One of the hallmarks of African social life is that children are free to mingle and play in the neighbourhood with their peers and attend group evening gatherings while the elders entertain them by telling them stories under the moonlight.
This beautifying feature of a growing up life has since been lost and the reverse case has left parents no choice but to lock their children at home most of the time.
The reason for this turning of tide, experts opine, is tied around the wide spread mindless kidnapping and abduction of children for various purposes.
The same experts think that this ugly development is a fallout of the fast and shocking deterioration in our moral values. They believe that Nigerians have internalised and fortified the thought behind the saying that ‘the end justifies the means.’ This mind set has in turn, re-enforced the dent on our collective consciences and humanity.
This presupposes that irrespective of the pain we cause others to make money, our right to enjoy a red carpet reception or be showered with chieftaincy titles is the justified end. This has given rise to all manner of human cruelty of man to man to such a degree that has never been seen before.
On Friday, November 2, 2018, the family of Imam Musa Mohammed Ajangwai of Ruga Community, a suburb of Mararaba, Karu local government area of Nasarawa State, had a bitter taste of the ugly story they were used to hearing from a distance. They too now have a dark tale to tell about the wicked activities of abductors and kidnappers.
The time was 7:30pm on an evening that seemed like every other evening. After a round of prayer at the Mosque located within his compound, where he serves as an Imam, the 63-year-old began a fruitless search for his five-year-old son, Usman, with whom he had entered the Mosque.
After a long period of search and what was turning into a joke carried too far, Imam Ajangwai decided to mobilise youths of the community to intensify the search. Hours passed again and no sight of the lad. It was at that point that Imam Ajangwai decided to involve the police.
The matter was reported to Abacha Road, ‘A’ Division, Nyanya, Jukwoyi Police Stations and finally, Ruga Police Post. Usman’s pictures were distributed to the police stations to assist them in the search.
For the next 30 days, from November 2 to December 2, Imam Ajangwai, his family and neighbours lived in the agony of a missing under age son. Then he was found.
The visibly elated Imam Ajangwai, who could not stop cuddling his recovered son, Usman out of excitement told all present that, in the one month that his son was missing, he became a shadow of himself with his family crying non-stop.
According to him, within the period, the police became tired of his desperation. After each visit, the police would assure him that if his son is recovered, he will be contacted via telephone.
Respite however came the way of the Islamic cleric, when his phone range about 4:30am on December 2, and a voice claiming to be calling from Abacha Road Police Station informed him that some children were recovered and that he should come and check if the little Usman was among them.
“Out of anxiety, I couldn’t wait for the morning to come. I immediately jumped on a motorbike with my two other sons- Nasiru and Mubarak. On arrival at the station, I saw two children, one of whom was my son, Usman,” he said.
“Out of excitement and appreciation to God who made it possible for him to recover his son, I performed a ‘two rakat’ prayer, within the vicinity of the police station.” Imam Ajangwai further explained.
However, when he attempted to carry Usman away, the second child, who was recovered along with Usman busted into very loud cry. The police had to appeal to him to leave Usman with them, pending when the parents of the second child would come for him.
Usman said that he was kept in the same place with many other children after his name was immediately changed from Usman to Kingsley.
On whether there was noticeable changes in the behaviour of Usman, Imam Ajangwai explained that, he noticed that the pronouncement of ‘Bisimilahi’ before each meal, synonymous with his Muslim upbringing, was replaced with the sign of the cross. He also said that his abductor had started teaching him another language.
“Usually, as a boy being brought up in Muslim tradition, before he eats, he is supposed to say ‘Bisimilahi.’ But after spending one month with his abductors, he started making the sign of the cross, synonymous with the Christian prayer,” he said.
Asked, if the health of the lad was affected by the ugly incidence, the sexagenarian explained that upon Usman’s release to the family, the police gave them referral paper to go to the hospital for medical check-up.
“The police gave us paper to take to the hospital for medical examination of Usman. That we have done. His specimen like urine and blood were taken. But we are still awaiting the results.”
Imam Ajangwai further narrated that he has travelled to Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, where the case has been transferred to by the police. He said, three of the culprits that have been apprehended so far, himself and the family of the second child, were taken to the office of the Nasarawa State Commissioner of Police from where the case was transferred to the state CID.
When contacted, the police declined to comment, saying the case is still under investigation and speaking to the press on the issue will be premature. However, according to a police source, who commented but would not want to be mentioned, the child was found in Abia State.
Imam Ajangwai appealed to relevant authorities to prioritise the security of lives and properties. He contended that since the Usman incidence happened, families are apprehensive of letting their children go to school alone, regardless of how close the school is to the house.
“Police must take punitive measures against these people that are making life miserable for families. What I and my family went through in the one month Usman was in captivity is better imagined than experienced.
“My prayer for these evil minded people is for them to have a change of heart, and if they don’t, the law should take its full course against them, so that sanity can be restored back to our society,” Ajangwai cautioned.
Speaking also on the incidence, a 64-year-old resident of Ruga Community and Imam Ajangwai’s neighbour, Mallam Yau Abdullahi, appealed to the government to step up security surveillance, explaining that, since Usman’s incidence, no parent is free to send their children on errand any more. Pointing at his seven year old boy, Mallam Abdullahi said, it is impossible for children of this age to take themselves to school and back, unlike in time past that a four-year-old child would go to school and come back home without the fear of being kidnapped.