our correspondent learnt that some of the children who were recently recovered in the first batch and reunited with their parents were facing stigmatisation, discrimination and difficulty in assimilation since their return to Kano a year after their abduction.
It was said that they have been disconnected from northern tradition, and some of them had already adopted Igbo names and could barely speak Hausa language.
Some of the children admitted that others still laugh at them in school and avoid them.
Umar Faruk, who spent five years with his foster parents in Amanbra State said, “Even though I now speak Hausa, my intonation makes them laugh at me. Sometimes they don’t want to play and associate with me.
“They see me as a Christian and don’t want to associate with me, but with time, it began to change.
“I eat tuwo (local delicacy) now and feel free with people.’’
The now 12-year-old Faruk, who had adopted Onyedika Ogbodo as his name, said one Paul took him to Onitsha after another one called Emma got him cheese balls before Aunty Ebere came and took him.
When he returned last year, Faruk could not recall the name of his biological father nor identify other relatives.
He was in Primary Four in Onitsha before he was rescued.
For Umar’s father, Ibrahim Salisu, from the beginning, many people saw his son as an alien and didn’t want to associate with him.
“It was a difficult period for us. He doesn’t understand the culture and norms of the people, a situation that makes many people avoid him.
“For now, one major issue has to do with our ability to sustain the lifestyle he was introduced to. We are poor and can’t seem to meet up. But we are trying to do our best,’’ he said.
Aisha Muhammad, another rescued child said, “Children have now stopped laughing at me; and I am fast forgetting the Igbo language.
“It was difficult in the beginning because I didn’t have friends or people wanting to associate with me.
“I became a reference point, for whatever reasons.’’
Aisha, who just returned from an Islamiyya school in the evening when our correspondent visited her house said, “I have a new life and don’t seem to recollect what happened.
“I have forgotten their ways of life and moved on.’’
For her father, Muahmmad Yankaba, “From the beginning of last year when we received her from the authorities, it was very difficult for her to mix up. We intensified prayers, and gradually, she began to associate freely.
“Her siblings also helped out a lot.’’
Usman Mohammed, another rescued boy and the first that blew the lid when security operatives stormed their school in Amanbra said, “I have new friends now and happy to be back with my family ‘’
Our correspondent gathered that when the security operatives from Kano stormed their school, Mohammad was heard reciting verses from the Quran; hence their attention was drawn and they started making enquiries.
Subsequently, he stood up and said his name was Usman from Sauna community in Kano.
The teacher was arrested immediately, after which six others were uncovered from the school.
Usman’s father, Mohammad Ali said, “It was a very difficult situation, but thank God we got them back. He was not himself.
“He went through serious health challenges upon his return, but gradually, his senses began to return and he is now fully integrated into the family and community.’’
Already, eight suspects have been arrested in connection with the alleged kidnapping and trafficking of the children.
They are facing trial in two different courts. In one of the cases, the prime suspect, Paul Onwe, has owned up to 38 charges against him and set for judgement.
Onwe and his wife, Mercy, were arrested in the process of moving one of their victims, Haruna Sagir Bako to Onitsha on September 11, 2019.
He was abducted on his way home from an Islamiyya school at Yankaba Quarters in Kano metropolis.
Others arrested include Emmanuel Igwe, Ebere Ogbodo, Louisa Duru and Monica Orachaa.
During interrogation, Onwe confessed to have conspired with others to kidnap various children from areas like Sauna, Kwanar Jaba, Kawo, Hotoro, Yankaba and Dakata, all within the Kano metropolis.
When he was paraded last year, Onwe disclosed that he had realised over N2million from the illicit business and moved seven children to Anambra State within five years.
He said he earned N200,000 on each child.
Onwe, who hails from Ebonyi State and had lived in Kano since 1998 as an artisan, added that Emmanuel Igwe, one of the suspects paraded by the police, introduced him to kidnapping.
He said, “Igwe told me that Madam Ebere Ogbodo, who was a restaurateur, needed a child because she didn’t have any.
“Subsequently, I told my madam and she started searching. The children I kidnapped are seven in number.
“For the first one, who was two years old then, she gave me N150,000. I took that one from Brigade, Kwanar Jaba side.’’
He said Madam Ebere paid N200,000 for subsequent supplies.
Also, Ebere Ogbodo, an alleged buyer, said that Emmanuel Igwe introduced her to Onwe, who was based in Kano.
She said Igwe told her that his friend’s wife worked in a motherless babies’ home; hence she accepted the supplies from them.
She added that she bought the kids to raise them because she had no child of her own.
“I am a childless woman from Enugu State.
“I was crying because my husband sent me out when I met Emma and I told him about my problem, he said he had a brother whose wife was working in a motherless babies’ home.
“He connected Paul with me and he told me that the children were brought from a motherless babies’ home.
“I put them in school. I bought two of them at N200,000,” Mrs Ogbodo confessed.