PUNCH LAUNCHES ‘FREE ESE’ CAMPAIGN
The Executive Director of a non-governmental organisation, KHAN Initiative, Mr. Kizito Andah, tells ARUKAINO UMUKORO about his concerns for Ese Oruru
How did your NGO find out about Ese Oruru’s case?
A neighbour who knew about the case brought it to our attention. In the first week of December, 2015, I met with Ese’s mum, Mrs. Rose Oruru, and she told me about the issue.
What struck you about the issue?
I thought it was unbelievable the first time I heard the story. But Ese’s mother provided evidence. And being that she had not been to the northern part of Nigeria before, I had to do a cross-check on the community, local government and the name of the police station that she had described, the location of the Emir’s council and palace. I was able to confirm some of the information she provided. When she told me this story, the following day I travelled, and I had to find out if it was proper for a 13-year-old girl to be married with or without the consent of the parents. When I was reasonably convinced about the case, I approached the Child Protection Network; I had to re-cross-check her story again and that was how we got involved.
Would you describe this as a clear case of kidnap or something else?
It is clearly a case of abduction, forced child–bride marriage and forceful conversion of a girl to another religion. Who knows what else the girl has gone through? She may have suffered or be suffering any form of sexual violence right now. They may be indoctrinating her or may want to use her for devious purposes. She falls within the age of young girls being used for suicide bombings.
But you cannot prove that the person who took her away has any link with Boko Haram?
Yes, we cannot prove that, that is why I said, who knows?
Have you confirmed that she was actually taken to the palace of the Emir of Kano?
Yes, we confirmed that.
Have you got in touch with the Emir or people in the Emir’s palace on this matter?
No. But we brought the complaint to the State Director of the DSS as well as the Commissioner of Police, Bayelsa State, who went to the investigative team and they narrated to him everything that happened when they went to Kano. We know for sure that she is being held by the Kano Emirate Council. The police from Bayelsa were at the Emir’s palace. The police from Bayelsa went to the Emir’s palace.
We are working with the police, we don’t want to jeopardise all our sources for now. The mother (of the girl) was there and she saw her child at the Emir’s palace on the 17th (August last year) when she went to Kano, because they brought the matter to the Emir. Again, when the father of the girl also went there, he saw the daughter over there, I think twice or thrice.
What does this say about the laws of the country?
It shows that we have a country within a country; that some people are slaves while others are kings. It shows that we live in a society that has a culture of impunity, a lawless and an uncaring society. The late Nelson Mandela taught us that we know how good a society is by the way it treats its vulnerable, and none is more vulnerable in society than children and the elderly. This was a child that was taken elsewhere from where she originally belongs, and the people over there have not expressed any indignation at the perpetrators of the crime; they are not just thinking of how to return the girl to her parents and say sorry for what this man has done, and that it did not represent who they are. That tells you that there are bigger problems in this country.
What is the current situation?
As we speak, we received a message on our Facebook platform from someone, a Bring Back Our Girls advocate, who said that the Emir had asked that the girl be released. We heard that the Emir had passed a ruling like that, the police also said that when they went to Kano. However, the question is, if the Emir had truly ordered her release, what is keeping her? What we know is that when the father of the girl went to Kano, they gave the father some conditions under which they would release his daughter to him.
What were the conditions?
One of the conditions, according to them, was that the girl should not be harmed or beaten when she comes back. Two, that her religion should not be changed; she should not be converted back to Christianity. At that point, the father said, okay, he would sign. Then they reneged again and said they were not going to release the child to him, that they were going to hand her over to the Inspector-General, and the IG would give her to the AIG, Zone 5, who would now bring the child to the father.
At the moment, do you know where the girl is?
We know where she is. She is in the Kano Emirate council, in custody at the palace of the Emir of Kano. We wonder why she has still not been released. We are bewildered that some persons of that stature would feel comfortable holding on to somebody else’s child for so long and be giving conditions under which the child would be returned.