Desmond Mgboh, Kano

Kano State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Ahmed Illyasu, was elated that Friday evening. He told the world how his men busted a syndicate, which over the years, was responsible for the disappearance of minors in the state. He said this rare kind of abduction involved trafficking the minors to far away destinations, where they were sold out.

He was proud that the exploit led to the rescue of eight children abducted in Kano but sold to a buyer in far away Onitsha, Anambra State. The victims, aged between five and 10 years, were abducted at separate times in the last five years from their immediate environs in Sauna, Kwanar Jaba, Kawo, Hotoro Yankaba and Dakata quarters in the state capital.

He accredited their success in this case to the tactical manoeuvre of Operation Puff Adder, whom he said, employed anti-crime strategies and community policing to record the breakthrough. He disclosed that they arrested eight suspects in connection with the crime. The suspects included one Paul, his wife, (residents of Dakata Quarters), Igwe, Ebere, Louisa and Monica.

He said the suspects were held for concealment, keeping in confinement, kidnapped persons, buying and selling of minors to trafficking in persons. All suspects confessed to the crime and would be charged to court at the end of investigation. He said: “Six suspects were arrested in connection with the kidnapping, buying, and selling of teenagers, who were discovered in Onitsha, Anambra State, Ebere, who is the buyer and seller of trafficked human beings.”

The journey into the hands of the law did not just happen. For years, the prime suspect had succeeded in his nefarious activities without being caught. But on this occasion, his luck failed him.

It was gathered that he had succeeded in abducting his victim, who was kidnapped on September 11, 2019, on his way home for an Islamiyya School, situated at Yankaba Quarters and was actually about to transport him to Anambra State when he was arrested.

Paul confessed to have committed the crime alongside five others, adding that he and his wife have been in the illicit job for over five years: “Since I have been in this business, I have never sold a human for less than N300,000. I regret my actions now and I am pleading for forgiveness because I have vowed not to go into this kind of business again.”

His wife: “I am a divorcee. I met Paul a few years ago and we got married. I have warned him severally over this his business, but he didn’t listen. Look at where it has landed us now.”

Many groups, organisations and individuals in the state today are gravely offended by the uncommon brand of abduction, especially the angle that related the crime to the conversion of the victims from one faith to another. One of the very visibly angry groups is Kano Concerned Citizens Initiative (KCCI). It is a group of elders led by Alhaji Bashiru Othman Tofa. The group condemned the whole saga:

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“The case of these abducted children is special because unlike other crimes it has some ideological undertones. Other criminal kidnappers demand ransom while in this special case the children were abduct- ed for certain purposes, of which the police investigation is still being awaited.

“Whatever was the purpose of these abductions, it is still frightening because of the reports of the horrendous experiences the children underwent. This is a specialised organised crime that manipulates religion to exploit the innocent children. It is widely reported that the names of the children were changed and they were ‘converted’ to Christianity. This is a very dangerous dimension.

“We therefore call on all umbrella religious associations of Christians and Muslims to condemn this evil action and take the necessary steps. We call on the Nigeria Police and the security agencies to do their utmost to investigate if there are any more of these captive children and adults from other states enslaved anywhere else in the country, not only in Anambra State.

“We call on the Kano State Government to liaise with the Anambra State Government to find out the nature of these abductions and the better ways of cooperating to end these criminal activities for the overall peaceful co-existence of the citizens of Nigeria.

“We call on the Press to continue to expose these criminals for what they are. The Press has important role to play and it must eschew partisanship and sectionalism. There is need for wide coverage of this crime to inform and enlighten the public on the atrocities of these criminals who want to hide under religious and ethnic garbs to perpetrate their evil machinations of dividing the country along these lines.

“We call on the law-abiding citizens of Kano State to remain calm and report any suspicious activities to the police. The criminals who abducted these children for diabolical reasons would face the wrath of the law.

“Even though they are from a particular part of the country they don’t represent their ethnic group therefore no one should profile that ethnic group in this regard. They are responsible for their actions before the law and they should face it irrespective of where they come from.”

In a similar vein, a number of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) pledged to ensure justice for the victims of this ab- duction and their families. Kano LEADS, Kano Peace Committee, Centre for Awareness on Justice and Accountability (CAJA), and International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) said they were unhappy with the development Aisha Dankani, a leader of one of the CSOs appreciated the efforts of the police and pledged to ensure that all those behind the crime are prosecuted.

Secretary Kano State Peace Committee, co-chaired by Professor Ibrahim Umar and Reverend John Namaza Niyiring, urged residents to remain peaceful and allow justice to take its course: “Crime has no ethnic identity, therefore, people should not stereotype a particular tribe for the alleged act of a few individuals.”