PUNCH LAUNCHES ‘FREE ESE’ CAMPAIGN: Kano man steals, forcefully marries 14-yr-old Bayelsa girl. They told me my child was 18 years old—Father
Charles Oruru is Ese’s father. He narrates his ordeal in this interview with Simon Utebor
Did you travel with your wife to Kano for the release of your daughter?
On the first trip, I did not go with them. On August 17, when my wife called me and said they refused to release the child to her, I became angry. Thereafter, I went to the Bayelsa State Police Headquarters to lodge a complaint. They directed me to B Division and said I should arrest the persons linked with the abduction. I arrested the leader of some of the Hausa boys, Dan Kano and two other persons. Dan Kano is the one who usually brought them to Bayelsa. I took him to the station and the police took our statements.
What happened after this?
After that, the DCO at Ekeki called me to tell me that the case was not for them and that he was transferring the case to A Division because it was close to the state headquarters.
They gave bail to the two other boys from Sokoto based on their statements. Dan Kano was subsequently moved to A Division where he was detained. From there, a police officer said he was going to release two policemen to travel with me to Kano to enable me to get my daughter.
When did you leave for Kano?
We travelled on September 2, and spent over 15 hours on the road before getting to Kano. The following day, we distributed letters given to us by the Bayelsa Police Commissioner to state headquarters in Kano, Kwani Police station and Kura LGA where Yinusa (the main suspect) is from. On September 4, they called us for a meeting and we went to Kwani police station near the Emir’s Palace. Present were the two police officers from Bayelsa with about four policemen from Kwani including Chief of Kura LGA, the secretary and other persons. About 15 of us went to the Sharia Council. When we got there, many people were already there. They called their chairman. I was shouting, ‘I need my daughter, I need my daughter.’ The chairman said I should calm down and that we were not fighting. We all sat down. They were angry with me and said my daughter was 18 years old and I was claiming she was 13 years. I told them it was false, that my daughter was 13 years old then. She clocked 14 last week. They told me my daughter had come to join Islam. I told them we are Christians and that they could not tell me my daughter had converted to become a Muslim without my consent. After all the argument, the DCO pleaded with the chairman that since the girl was underage, she should be released to me to take home. Instantly, the chairman’s countenance changed and started speaking furiously to the DCO in Hausa. Though I did not understand Hausa, I was made to understand that the chairman was angry because the DCO asked him to release the girl to me. The policemen there were not happy with the development, wondering why they should be telling the father of a child the age of his daughter.
Were you afraid of the chairman and others in Kano?
No, the DCO insisted that the child should be released to me but unknown to us; it was a gimmick to deceive us further. The Sharia Council chairman calmly told us to come the following day for the release of Ese. But the promise was not kept. When I got there with the policemen the next day, the story changed. When we got there, they said they were going to release the girl to Zone 5, Benin City, for onward release to Bayelsa State Police Command to us. So, that was how we went on a fruitless journey to Kano without getting my daughter.
When did you return to Bayelsa?
We came back on the September 8 and up till now, my daughter has not been released. From information, we learnt that the Sharia Council was yet to release my daughter to the Zone 5 as promised. I do not know what else to do. The Sharia Council and the Emirate Council are behaving like government unto themselves. We have tried all we can to get our daughter released to no avail. I am appealing to the Federal Government and the relevant authorities to intervene in the matter to get my daughter released. We do not want this to degenerate into a tribal crisis.
I can’t sleep, I’m always crying – Mother
Fifty-year-old Mrs. Rose Oruru, tells ARUKAINO UMUKORO about her pain over her missing daughter
How are you coping with the fact that your daughter has not been released to you?
I am still living and breathing, I am not dead yet. I cry every night. But I pray to God every day to help me solve this problem and bring my daughter back home to me.
When last did you speak with your daughter and what was your discussion about?
I spoke to her in the first week of October 2015. It was the boy who abducted my daughter from Bayelsa that put her on the phone, because she said she wanted to speak to me. My
daughter started speaking our dialect, Urhobo, to me. As we were conversing, I heard them shouting at her in the background and asking why she was speaking our dialect. That was when she switched to English and said they did not want her to come back. We spoke for about three minutes. That was the last thing she told me. I haven’t spoken to her since then.
Who were the people telling her not to speak Urhobo to you?
I think they were some people in the Emir’s palace or the Sharia council, because the council is close to the palace of the Emir of Kano. The people in the council are the ones in control.
Before the incident that forced your daughter to Kano, did she tell you about wanting to change her religion?
No, not at all. She and I did not discuss anything like that. They had just finished a programme in our church that Sunday before she was taken away. She also went to church that Monday and came back home before she was taken away that week. She has never for once told me that she wanted to become a Muslim.
Did you notice any difference in her attitude or behaviour before then?
No, I did not.
What do you think made her follow them to Kano?
She does not have a boyfriend. She was forced to go with them; they manipulated her because she is still a small girl. I feel these people forced her to travel with them. Someone who wants to travel would normally go with luggage, but Ese did not travel with anything, she only wore her clothes, a polo shirt, and her Dunlop slippers. That was what she left home with. She was taken away on August 12, 2015.
Was your daughter a friend to the person she allegedly followed to Kano State?
I am a food seller, and the people (Hausas) are many in the area where I carry out my trade. They usually came to buy food from my shop, including the man that carried her away. He came to buy food from my shop all the time. My shop is at Opolo, opposite Golden Gate, where the motor park is situated, in Bayelsa.
What is the name of the man whom you said abducted your daughter?
His name is Yinusa, but he is popularly known here as Yellow. He rides a keke marwa (tricycle). Before now, he used to sell firewood, until someone gave him a keke marwa. He took my daughter, Ese, and ran away with her. He has since not returned.
Did you suspect any of your customers at the outset?
No, I did not suspect anybody at the start. It was in the process of looking for her that I was told that Ese was not around. So, I went around asking in the neighbourhood. Someone later told me that it might have been one of the Hausas that hid her and then took her away. I was at the mosque where they usually pray, and one of the men, a labourer, came to me and told me he knew why I was looking for my daughter. I asked him how he knew and what he knew. That was how I knew the person that took my daughter. The man told me that when he came back from work one day, his friends had told him that Yinusa told them that he was going to take Ese to Kano State, convert her to Islam and marry her. He said he was angry with them and asked them why they did not report the matter to me. So, I went to confront them. I went to ask a carpenter who Yinusa usually patronised and asked him about the whereabouts of this man and my daughter. The carpenter said he did not know and was surprised. I asked another person who sells recharge card, who said he had not seen him recently.
What did you do afterwards?
I travelled with one of the Hausa men who lived around our area, to Kano on August 14, because we had been told that Yinusa had arrived Kano with my daughter, and that they told the community that Yinusa had run away with my daughter. We arrived Kano on the 15th and went to meet the district head of the community. We received a poor welcome. The district head was angry that the Hausa man brought me to Kano, then he told me I did not have a child, because they had already converted my daughter to Islam and that her name is now Aisha. He now said even Yinusa’s father had not seen my daughter. We went to the Emir’s palace the same day and when we told them why we came, youths gathered and tried to beat us up until someone called the police and took us way. Again, my husband, with two policemen, and Dan Kano, travelled to Kano on September 2. The same thing happened again.
What do you know about your daughter’s present condition?
We do not know anything. We only rely on hearsay. Yesterday, some people said she had been handed over to the police, another group of people said she was no more seen around the area. We don’t know what to believe. But I want to believe my daughter is either at the Emir’s palace or the council, because the council is close to the Emir’s palace.
Is Ese your first child?
No, she is the second to the last born. I have five children. They are all worried about their sister. Last Monday was her 14th birthday. I did not even have money to buy soft drinks or biscuits to celebrate her birthday in her absence. We only prayed for her together. We felt bad about it and cried. I can’t sleep at night. I am really worried. But I thank God for leading people to come and help me. I pray that she is safe wherever she is. She is supposed to be in SS1 now, because she had finished JSS3 and had written the junior WAEC before she was abducted.