The increasing cases of missing persons in the country is a source of worry to many, even as victims’ families decry the absence of modern technology which constraints security agencies from following the trail and rescuing most of these missing people. AMEH JOHN, SAMSON BENJAMIN and PAUL OKAH examine the situation.
In recent times Nigeria are inundated with reports of missing in the regular and news media. Victims cut across different age groups and social strata as well as regions. However, the situation appears to have deteriorated in the North following the advance of insurgency.
In a bid to keep a tap on the situation, rescue and reunite victims to their families, the federal government in August 2018 launched the National Technical Committee on the Establishment and Management of a Data Base on Missing Persons in Nigeria (NTC).
However, more than one year after it is yet to take effect. The mandate document which defines the purpose and framework of the NTC, was signed on August 30 2018, the day recognised globally by the United Nations as the day of the disappeared.
The data management office for missing persons which is chaired by Mrs Mariam Uwais, Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on social investment, is domiciled at the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission in Abuja.
During the launch of the committee’s mandate document and standard operating procedure Mrs Uwais disclosed that the pilot project would commence in three states of the federation.
She identified the states to include: Borno in North-east, Benue in North-central and Rivers in South-south, hinging the decision on the perennial security challenges occasioned by the Book Haram insurgents, herdsmen-farmers’ conflicts and kidnappings in the three aforementioned geopolitical zones of the country.
However, one year after the programme was launched to ameliorate the agony being experienced by families and friends of missing people; the government was yet to activate the centre in order to receive data of missing persons with the aim of helping distraught relatives to find closure to their grief of losing a loved one.
Over 22,000 missing
In September this year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), revealed that Nigeria had the highest number of registered missing people because of conflict in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people have had to flee their villages amid attacks by Boko Haram.
According to the ICRC, there are nearly 22,000 people registered as missing with the charity.
A spokesperson for the organisation had told the BBC the true number is likely to be much higher.
“Most of them are children separated from their families during the decade-long insurgency of the Islamist group Boko Haram. Families often get separated in attacks by the militants or are held by authorities in detention. Many parts of North-eastern Nigeria remain inaccessible because of ongoing insecurity.
Other factors like the geographical spread of the affected area, as well as limited mobile phone capability, make the reunification process particularly tricky.
Only 367 missing people have been found in Nigeria to date since the ICRC began tracing those missing in 2013.
For Peter Maurer, ICRC president, access is crucial to reuniting families.
“In Nigeria, there is broad territory, and groups which are out of reach of ICRC, and so population under control of these groups are not reachable by the ICRC and that’s the reason why it’s more difficult to get the data together to reunify families as in other places,” he had said.
Tales of victims’ families
On October 25, this year, the Sule family of Moloko Asipa, in Obafemi Owode local government area of Ogun state, lamented the alleged disappearance of their family members, over refusal of the chosen children to carry a prepared sacrifice to the Ifa shrine and stay there for 3-5days.
In a statement made available to Blueprint Weekend in Abuja, head of the family, Chief Ifajobi Sule, alleged that Mr Sule Kazeem Olanrewaju, his wife, Yetunde Mariam Sule Kazeem and their children: Hussein Kehinde Sulekazeem, Hassan Taiwo Sule Kazeem and Harris Idowu Sule Kazeem, disappeared in 2015 “after refusing to come to the village for dedication to Ifa deity.”
He said that the development has led to death of many members of the community and that the presence of the family members would help to curb the untimely deaths.
He said: “Since 2015, Kazeem and his wife both vehemently refused for their children to carry the prepared sacrifice to Ifa shrine. What is more worrying to me is that, apart from their unknown whereabouts, pressures are being mounted on me by the family and the whole community to bring the children to Moloko Asipa town for this year’s important festival, as it is mandatory for the children to carry out the sacrifice.
“It has been one problem or the other since 2015, as the family have remained incommunicado. I made publication before and announced this year important Ifa festival on our website. I am notifying the general public again that it is mandatory for them to show up, so that the frequent deaths of youth in our community will stop. Therefore, any useful information about their whereabouts should be directed to me or to the nearest police station, as the children presence is highly needed for the sake of the entire Sule family and the whole community.”
Woman, children go missing in Imo
In Imo state, on September 19, 2019, the Robert Chikezie family of Ehime village in Mbano local government area lamented the disappearance of their family members, including Mrs. Lovelyn Robert and her children: Delight Robert, Zenith Robert and Crown Robert.
Chikezie alleged that his wife disappeared with a four-month pregnancy and their three children since February 15 this year, “after refusing to take their daughters to the village for a mandatory circumcision exercise.”
The statement read in part: “My wife left the house with 4-month pregnancy and three children, when my extended family members demanded for the female children to be taken to our village to go through a compulsory circumcision. She has been refusing to take them to the village, despite the fact that it is our tradition to circumcise our female children.
“Despite carrying out series of searches through the mass media and public hospitals, there is no clue yet on their whereabouts, thereby making this publication a necessity. It is mandatory for the female children to be circumcised on or before Friday, September 27, 2019. Therefore, whoever sees them or has any useful information regarding their whereabouts should report or take them to the nearest police station.”
In Osun state, the Aregbesola family of Ikire township in Irewole local government area, lamenetd the alleged kidnapping of their daughter, Oluwakemi Muritala by Ayee secret cult members in the state this year.
According to a statement by the family, the incident occurred at about 1:00am on April 20, 2019.
The family said despite carrying out a series of searches through the media and public hospitals for the members of the secret cult that allegedly killed Olabiyi and kidnapped Oluwakemi, “there is no clue on the whereabouts of Oluwakemi Muritala and the killers of Madam Ramota Olabiyi to bring the culprits to justice.”
“Anyone with relevant information should contact Chief Mustapha Aregbesola on 08054178704 or the nearest police station,” the family said.
Ekiti not left out
On May 11, 2019, the Erio Ekiti community of Ekiti state decried the activities of the Ayee secret cult members in the state.
A resident, Chief Emmanuel Ibosiola, said the community had witnessed coordinated attacks by members of the cult group since 2016.
In a statement by Chief Emmanuel Ibosiola in Abuja, he alleged that the attacks had been frequent that many of his family members were kidnapped by cultists since 2018 and had been missing since then.
He said the kidnapping incident occurred shortly after the death of his in-law, who was also a cultist, but whose son (his nephew) refused to follow in his father’s footsteps when approached by the other secret cult members, hence his disappearance alongside other members of his family.
“Apart from frequent appearance of secret cults group in Erio Ekiti since 2016, the recent attacks by the secret cults group has led to the unknown whereabouts of my nephew, Oluwafemi Moses Orewole, his brother, Mayowa Ebenezer Orewole, the mother of his children, Apesinola Deborah Oresanya and their two children, Jeremiah Adewale Orewole and Oluwaseyi Funmi Orewole.
“When my in-law, Chief Amos Orewole, a member of the secret cult group, died on January 11, 2016, the secret cult group came to his house on January 18th, 2016. My nephew was told to come and join them and take his father‘s position, but he refused and his life has been in danger since then,” he said.
Continuing, he said, “Oluwafemi, his brother, his wife and his children were last seen during his father’s burial on March 18, 2016, and they have been declared missing since then. All efforts to know their whereabouts, through publications made in 2017 and 2018, respectively, have proved abortive. I am making another publication again this year 2019 so that anyone that knows their whereabouts can contact me on 07039337073.”
Oyo family members disappear
On May 24, 2019, the Olanrewaju family of Aba Ibadan in Iseyin District of Iseyin local government area of Oyo state lamented the disappearance of their family members, including Mr Olugbuyi Olanrewaju, his wife, Mrs Mojisola Adeyi and their daughter, Semilore Olanrewaju, since 2011.
In a statement in Abuja, a member of the family, Chief Durojaiye Olanrewaju, alleged that Mr and Mrs Olugbuyi Olanrewaju disappeared with their daughter after refusing to bring the latter to the village for “a mandatory annual circumcision exercise.”
He said: “All efforts to bring Semilore to Aba Ibadan for circumcision have proved abortive from 2011 till date. As this year’s event is approaching on June 22nd, we appeal for Semilore to be brought to undergo the circumcision, as required by the family’s tradition, custom and belief. Whoever has any useful information regarding them should contact Chief Durojaiye Olanrewaju at Olanrewaju’s compound in Aba Ibadan, Oyo state.”
Similarly, the Abass family of Iseyin local government area of Ibadan, Oyo state, has announced the disappearance of Mrs Abass Oluwatoyin and her daughter, Cristabel Abass.
In a chat with our correspondent, Oluwatoyin’s husband, Mr Tajudeen Abass, said his wife and daughter disappeared from their Lagos home in 2014, after the former vehemently opposed the idea of their daughter being subjected to a traditional circumcision exercise by her husband’s family.
He said that the family made publications in December 2017, but nothing was heard about them and that the family hopes information from members of the public could help in unravelling the mystery behind their disappearance, as “it is mandatory to bring Cristabel to Ibadan to perform the tradition circumcision.
“Despite carrying out series of searches through the mass media, hospital and mortuary, there is no clue yet on their whereabout. It is important for Oluwatoyin to bring Cristabel to Ibadan for circumcision this year, because her absconding since 2014 has caused the family many calamities. Therefore, anyone with relevant information is urged to contact the nearest police station,” he said.
Edo family too
The Okhemuokho family of Ihievbe Village in Owan East local government area of Edo state lamented the disappearance of four members of the family over dedication to Ifa oracle in the village on June 20, 2019.
In a statement in Abuja, alongside a police report, head of the family, Chief Bobai Amedu Okhemuokho, who is also the community leader, said the disappearance of a member of the family, Mrs Philomena Essau Okhemuokho, alongside her four Albino children, “has led to mysterious death in the village.”
He said: “What is more worrying to me, as the head of the family, is that, apart from the frequent early death of male children in our village over the years, pressures are being mounted on me by the community to find the whereabouts of Mrs Philomena Essau Okhemuokho and her four Albino children, including Agbons Thomas Okhemuokho, Rosemary Okhemuokho, Annabel Okhemuokho and Hope Amina Okhemuokho.
“Philomena disappeared from the village after refusing to be taken with her children to the shrine to undergo a purification exercise. They have since remained incommunicado. I made publications before, but I am notifying the general public again that it is mandatory for Philomena and her four Albino children to be presented to the shrine for purifications, as required by Ifa oracle.
“As soon as they all are found, the frequent death of male children in the community will stop. Any useful information about their whereabouts should be directed to the nearest police station, as the purification exercise is very important for the sake of the entire Okhemuokho family and the whole community.”
Family of 4 goes missing in Oyo
The Akanni family of Beere in Ibadan South-east local government area of Oyo state lamented the disappearance of their family members, including Mr. Abiodun Akanni, who allegedly “disappeared” with his wife, Mrs. Shakirat Abdulrazak, their two daughters, Zainab Akanni and Sekinat Akanni, in 2016, “after refusing to bring their daughters to the shrine to undergo circumcision.”
In a police report made available to Blueprint Weekend in Abuja, (with Ref No: NPF/DUGBE/NIG/VOL.IV/55799), signed by the Divisional Police Officer of Orile-Dugbe, Oshogbo, Osun state, ACP Michael Nwachukwu, on August 19, 2019, a member of the family, Chief Liadi Adegboyega of No.10 Liadi Street, Oshogbo, Osun state, alleged that Mr and Mrs Akanni have remained incommunicado since 2016.
The report reads in part: “The entire family of Akanni of Beere in Ibadan South-East local government area of Oyo state, is making another announcement on the missing of Mr. Abiodun Akanni, who suddenly disappeared with his wife, Mrs. Shakirat Abdulrazak and their daughters, Zainab Akanni and Sekinat Akanni.
“They disappeared in 2016, when the family demanded for their daughters to go through female genital circumcision, as required by the family. They vehemently refused to bring their daughters to Beere, Ibadan to fulfill our tradition of circumcising our female children. Despite carrying out series of searches through the mass media, police stations and public hospitals, there is no clue yet on their whereabouts.
“It is mandatory for their daughters to go through the female genital circumcision process as soon as possible; as required by the family. We are also asking the general public that whoever has any useful information regarding their whereabouts should contact the head of the family or take them to the nearest police station.”
On August 29, 2019
The Okuneye family in Ijebu East local government area of Ogun state pleaded with a missing relative, Mr Muyiwa Okuneye, to come out of ‘hiding’; in order to set their minds at rest.
In a statement by Mr Seyi Okuneye on behalf of the family, they said Muyiwa is believed to be hiding; as a result of a property issue that almost claimed his life.
He said Muyiwa is the only son of his late father, whose presence is needed in the polygamous family, but has been in hiding since 2016; after a failed attempt on his life, even as he said that “the incident has been reported to the appropriate authorities.”
The statement reads in part: “The entire family of Okuneye in Ijebu East local government of Ogun state hereby plead with the general public and well-wishers to please inform Mr Muyiwa Okuneye that the issue of the property dispute, which led to threat on his life, has been officially reported to the appropriate authority. A publication was made in 2016 to that effect.
“However, he is yet to be found and the family is still looking forward to positive results. Muyiwa fled his residence on the 3rd of March, 2016 after a failed murder attempt was carried out on him and has been in hiding since then. He is the only son of late Chief Okuneye, who has a polygamous family, so his presence is needed in the family.”
Omoregbe search for son
On September 16, 2019, The Omoregbe family in Orhionmwon local government area of Edo state reported the disappearance of a family member, Mr. Sunday Omoregbe, who allegedly “disappeared” on July 14, 2014, “after being caught carrying out a homosexual act with his partner.”
In a statement in Abuja signed by head of the family, Chief Anthony Omoregbe, who is also the community leader of Umuogunorkhar village in Orhionmwon local government area of Edo state, the family said it forbids homosexuality.
He said that Sunday has been missing since the incident occurred in 2014 and has even been declared wanted by the police “for the immoral act that transpired between him and his homosexual partner”, even as he appealed to the public for information that could to his arrest.
The statement reads in part: “Mr. Sunday Omoregbe is also wanted by Nigeria police operatives for questioning and to face charges for being homosexual. I made publications in 2015, 2016, 2017 respectively for him to face the consequences of being homosexual, because it’s forbidden in our family.
“This publication is to inform the general public that Sunday is still at large. Anyone with useful information about his whereabouts should contact Chief Anthony Omoregbe at Umuogunorkhar village in Orhionmwon LGA or the nearest police station.”
NAHCON staff declared missing
A staff of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Shuraihu Dalhatu Yahuza, was declared missing by his family in January.
His brother Armaya’u Dalhatu Yahuza told Blueprint weekend that he left his residence in Abuja on January 29, 2019, around 9 to 10 pm and up till today his where about is not known.
He said the matter has been reported to the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Police but they are yet to any concrete information on his where about.
He said his brother is fair in complexion and speaks English, Hausa and Arabic languages fluently.
David, 4, still missing
David Nkong is a Nursery two pupil in one of the school’s in Kabusa, near Apo. He left home at Kabusa on July 4, 2001, to pay with friends and did not return.
According to his auntie, a staff of the Independent Television (ITV), Abuja station, his mum had gone out to call him to eat because he was outside playing with a neighbour’s child while she was cooking and he was not there.
Franca said they children told the boy’s mother that they had played outside the gate and David took a different route home and refused to follow them even when they called him back as though he was under a spell.
She said the matter was reported to the police after searching around d the neighbourhood without success, even as search at orphanages did not also yield result.
“We expected he would be found because we did over three weeks of television advert with his pictures and adverts in the social media too.
Police must stop traumatizing victims’ families
Speaking further on their experience searching for her nephew she said: “The police must stop traumatizing victims’ families by asking for money to fuel cars before embarking on search and rescue effort.
“Government has to demonstrate more will power to locate missing persons, stop and search, CCTV cameras, emergency numbers for reporting strange behaviour of people with kids; toll free call centres for updates should be put in place.
“For the public, it is better to sound a false alarm than to keep quiet and let kidnappers take your child or even an adult. Reporting all suspicious movements must be the watch word.”