Farouk Ibrahim Ahmad is one of the nine children rescued from a kidnapping cartel that specialise in abducting and trafficking children from Kano to Onitsha in Anambra State and other parts of the country. In this interview, ten-year-old Farouk explains how he was abducted, and how his host, Madam Ebere, sells abducted children.
How old are you?
I am ten years old.
Where are you from?
I am from Kano State before I was taken to Onitsha by Paul
Why did you follow him to Onitsha?
He took me to his house in the night. The following morning, he took me to a motor park and brought me to Onitsha. Madam Ebere then came and took Emma and me to the hospital.
Why did she take you to the hospital and what happened after that?
I was taken to be circumcised and we went home with them and continued staying with them.
How did they treat you?
They treated me like their son.
Did they change your name?
What name did they give you?
Where did Paul see you before he took you away?
He saw me outside my house in Kano.
What did he say to lure you?
I was playing with my friends that night. He grabbed my hand and when I attempted to shout, he covered my mouth and took me to an isolated place. It was Paul’s wife that took me away from my yard to their house. It was when I got to their house that I saw Paul. And then Paul took me from Kano to Onitsha.
When you got to Onitsha, where did they take you to?
I stayed with Madam Ebere and then, I was told, that she is my mother.
What did you tell them when they told you she is your mother?
I told them nothing.
Were you not afraid? Did you reject her?
Did they give you food?
How many times in a day?
Four times in a day.
Where you enrolled in school?
Yes, I was. I was taken to three different schools.
Do you know the name of the schools?
What are the names?
The first one is Confidence Nursery, Primary and Secondary School. They later changed my school to Divine International Nursery and Primary school. They changed me again from Divine International school to Crown Model School.
Does Madam Ebere have a husband?
Does he stay in the house with you all?
No. Her husband lives separately but he is in Onitsha.
Did Madam Ebere know that Paul’s wife took you without your parent’s consent?
When we got to Onitsha, Madam Ebere asked him where the children came from and he said from the motherless babies’ home.
What language did Paul speak in when he told Madam Ebere that?
I remembered the conversation when I finally learnt how to speak Igbo. Paul brought a girl called Ozioma. Her name was Aisha but they changed it to Ozioma when they brought her to Onitsha. Madam Ebere asked him where the girl came from and he said she was from a motherless babies’ home.
Why did you not say anything that time, since you had started understanding the Igbo language? Was it because you were afraid or because you love Madam Ebere?
I was afraid.
Did you go to church while you were there?
When they brought Ozioma and the other children to Madam Ebere, what did she do with them?
Whenever new children came, some people would come to ask her who the children were. She would tell them that there’s a man whose wife works in a motherless babies’ home. So, it’s the woman that brings the children from the motherless babies’ home. The people would say they want to buy a child and she will sell the child to them.
So, Madam Ebere was selling children to those people?
Do you see her collect money from these people?
She normally closes the door. But when they brought Emmanuel was the first time I saw money being exchanged between Madam Ebere and a visitor.
Did you see her giving or collecting money?
Yes, I saw her counting the money they gave to her.
How many times did you see this kind of situation; where she collects or gives out money?
I have seen her more than two times.
Apart from Emmanuel’s case, when else did you see her count money after a child was brought?
She counted money when they brought the twin girls.
What are their names?
Their names are Husna and Amira.
Where did they bring them from?
They brought them from Kano.
What of Emmanuel?
They also brought him from Kano.
What is your routine for the days you go to school?
If there is no water at home, I will fetch water. This is before school. Aisha washes the plates every morning. After fetching water, I take my bath, wear my school uniform and go to school. When we come back from school, we eat, wash our school uniform, go to the shop, and wash our food flask. Then we close when it is time and go home.
Did you feel like she was punishing you?
Does she beat you?
Yes, only when I do something wrong.
What kind of wrong would she beat you for?
Sometimes, I come back from school and start playing when I have not washed my school uniform.
Did you worry about your parents in Kano? Did you miss them?
Did you think that one day you would come back to Kano?
No, because I lost all hope of ever returning home
What happened the day you were rescued from Onitsha?
Aisha, Husna and I went to Awada because at that time they had sold Amira out.
Who took you there?
Madam Ebere’s husband took us there. We stayed with his sister there. On Monday, they brought me back to Onitsha to start school because they had registered me at Crown Model School. It was my first day in the new school. After I came back from school, I was eating when SARS people came. They asked her, ‘Are you Madam Ebere?’ She said yes. They told her to go with them. Then, they came to take me, Chiagozie, Blessing and Chiemerie. Husna and Aisha were in Awada. The SARS officers asked her if these were all the children and she said no. She said the others were in Awada. So, they went to Awada to take Husna and Aisha. Then, we went to the police station and they asked her if we were all the children she had in her care and she said no, it remained Chinedu.
The SARS people took me because I told them I know the house. We went to the house but we couldn’t find Chinedu. We came back to the police station. The next day, the SARS people went to where Amira was and they brought her and Usman to the police station. They asked her where Chinedu was and she said he was with her sister but when they went there they still couldn’t find Chinedu. The Anti-Kidnapping Squad said if they get to Kano and discover that any child was left behind, her punishment would be more than it ought to be.
The next day, we went to Kano. And there is one boy, Chukwuemeka, my friend. He told me he was not an Igbo boy, that he is Hausa. He said his mother’s sister brought him from Unguwar Hausa to Onitsha. I didn’t know that it was Paul’s wife that brought him to Onitsha. She gave him to Madam Ebere. Madam Ebere gave him to one of her friends who live close to the house. It is the woman that named him Chukwuemeka.
When AKS brought you to Kano, did they tell you anything?
They told me that Madam Ebere is not my real mother, even though, I knew she wasn’t my biological mum
How did you know?
Aisha and I usually talk about where we come from. That we were Hausa people. She told me about her family and I also told her about my family.
So, you remembered your family.
When you returned to your parents, how did you feel?
I felt happy.
What happened the day you saw them? Who did you see first; your mother or your father?
My father, I recognised him almost immediately.
How did you know he was your father?
I remembered him from a picture.
Did he show you the picture?
It was a family picture and I remembered it.