By Haruna Gimba Yaya
GOMBE – Mustapha, a 21-month-old toddler was playing alongside his older siblings in their family compound in Kagarawal area of Gombe metropolis on October 20 at about 5pm when some unknown women secretly abducted and whisked him away.
His father, Abdul’Aziz Sulaiman was busy attending to customers in his shop at the Gombe main market when he received a call from his wife, Maryam that their second son, Mustapha, was missing.
Sulaiman hurriedly closed the shop and rushed home to join a team of neighbours and relatives to search for the little boy in the neighbourhood and the surroundings, but to no avail.
Unknown to them, by the time they reported the matter to the police the following day, little Mustapha was on his way to Anambra State with his abductors, where he was put up for sale at the cost of N750,000.
Mustapha spent a week with his abductors before the Anambra State Police Command rescued him from three women who allegedly abducted him from Gombe and attempted to sell him in the state.
His mother, Maryam, recalled how her son was abducted on that fateful day. “I was busy preparing dinner in the kitchen when he sneaked out of the house to play.
“When his elder brother returned from Islamiyya School and I asked him to call his brother to eat, he told me that he didn’t see him. We searched all over the neighbourhood, but we couldn’t find him. I called his father and informed him about the ugly incident, we later informed the ward head who sent search parties all over our area and its surroundings without success and we subsequently informed the police.”
The father said after searching for almost a week without success, they left everything to Allah and resorted to prayers.
“Last Saturday, my friend showed me pictures of two missing children found in Anambra by the police, fortunately, when I checked I discovered that (one of them) it was my son. I got a sense of relief, even before reuniting with him because since he went missing, his mother has not been able to sleep,” he said.
Maryam corroborated her husband, saying since the ugly incident, she hasn’t been able to eat, drink or sleep well. “When we met him at the orphanage in Anambra, he recognised us instantly and ran towards us crying.”
Incidentally, on the same day and almost at the same time, Mustapha’s parents were grieving over their missing son, Yusuf Musa of Riyal quarters in Gombe metropolis also received a distress call from his wife, Fatima, informing him that their three-year-old son, Musa (Waleed), was missing.
“My wife informed me that he was playing with his siblings when Waleed, who is our fourth son, suddenly disappeared and a search of the neighbourhood did not yield the desired result and so we had to report to the police at Pantami Division.
“After a week of intensive prayers, somebody read in the media that police in Anambra have found two missing children abducted from Gombe. He informed my neighbour who identified one of the boys as Waleed. I was later called and together with his mother we confirmed that indeed the boy is our missing son,” he explained.
Musa added that they proceeded to the Pantami Division where the arrangement was made to convey them to Anambra State to be reunited with their children.
According to him, they saw numerous children in the orphanage where their children were kept. “One striking thing was that some of the children have a resemblance or features of people from northern Nigeria.”
Fatima Ahmad, the mother of Waleed, said it was a horrible experience which left her distressed for over a week. “I couldn’t express how I felt after I finally embraced him at the premises of Anambra State police command.”
It was learnt that before they were eventually rescued by the police, Mustapha was put up for sale at N750,000, while Waleed’s price tag was N850,000 for prospective buyers.
Hauwa Usman, one of the suspected abductors, was said to have claimed that she was the biological mother of one of the children while the other one belonged to her late sister.
However, luck ran out on the suspects when detectives from the Anambra State Police Command apprehended them and rescued the helpless children.
The police said the children, who were rescued and put in the welfare department of the police, on sighting their parents, rushed and hugged them.
The command spokesperson, Haruna Mohammed, said before the children were released, it was confirmed that the people who came to claim them were truly their biological parents.
According to the police, the suspects, Faith Okpai, 38, from Cross River; Ngozi Elisiobi, 52, from Anambra State and Hauwa Usman, 24, from Gombe State, have been transferred to the Gombe Police Command for further interrogation and investigation.
Meanwhile, the Police Command in Gombe on Thursday handed over the missing children to their parents.
Speaking to Daily Trust Saturday after handing over the victims to their parents, the Deputy Commissioner of Police In-Charge of Administration, DCP Alex Wanang, said the children were rescued by police in Anambra State, through intelligence by security operatives in the state.
He said the principal suspect, Hauwa, who claimed that her name was Blessing John alongside the two other suspects, were at the Gombe State Command for further interrogation and investigation.
Speaking to Daily Trust Saturday, the trio of Hauwa, Elisiobi and Okpai contradicted themselves on how they got possession of the missing children. They all claimed ignorance of the price tag of N750,000 and N850,000 placed on the two children respectively.
On the part of Hauwa, she claimed that it was Faith Okpai that abducted the children and asked her to accompany her to Anambra to sell them.
Faith refuted Hauwa’s claim, saying Hauwa was the one that brought the children to her.
Ngozi, on her part, claimed she had never met the duo of Hauwa and Faith, saying she met them for the first time at the Anambra police headquarters.