On 30th October 2019, around 8 am, as the sun was rising on the holy town of Nnobi situated in Idemili South Local Government Area in Anambra State, a 3-year- old Miss Chiamaka Ubah from Umudiokpala, Awuda Nnobi was kidnapped – an incident so strange in that holy town.
Nnobi is called holy land (Ana Nso) in Igboland, partly to being the dwelling place of Idemili goddess which Idemili North and Idemili South derived their local government names, and majorly to being the sacred land of the Sabbatarians that always regarded visiting of Nnobi as a pilgrimage, and would often take the town’s sand as a reward for their spirituality. Added to that, the town has produced bishops and scores of priests that made it to be considered as the citadel of the Christian enterprise in Igboland. So when Chiamaka was kidnapped, like a bolt from the blue, the news put the sacredness of Nnobi into a test.
The primary account has it that the morning Chiamaka Ubah was kidnapped, she was in the front corridor of their house playing and enjoying the mid-term break with her two older siblings. Her mother was busy in the backyard cooking food and boiling water she intended to bathe them for they would soon attend popular Wednesday Prayer at Madonna Catholic Church Nnobi – a church a little distant from their house. Indeed, it was a usual morning that sparked no premonition of such a dreadful incident. Common with young siblings in every family, there was a juvenile scuffle between the immediate two older siblings of Chiamaka, and until an elder would settle that none of them would let go. Thus, both of them, without much thought, left Chiamka behind and met their mother in the backyard for arbitration. Less than five minutes to that, and before their mother could give them motherly win-win judgment, one of their neighbours, a girl of young age, rushed with anxiety towards Chiamka’s mother saying “aunty, aunty, where is Chiamaka? I saw some strangers on a motorcycle (commonly called Okada) forcibly holding Chiamaka at ransom. They covered her with a blanket, and I took notice of Chiamaka’s danger when she miraculously opened the blanket shouting ‘mummy ooo, mummy ooo’ before her abductors cover her back with rage.” “Why didn’t you shout to alert neighbours,” asked Chiamaka’s mother. Replying, “I told the man carrying sand nearby as the kidnappers were still within the area and he asked me to come and inquire if the child was truly Chiamaka. That is why I am here to inquire about her whereabouts.” Chiamaka” mother was frozen in confusion. In her words, “as we hurried towards the road in front of our house, the kidnappers had gone. We inquired from workers with the neighborhood and they confirmed seeing the bikers pass by. We alerted the security vigilante, and they searched nooks and crannies of our area and even went down to Nnewi, the neighbouring town to look for them, but to no avail. Following that, we went to the Nnobi police division and made a statement, which they acted upon immediately through their radio message that was very audible to me.”
The question basklifenews is asking is, why did the man taking the sand nearby not thoughtful or proactive enough alert the neighbourhood, which could have generated spontaneous reactions? Was he so naive not to know that time was of the essence in reacting to such an emergency? Was it an intentional act to delay an intervention? Did it not look suspicious to see two men on a bike with a child gasping for freedom and yet he stood akimbo? The reactions of Chiamaka’s peer should have been sufficient enough to make a valued judgement. Rather, he directed a young girl that trusted his so-called “superior judgement” to confirm if Chiamaka was in their house, thereby defreezed the opportunity left to rescue young Chiamaka.
If the questions are not sufficient to raise suspicion, the timing and surgical pattern with which Chiamaka was kidnapped called for serious suspicion that somebody living within the vicinity could have conspired and coordinated with the Kidnappers.
On the other hand, the nature of Chiamaka family’s compound gave serious reason for concern. The front view of the compound was vertically half-fenced with no gate to guide against unrestricted access and view. Thus, the openness of the compound was a security lapse that could have giving room for easy surveillance that could have culminated to Chiamaka’s kidnapping.
Until 2021, there was no strong lead to the whereabouts of Chiamaka. A rumour that Chiamaka was among those found about a week after she got missing, and an unidentified kidnapper caught with her ended in a smoke – the money spent for that notwithstanding. Chiamaka’s parents, brooding in anguish and despair, resorted to prayers.
Around 10:17 am in the morning of 20th January 2021, basklifenews noticed the press release from CSP Haruna, PPRO Anambra State Police Command titled *CHILD TRAFFICKING KINGPIN NABBED AS GOMBE POLICE COMMAND RETURNS UNCLAIMED CHILDREN TO ANAMBRA*. Basklifenews also discovered that the police news was supported by the pictures of the unclaimed children. To enrich the lives of others, basklifenews informed the Nnobi people through their social media and it yielded fruit. Added to that, Chiamaka’s mother told basklifenews that it was her fellow teacher named Florence Obiamalu that informed her of a missing child that resembled Chiamaka. According to her, the teacher recognized Chiamaka’s picture because of her daughter’s unsociable behaviour towards non-family members – an attitude that has created in her indelible remembrance of Chiamaka’s outlook.
According to the police report on the unclaimed children brought back to Anambra:
“It will be recalled that on 22/10/2019 following an intelligence report, Police operatives attached to the Anambra State Police Command arrested three female suspects at Nkpor Market/Tarzan Junction in Idemili North LGA of Anambra State, with three children suspected to have been stolen.
“2. Investigations revealed that the children were stolen from Gombe State by one Hauwa Usman ‘f” on the 20/10/2019 and brought to her accomplices in Anambra State. Following the Public announcement by the Command on the 27/10/2019, parents of the two kids from Gombe State came to Awka and identified their children.
“3. Consequently,the children have since reunited with their parents and suspects were handed over to the Gombe State Police Command for discreet investigation and prosecution.
“4.Furthermore, upon interrogation by the police in Gombe State, suspects voluntarily confessed that they usually steal the children and bring to their sponsor, one Mrs. Nkechi Odinye, here in Anambra State, who buys each child at the rate of between two hundred and four hundred thousand naira (#200 to 400,000), depending on their age bracket and gender.
“5. Following voluntary confession by the suspects and while acting on a tip-off, Police detectives attached to 3-3 Division, in Collaboration with Operatives attached to the Command’s Special Anti-Cult Section (SPACS), stormed the hideout of the principal suspect, one Mrs. Nkechi Odinye, ‘f’, aged 55 years, and effected her arrest at Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State.
“6. The Suspect had hitherto evaded arrest for over three years by changing locations until her arrest. The team equally recovered sixteen other children of various age brackets, comprising ten boys and six girls, reasonably suspected to have been stolen from different parts of the country under her custody.
“7. Both the suspect and the found children were handed over to the Gombe State Police Command where four of the children were identified and reunited with their biological parents after exhaustive investigation and forensic analysis, including DNA tests. Also, one of them was handed over to the parents in Asaba, Delta State.
“8. However, on the 18/1/2021 the Gombe State Police Command returned eleven unclaimed children comprising Seven (7) boys and four (4) girls, back to the Anambra State Command where the children were originally found. They were subsequently handed over to the Anambra State Ministry for Social Welfare, Women’s and Children’s Affairs, for safekeeping until their biological parents emerge.
“9. Meanwhile, the Command now has a total number of 18 unclaimed children rescued from suspected child traffickers.
“10. In view of the foregoing, members of the public are kindly requested by the Commissioner of Police *CP John B Abang, fdc, to disseminate this message through their mediums to enable the biological parents or close relatives identify these children whose photographs appear hereunder to claim them.
“11. Anyone with useful information about the found children should report at Area Command Onitsha, 3-3 Divisional Police Station, Nkwelle Ezunaka, or contact the PPRO, Anambra State Police Command.”
Following that, basklifenews, in conjunction with other stakeholders of Nnobi, swung into the raising of a fund to offset the required bills, especially the payment of the DNA test, bearing in mind that the ownership of the child has become contentious since two people from Northern Nigeria are also laying claim to the child.
Basklifenews gathered that the unclaimed child believed to be Chiamaka could not recognize nor speak to any of the three claimants – Chiamaka’s mother and the two northerners. Could it be the three claimants are not blood-related to the child, or that the child is passing through trauma, or that she has erased her memory of the past? Is it possible that a 3-year-old child would not remember her mother after about 15 months of separating from her? Does trauma affect recollection in a child? When does a child develop retentive memory? What could have made the child ignore those claiming her?
Chiamaka’s mother told basklifenews that although that the child was fairer in complexion than Chiamaka, and Chiamaka’s faintly natural mark at her left-hand-side invisible on the child that her eyes and outlook have a striking resemblance of Chiamaka – a claim which most health workers agreed to. She recollected how one of the northern claimants amused her by repeatedly calling the child ADAEZE – a name that was in contrast to his ethnic name, physical appearance, and dressing. Yet, they would not relent in laying claim to the child. Consequently, DNA tests became the only source to determine the true owner of the child. All the claimants agreed to the test.
On 29th December 2021, at the police clinic, a mouth swab was taken from Chiamaka’s mother and the unclaimed child for usage in a DNA test. Yesterday, 13th February 2021 was the completion of the 15 days given for the collection of the result.
Basklifenews will continue to investigate and follow the story until the result are out and the right action taken.
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