PUNCH LAUNCHES ‘FREE ESE’ CAMPAIGN
On August 12, 2015, nothing indicated to Mrs. Rose Oruru, a food vendor in Opolo, Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, that she would soon face an ordeal over her 14-year-old daughter, Ese.
That day, she had gone to the market and left her four children at her shop. She returned to find out that her daughter, Ese, was allegedly abducted by one Yinusa, aka Yellow, who is one of her long standing customers.
Narrating the incident, the distraught mother said, “When I came back, the elder brother of Ese, Kevin, 16, said Ese had left the shop since 11am and had not returned. I enquired where she could have gone, but he said he did not know.
“From there, I started looking for her, asking neighbours if they saw her, but they said they did not. As she usually sold food to northern artisans, I went to the place they usually gathered to find out if they saw Ese. But by the time I got there, they were in the mosque, so, I had to go back.
“After some minutes, I sent my son back to the place and directed that he should tell anybody he saw there that I wanted to see Yinusa. As the boy got there, one of them asked my son to tell me to come. When I got there, he said Yinusa, who is also called Yellow, told them he had sold his commercial tricycle and had gone home to Kano with my daughter, Ese. They told me Yinusa said he was taking Ese home to convert her to Islam to enable him to marry her.”
One Mohammed (aka Daidi) reportedly informed Oruru that Yinusa had taken Ese to Kano with an intention to marry her. She was 13 years old then.
Acting on the information, Oruru approached one Dan Kano, who not only confirmed the story, but also promised to take her to Kano to recover her daughter.
But Dan Kano reneged on his promise and sent one Rabiu to accompany the child’s mother to Kano instead.
On August 14, the anguished mother set for Kano. She and Rabiu arrived at the ancient city after midnight. In the morning, Rabiu took Oruru to the chief of a village in Tufa, Kura Local Government Area of Kano State.
Narrating her anguish amid sobs, Rose said the chief was furious with Rabiu for bringing her to Kano. He told them that Ese had been converted into Islam and renamed ‘Aisha.’ Not only that, the 14-year-old was married and that the child was no longer her daughter.
“He also informed us that Ese was in the custody of the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, at the palace,” she stated.
Not cowed by the chief’s position, Oruru, in company with Rabiu, approached the Emir of Kano’s palace but met a stiff opposition by many youths, who pushed them out of the palace.
Oruru said Yinusa (the suspect), through phone calls, informed her that he did not kidnap her daughter as he took permission from one Dan Kano before he abducted her.
Sensing the impossibility of seeing her daughter or having an audience with the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Oruru said she broke down in tears and drew a lot of attention. On hearing her cries, an unnamed elderly man invited the police.
She added, “When the police arrived, they took me to Kwani Police Station in Kano, where my statement was taken and police officers accompanied me first to the Emir’s palace but we were prevented from entering the palace.
“The police then proceeded to the house of the Galadima of Kano, who stated that he did not know anything about the matter. The team proceeded to see the adviser to the Emir, who told them that he did not want to be involved in the matter and then we went to the Secretary to the Emir of Kano.
“The secretary informed us that the Chief of Tufa village got an approval from Kura Police Station to take the 14-year-old Ese to the Emir’s Palace.
“They said Ese is now a convert of Islam and if brought to her mother, she would not be able to talk or touch her, otherwise, either she (the mother) or Ese would die. He advised that we waited till August 17 to see the Emir.”
Mrs. Oruru recounted that on August 17, she was with the Divisional Crime Officer, a Police Inspector from Kwani Police Station, and the Chief of Tufa village at the palace where the Emir of Kano sat in council.
“I saw my daughter being brought in a black Sport Utility Vehicle with two police escorts and Yinusa was also present. When the case was mentioned, every other person was allowed inside except me. When the DCO returned from the Emir’s court, he informed me that the Emir of Kano asked us to go to the Sharia Court, which I objected to.”
Mrs. Oruru added that the police at Kwani, thereafter, transferred the matter to the State Criminal Investigation Department in Kano, where she was asked to go back to Bayelsa and report the matter to the Bayelsa State Police Command.
She further said, “We returned to Bayelsa on August 17 and we made a report at Ekeki Police Station, Yenagoa, and the matter was later transferred to State CID, Yenagoa.”
She stated that the police in Yenagoa made some arrests including Dan Kano, and a trip was embarked upon to Kano on September 2.
She said on the Kano trip were Dan Kano, K.C. Dahiru (the chairman of the Hausa community in Yenagoa), Mr. Charles Oruru (her husband) and two police officers from the State CID.
She said, “The team reported at the Kwani Police Station in Kano where another visit was made to the Emir of Kano.
“The Emir informed them that he had since August 26 sent a letter for the release of Ese to her parents.”
Ese’s mother lamented that despite all the efforts she, her husband, the police and others had made, as of February 23, Ese had not been released to them but still held hostage in Kano.
Ese’s father, Charles Oruru, struggled with tears as he narrated the pain and anguish he had gone through in trying to get his daughter back.
“We have tried all we could 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.”
The Orurus, in a bid not to leave any stone unturned, took the matter to non-governmental organisations, Kindling Hope Across Nations Initiative and Child Protection Network under the auspices of the UNICEF.
On what the NGOs have done so far, the Executive Director, KHAN Initiative, Mr. Kizito Andah, said after receiving the case, the organisation immediately swung into action by formally informing the Department of State Services.
He said several meetings were held in December 2015 with officers of the DSS, noting that the state security outfit made several promises to secure the release of the victim, but that up till date, Ese was still held hostage by the perpetrators.
Andah, who is also the Secretary, Child Protection Network, claimed that their coordinator also spoke with the Inspector-General of Police and the police boss gave his word that the girl would be returned to her parents. Yet, that had not been done.
He said, “On February 11, we also held a meeting with the Commissioner of Police, Bayelsa State Police command, on the above subject matter and our grievances on the attitude of some of the police officers, who had earlier worked on the case and their failure to secure the release of Ese were duly communicated.
“We strongly believe that Ese Oruru has not only been hypnotised but also recruited as a tool in the hands of a fanatical Islamic group in Kano State. Ese is only 14 years old and cannot give informed consent to marriage and is still being held hostage.
“Mr. and Mrs. Charles Oruru are petty traders who are putting in all efforts to meet the needs of their children. Securing the return of Ese would not only reaffirm our strong desire to continually protect our children, but also re-emphasise and stamp our indelible position against the acts of these culprits.”
Andah, therefore, called on all to join their voices to prevail on the Kano State Government and the Kano Emirate to urgently release Ese.
He demanded the prosecution of her abductors under the appropriate law and jurisdiction, saying the matter was of urgent national security and public interest.
Corroborating the position of Andah, the Chairperson, CPN, Mrs. Miriam Kombo-Eze, said they wrote letters to and met with many security agencies, including the Ijaw Youth Council over the matter.
Kombo-Eze said, “The man that took away this girl and his cohorts collect these girls, who are underage children of 12 and 13 years from this state, convert them to Muslims and their parents can’t do anything about them.
“They take permission from their leaders here in Bayelsa State. This is a national security problem.”
She said most parents had lost their children in similar circumstances and praised the parents of Ese for pursuing the release of their daughter.
She, therefore, urged parents to carefully monitor the kind of people that visit their homes and shops.
“Parents should be careful of the kind of persons they welcome to their homes. Everybody should be security conscious. We should be careful of the people that are around us. We are not trying to instigate anyone to take the law into their hands, what we are trying to do is to sensitise people to what is going on in the state,” she counselled.
Responding to the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer, Bayelsa State Police Command, Mr. Asinim Butswat, said on Thursday that it was a case of elopement, and not abduction.
Butswat, who spoke in a telephone interview, said based on their findings, the boy in question (Yinusa) told the police that he and Ese had been married.
But when reminded that Ese was only 14 years old, and 13 when she was abducted, Butswat said the police were of the position that the issue of marriage did not arise in the matter.
He said the Bayelsa Command was working closely with its Kano counterpart to secure the release of the girl.
The police spokesman said, “Based on our initial findings, it was not a case of abduction but that of elopement. Ese eloped with the boy (Yinusa) to Kano.
“Our operatives went for investigative activities in Kano and the boy in question said they were married. When our men went to the Sharia Council to secure her release, the council said they had not signed the necessary papers to let her go.
“With the age of the girl, she is not of age for marriage, so the issue of marriage does not arise even though reports indicate that the girl is happy being there.
“We want to assure the family that their daughter will soon be released to them. We are working closely with the Kano State Police Command to secure her release.”
When SUNDAY PUNCH contacted the Police Public Relations Officer, Kano State Command, Magaji Majia, on the telephone, he said, “I have been making enquiries in Kano State Police Command; 72 police divisions, the state CID, the gender violence section; we don’t have such a case here in Kano.”
As of press time, the Turakin Kano, and Chief of Staff of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Mamuda Sanusi, could not be reached as calls placed to his telephone line did not connect, while text messages sent to his line had yet to be replied to.
Last Friday, a police source in Kano, who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, confirmed to one of our correspondents on the telephone that Oruru was taken to the Emir’s palace sometime last year.
The source said Yinusa had complained to the Emir of Kano after his relations had been arrested by the police, following complaints from the girl’s parents.
“The matter was referred to us by the Emir of Kano. The man said the girl had converted to Islam and followed him to his hometown in Kano. I saw the girl myself here at Zone 1 headquarters, but we did not do any investigation on the matter.”
The source, however, did not mention the name of the hometown, but stated that Oruru is with Yinusa and his family in Kano.
“The Emir said that since she voluntarily said she wanted to be a Muslim and had converted to Islam, her parents should not force her, and that even though she is a minor, she should be allowed to practise whatever she wanted to practise. It was the girl that followed the man; she was not taken by force. Although, as a 13-year-old then, she is a minor in the eyes of the law; she has no consent. If she was an adult, she has the free will to go wherever she wants to go. But there was nothing like kidnapping.”