Ayobami Jaiyeola...Missing since December 2013
Chiemelie Ezeobi writes on the pains, anguish and dashed hopes of families of persons who have disappeared from home without trace
He was not born dumb. But, in a cruel twist of fate, he lost the ability to speak at seven years of age due to complications arising from convulsion.
Although he could not write or understand sign language, 18-year-old Somto Orji took this impediment in his strides, shooting like the okro sprout like any gangly young man would in a thriving environment.
With a loving family, he seemingly managed to live life to the full seeing that he could hear. All that was to change however in November 29, 2013, when life as his family knew it changed forever.
The family had moved to a new and better apartment at 14, Akin Osiyemi Street, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos. However, what seemed like a change in fortune has since turned into pains for the family. On that fateful day, he left for paths unknown and is yet to be seen.
According to his mother Ify, she had gone to the hospital for an x-ray only to be informed that her son had run out of the house when the house help opened the door.
She said although the houseboy initially gave chase, he soon left him thinking he would come back home when he was done playing pranks, adding that upon her return, they searched for him till about 3.30pm before they reported the incident at the Ikeja Police Division and were told to come back after 24 hours.
Notwithstanding, she said they continued on a personal search that yielded no results. They also proceeded to the state’s Special Taskforce on Environmental and Other Offences to check if he had been arrested during a recent raid. Not yet done, they also proceeded to check all the prisons in the state, which were also futile.
Their visit to the prisons was informed by the disclosure that the taskforce had embarked on a raid the previous day. Visits were made to Badagry Prison where 47 men were lined up for identification.
They repeated same at Ikoyi, where 17 persons had been taken and Kirikiri Prison, where 20 people were remanded following a raid.
Done with that option, they visited the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Ikeja, Area G Police Command, Ogba, as well as four police stations within Oshodi but she was constantly told that no mute person had been arrested and she was even allowed to see the detained suspects.
Spurred by the results, they took their search to hospitals and mortuaries, including the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and the Ministry of Youth and Culture and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP).
Till date, efforts to locate Somto, who is five feet five and has chocolate skin colour, have been null, leaving the parents in perpetual heartache and anguish. Like the flicker of a candle, the family continues to hold their breath in anticipation of his return someday.
Like Somto, there are several cases of missing persons, which have either been reported to the police or have been taken in their strides by the affected families.
They were either in the prime of their lives or were about to start one. Like death, this anomaly is no respecter for age, sex, class or religious affiliation, thus stretching the anxiety of their family members to a breaking point.
Although some of the missing persons have been found after some days or months, sometimes in locations far away from home, many others were never found.
A large proportion of the missing persons comprised mostly of young people in their teens and above while those above 40 accounted for a considerably large figure.
THISDAY gathered that even though the police cannot actually give account for each case, some of the missing persons may have been killed by hit and run drivers; or are victims of kidnappers and ritual killers.
Disappearance into Thin Air
While some missing persons were yet to be seen, the duo of Toheeb Adedokun and Tajudeen Falilu were seen after 35 days of being declared missing.
However, they were dead when they were discovered on March 5, 2013, inside a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) parked few meters from their residence at Tanke Street, Ikosi area of Ketu in Lagos.
Adedokun and Falilu had been reported missing by their parents on January 29 and were declared missing by the police who treated the disappearance as a kidnap case till their bodies were discovered.
Till date, however, the police is yet to ascertain how the bodies were dumped in the car and like similar cases before it, the trail has seemingly gone cold.
The late Cynthia Osokogu was declared missing for weeks before she was found dead in Lagos; a far distance from her base in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital. The deceased, who was the daughter of Major-General Frank Osokogu (rtd), was found dead in a morgue in Lagos.
After weeks of perpetual suspense, the family and friends of the deceased had circulated messages on the social media, pleading with members of the public to help disseminate information.
Meanwhile, due to the determination of the police led by the Area Commander, ACP Dan Okoro, the case was unraveled and her parents were called in to identify her body.
During investigation, the police uncovered a cartel which specialised in luring young women to Lagos to rob them. However, unlike the Osokogus, there are many families that are still living in oblivion of the fate of their loved ones who have seemingly disappeared into thin air for months.
Another prominent case is that of NTA presenter, Alhaji Gawat, who has been missing for over two years. The popular television presenter of the Islamic TV programme, E didè e ji sari with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Channel 10, Lagos, was reportedly abducted by unknown persons.
He was reportedly abducted from his car around Apongbon end of the Eko Bridge, on Lagos Island and his car abandoned on the same spot; although the case was reported to the Adeniji Adele Police Division, Lagos Island, he is yet to be seen.
These cases and many others tell the story of the gaping hole in the lives of the affected families.
Records at the office of the Lagos State Public Relations Office at Oduduwa Crescent, Ikeja, Lagos, buttress the fact that these persons left home and have not returned. There is no rational explanation as to their whereabouts till date.
Trauma for Families
The trauma the families pass through stems from the uncertainty often associated with such cases. For the Ifeanychukwu family, their trauma has lingered over six years and still counting.
He would have been 27-years this year and probably with a successful job and other perks. That was not to be though as fate had another plan. Ekene, who was the first born of the Ifeanyichukwu family, strolled one day to a neighbourhood shop to purchase some snacks. That was the last they saw of him. He simply disappeared off radar despite the frantic efforts made to find him.
Six years down the line, the family is yet to forget. Like a festering wound, the trauma lingers although events seem to have overtaken the incident. Yet they do not forget.
For most families, the anxiety is far worse than cases of kidnap, where they take solace that at least the person is still alive. They are often with questions and still more questions as to the whereabouts of their loves ones. In such situations, questions like; were they kidnapped? Were they involved in road accidents or were victim of rituals? Are they dead or are they still alive have become common.
Missing Persons in Lagos State
A total of 160 males and 190 females were declared missing over a period of two years by the police, making it a total of 350 persons declared missing. This figure, however, does not account for those cases, which were not reported to the police.
Some of the cases reported in Lagos include: 14-year-old Micheal Ifeaka of 24, Sowemimo Street, Sabo-Oniba Ojo; 15-years-old Blessing Oboh of 22 Farjern Street, Igboelerin Road, Okokomaiko; 22-year-old and 15-years-old Forgive and Peace Martins of 5, Akinola Close Ojo; 21-year-old Martha Misen of House 34 Touch Road Close Alfred Garden Estate, Oregun, Ikeja; 14-year-old Graney Sthonu of Ada-Ala Street, Check Point Off Badagry Expressway,
Others include 20-year-old Samson Mike of 4 Joy Avenue Close, Ajao Estate; 22-year-old Abah Emmanuel of Road 6 V2 Close House 2, Abraham Adesanya Housing Estate, Ajah; 26-year-old One Ezagha Chiriodo of 1 Oladoyinbor Street Aguda, Ogba; Jubril Ibrahim (15) of 5 Adeyemi Street, Agege; Chukwudi Nwife (16) of 9 Iroki Street Coker, Surulere; Ekpere Ofetta (15) of 3 Orilowo Ajose Street, Ejigbo; Osakwe Ehiema (21) of Nafrc Oshodi; Bose Tijaye (21); Aminat Amir (17) of 28 Rhodes Crescent, Apapa; Usman Tawa (22) of 3 Ladipo Kuku Street, Off Allen Avenue, Ikeja; Happiness (14) of 18 Mayaka Street, Agege; Abiodun Arojire (17); Maxwel Okoh (40) of 7/9, Adebanjo Street Isolo, Ishaga; Emmanuel Asuquo (19) of 50, Sholape Onoru Street, Ago Okota; Chukwu Reuben (44), Afolabi Philip (16), Shakiru Abiodun (40), Ogechi Livinus (15), Chinecherem Nnamani (14), Afolabi Philip (16), Onyekachi Osuji (16), Waheed Akorede Oladeinde (39), Toibu Rasheed (18), Nelson Ogbonna (14), Chibugo Nwoha (14) and Lekan Sani (30).
The list for children include; 6-year-old Chinoso Nworah of 35 Muyiwa Opaleye Street Aguda, Surulere; 2-year-old Temitope Obanuwa of 52, Imoru Road Ifo; 10-year-old Amarachi Ehuma of 2 Mustapha Street Owutu Ikorodu; 11-year-old Aminat Adefemi of 14, Abayoro Street Oregun; 12-year-old Saheed Akimu; 7-year-old Deborah Ebude of 13, Egbadu Close-Iju Lagos.
Teenagers were not left out too and the list include: 14-year-old Mariam Ashiru of 22 Adigboluja Street, Ojodu; 20-years-old Seun Adigboluja of Ketu Jakande market; 15-year-old Aminat Saibu of block 66 Flat 3, Greenland Bus Stop Abesan Estate Ipaja; 19-years-old Mary Ene Akor of Plot 10 Gladys Avenue Suberu –Oje Alagbado; 15-year-old Kosisochukwu Obikie of 11 Olaseni Diyaolu Street, Aguda, Surulere and 14-year-old Chukwudi Nweke of 9 Olushola Olalekan Street Off Chairman Junction, Erunwen, Ikorodu
Others are; Nafisat Kemi Mojisola (15) of Owode Itamawin Village Epe; Seun Adigboluja (20) of Ketu Jakande market; Amunatu Ajenikoko (16) of Oko-Afo Town; Mary Ene Akor (19) of Plot 10 Gladys Avenue Suberu –Oje Alagbado; Kosisochukwu Obikie (15) of 11 Olaseni Diyaolu Street, Aguda;!13-year-old Taibat Suleiman of No.8/9, Segun Ogunye Street, Ifelodun, Ejigbo; 18-year-old Aminat Akinsola of 16, Elesinmogun Street, Bawura Ipaja; 13-year-old Izuchukwu Nweke of 10B, Flat 6, Glover Estate; 15-year-old Habibat Kamorudin of Araromi Lagos Badagry Expressway; 18-year-oldKabiru Shittu of El-King Street, Ibereko Badagry;13-year-old Goodness Ubani 1 Ojelade Street, Mafoluku Oshodi; 15-year-old Rose Orekoya of 3 Imole-Oluwa Street, Oke-Odo; 15-year-old Somadina Okeke of 1 Atinuke Olabanji Street Ikeja and 16-year-old Yemi Obarafor of Oko Filing New Site Checking point Badagry Expressway.
The list also includes 17-year-old Chioma Ogunike of 17, Saka Street, Ejigbo; 16-year-old Anu Ojegbade of Oba Olugbogi Street, Oke Ibujeun Morogbo; 13-year-old Friday Oriadetu of Iragon Road Ikoga; 19-year-old Emmanuel Onunkwo of 13 Falowun Street, Orile Iganmu; 16-year-old Hilda Ujerel of 9 Timi Odeyemi Street, Isawo Ikorodu; 14-year-old Edward Amuha of 25, Ilamoye Street, Ijeshatedo; 16-year-old Rilwan Bolajoko of 1b, Ojeteje Street, Sari Iganmu Orile; 21-year-old Magdalene Isaac 114, Oniwaye Road Agege and 18-year-old Omoniyi Akinbola of 26 Ipaja Road, opposite Post Office.
There were also cases of adults reported missing at one point or the other and they include; 50-year-old Mama Ibeji Tokunbo of 35, Ilorin Street off Adelabu, Surulere; 48-year-old Bamidele Ogunsakiru of 7, Oroku Street Apapa Road, Ebute-Metta West; 40-year-old Lolinda Iroegbu of Zone ‘E’ Ilupeju Estate; 31-year-old Amarachi Ezuma of Panasu junction Oke-Ofo Badagry; 38-year-old Adekunle Rotimi Olusegun of Agege Local Government; Orile; 62-year-old Friday Onyegbule; 35-year-old Chigozie Charles of 8, Alfa Yusuf Street, off union Road Dopemu, Agege.
Others include: 36-year-old Alevis Orjiako of Umaezeala Ogwara in Effima Mbiano L.G.A; 62-year-old Wusamotu Abeni of 9, Samuel Omogbehin Street, Campbell Alakuko; 36-year-old Kudiratu Seriki of 7 Akinpelu Street, Oworo; 32-year-old Anthony Nwakoro and Osita Onuorah of 47 Sari Iganmu Road, Orile Iganmu and 4 Romlatimson Street Aguda, Surulere, respectively; 70-year-old Taiwo Akanni 68 Adejiyan Street, Amukoko; 32-year-old Risikatu Oyetoro 2 Ahmed Close Obawole Iju; 54-year-old Adekunle Lajiwomi of 61 Goriola Street, Ajegunle and 30-year-old Michael Oyenwe of 8 Papa Ajao, Mushin.
28-year-old Lucky Okoh of Church Pole Iba; 26-year-old Makanjuola Moses 8 Emure Street Okeriya Ikorodu; 35-year-old Adeyemi Kayode of 38 Damigoro Street, Mushin; 36-year-old Akinsulore Dolly of Agunmajayi Street Oko-Afo Badagry; 32-year-old Chukwuma Akujobi of Amakohia Urotta Owerri; 45-year-old Oladipupo Popoola of 8 Modupe Richard Street Majiyagbe Ipaja; and 47-year-old Kudirat Feyisetan of 1 Monifu Owonla Avenue Cados Baruwa, Ipaja were reported missing too.
Also reported missing were Halimat Jimoh (15), Olanrewaju Olarotimi Alabi (30), Rasidi Olayiwola (38), Lara Tonye (13), Daduno Saidat (19), Nelson Osagie (26), Chinedu Okoro (19), Chukwunoso Matthew Nzekwe (30) and Gbadamosi Christana Olusola (43).The list also included: Chinedu Okoro (19), Chijoke Egbe (19), Eric Afuberon (19) Ididi Olanike (12), Obonogwu Solomon Ogidi (15), James Hundu (45), Moses Thacher (18), Chiwendu Emaefule (13), Oscar Kanayo (17), Selimo Oyebanji (16), Eucharia Otaiku (77) and Bassey Okon (13).
Others are Ebere Onwuanibe (18), Rukayat Shonibare (14), Austin Oborote (40), Bello Saka (70), Ibukun Joy (13), Tunde Stephen (13), Ogunode Thomas (70), Tochukwu Agana (14), Olawale Bamidele (16), Daniel Amos (12), Oyinkansola Towolawi (10) and Olaolowa Adegbaye (23), Joy James (18), Mary Oji (20), Blessing Okpan (13), Obinna Umelo (17), Obasi Justine (17), Nneoma Mary-Ann Arungwa (13), Chigozie Okechi (18), Morenike Lumowo (35), Ekene Umikwu, Taiwo Sosiq (24) and Ayodele Olajiga (41).
Also on the list are Oriyomi Yusuf, (20), Priscilla Onyiyechukwu Madu (20), Matthew Igbodo (30), Joy Udoh (15), Afeez Akinleye (18), Jide Obakpolo (26), Suporo Okafor (13), Olamide Ayoola Solomon (16), Adeola Ogunkomaya (45), Josephine (15), Nse Obong (65), Shoaga Hammed (21), Adeola Ogunkomaya (45), Uche Nnadika (15), Precious Bisong, Ejike Oguanya Nzekwe (30), Nzochukwu Ibegbu (13), Amechi Ezenaka (17), Amaka Ogoke (12), Victoria Umoh (38), Ogechi Ede (15) and Joy Ijeoma Emmanuel (13).
Also, George Ituen (72), Adedeji Albert (39), Adeshina Abimbola (48), Ogechi Godwin (13), Laide Shittu (38), Nkemdelim Owabor (41), Ijeoma Levi (17), Ogundele Samuel (16), Susan Uchechukwu (18), John Abiodun (48), Kehinde Oloko (16), Gabriel Olaitan (38), Seun Ogunbowale (17), Isimai Sodik (17), Taye Akapo (50), Blessing Ezekiel (15), Chiamaka Onah ‘f’ aged (21), Aforbike Odoh, Omotola Babalola (19) and Ganiyu Alli (32) are also missing.
The Evidence Act
The referred sections of the Evidence Act concerning missing persons states that "a person shown not to have been heard of for seven years by those, if any, who, if he had been alive, would naturally have heard of him, is presumed to be dead unless the circumstances of the case are such as to account for his not being heard of without assuming his death; but there is no presumption as to the time when he died, and the burden of proving his death at any particular time is upon the person who asserts it.”
Baring any hitch, the police code mandates the police to receive information about a missing person and act on it. This, as stated in the NPF pamphlet no.11 of criminal investigation handbook, makes this clause important.
Also backed by this is the international standard for the procedure of investigating missing persons, which is as stipulated in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), but on the condition of presumption of death.
Therefore, a person can only be declared missing after 24 hours, but there is, however, an exception to the rule, especially in cases whereby children are missing. In such cases, the police are expected to swing into action immediately because chances are that the trail will grow colder as time elapses.
Speaking to THISDAY, a senior office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that there is no strict rule guiding police investigation once a person is declared missing.
According to him, the manner an investigation is carried out depends on the circumstances surrounding the incident, as well as the person’s psychological disposition disappearance.
Speaking to THISDAY on this issue recently, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, lamented that the challenge the command was facing was that affected families do not involve the police in such cases.
Manko made this disclosure at the state command during a press briefing on the achievements of the command in 2013.
He said, "We have had incidents of missing persons in the state but most of them do not get to the domain of the police because they fail to report it to the station.
"If someone is missing and the incident was not reported, it is as good as if the person is not remembered and that is why we often ask and urge people affected to report such cases to the police."
He premised this on the collated police statistics for last year which stated that 15 cases of kidnapping were recorded as against 2012 which recorded 19 cases. He said some cases of kidnapping were actually missing persons which are still being treated as such till investigations prove otherwise.
Although the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, a deputy superintendent of police, could not confirm if there was an increase in missing persons in the state, she called on members of the public to always put the police in the know if such happens.
She said, “According to law, a person can only be declared missing officially if he or she has not been seen in 24hours. It is only then the matter should be reported to the nearest police station.
“After reporting the incident, the family members are expected to supply the police with detailed information of the person’s physical characteristics as well as other information that would assist investigation like disclosing the missing person’s close friends, enemies, likely hangouts as well as other general information.”
While the police continue to battle with the challenges associated with finding missing persons in the country, the affected families live with pains and hope that one day, their lost ones would return.