Lagos community where children disappear mysteriously

Lagos community where children disappear mysteriously




Hot tears rolled down the distraught face of 57-year-old tyre repairer, Oriyomi Onikoyi, while recounting the agony of his four-year-old daughter, Alimot’s disappearance in the Otto Ilogbo community in Ebute Metta, Lagos. 

The four-year-old was stolen by unknown persons under the nose of her parents on a Friday and has yet to be seen till date. Sadly, it appears like daily wishful thinking for the 57-year-old that one day his daughter would return home.

Onikoyi, whose simple daily routine included going to his shop to fend for his family, stated that the incident happened on a day like any other.

He said, “It was like any other day, I had gone to my shop and Alimot went to the mosque to pray that day. When I got home that night, I shared with my children, including Alimot, the goodies I bought. We were all outside at the time, in front of my house. The children were playing at the house frontage with my wife and I watched them. Then, there was an outage for a minute and electricity was restored almost immediately. By then, Alimot was nowhere to be found.


“I searched everywhere that night. I even called on neighbours to assist me to look for her but it was all to no avail. We raised the alarm the next day and began searching for her again but as I speak, she is still missing. It was such a strange thing because my other children were still in front of the house when electricity was restored but only Alimot was missing.”


Onikoyi told Saturday PUNCH that the harrowing experience almost claimed the life of his wife and made him lose sleep for six months.

He said, “My wife almost died during that time. She still thinks about the whole thing and I just started sleeping properly six months ago. I haven’t been sleeping well at all these past few days. I am constantly thinking. My late first child was also named Alimot. After she (first child) died, I named her (the missing child) after her and now she’s missing. It is truly heartbreaking.’’


Speaking on his efforts to recover his missing daughter, the tyre repairer said he had spent close to N1.8m to search for his daughter, adding that he had not stopped looking for her till today.


He said, “I have spent almost N1.8m on efforts to look for her; I went everywhere to look for her. I reported the incident at the Denton Police Station, Iponri Police Station, Area ‘C’ Police Station and the Ikeja Police Station. My wife even advised us to go to Radio Lagos to make announcements. We did that too but we still haven’t found her. I went to Kwara and Oyo states to meet some seers and they told me she was still alive. This disclosure gave me a bit of hope and even with two years gone by over the incident, I haven’t stopped searching for her.’’


A community’s agony


Commonly known as a slum in the city, the Otto Ilogbo is a community with diverse twists and corners. Our correspondent who visited the community observed wooden homes with weak structures, and residents living on shanties. The wooden homes are navigated by unstable planks capable of falling any careless walker.


The community is made up of 14 major streets namely; the Palace road, Akinfuje Street, Osuro Street, Ajayi, Omidiji, Bridge Road, Iddo, Esugayi, Ogundimu, Akinlolu, Ballo Street, Fagbayi Lane and the Fagbayi Street. The popular areas in the community are the mosque, houses, church, school, barrack and the quranic school.


Onikoyi’s agony mirrors the agony of some other parents in the community to an incident regarded as recurrent.

Another resident of the community, 48-year-old Samuel Okorafor, a father of three (missing child excluded), lamented the loss of his two-year-old son, Daniel.


He said, “I went to the market on a Wednesday and when I returned home,  I saw that my wife had gone to grind pepper opposite our house and the children went with her including  Daniel. I left them in the care of their mother and went out around 6pm. However, when I came home around 9pm, I saw that our neighbours had gathered in front of our home and they told me that Daniel was missing. I was in shock and I asked my wife what happened. She told me she washed some plates, went outside to throw away the dirty water and by the time she came back into the house, she didn’t see Daniel and his elder brother.


“After a while of wondering what was happening and searching for the boys, we saw the elder brother approaching. I asked him where his younger brother, Daniel was and he told us that he called him to go home but he refused. He said Daniel kept walking away without answering him. We went out to search for him that night but unfortunately we did not see even a trace of him.


“After a fruitless search, I reported the case at the Denton Police Station and the Iponri Police Station. They directed us to a motherless baby home at Surulere. We went to Mushin where they kept missing but found children but it was to no avail. At the Iponri Station, the Divisional Police Officer ordered that an investigation should be carried out on the matter because Daniel wasn’t the first child to go missing in the community. Since then, nothing has been done. We also went to the Nigerian Television Authority but we achieved nothing. My wife is still agonised by the incident; she doesn’t like to speak about it. Now, I am simply looking unto God. I don’t see this place as safe anymore; I’m even planning to leave the place with my family.”


Adjoined by the National Theatre to the East and a high-rise Lagos Mainland Hotel to the West lays the impoverished, untidy community.


Our correspondent, who visited the community, learnt that children between the ages of two to four years old had been strangely going missing after the death of the community head in 2016.


The head of the Lagos Mainland security, Ishola Agbodemu, told Saturday PUNCH that 10 children went missing in the community since 2016. But several visits by our correspondent three months this year revealed the disappearance of about 15 children in the community.

Some of the affected parents refused to speak to our correspondent on the explanation that they didn’t want to recollect the agonising incidents, while it was gathered that others had fled the community without any means to reach them.


The community has become a dreaded place for other parents who heard cases of the missing children.


Worrisome statistics on missing children


 In celebration of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on August 30, the International Committee of the Red Cross noted that disappeared persons across Africa were 64,000 cases with Nigeria recording over 25,000 missing people.


The delegation for the Red Cross Nigeria, Yann Bonzon, in a statement stated that out of the over 25,000 reported missing in Nigeria, over 14,000 were children.


Bonzon stated that there were more children in the country whose fate remained unknown.


He said, “Sadly, the almost 14,000 children registered do not capture the full scope of this often-neglected and tragic humanitarian issue. There is no doubt that there are more children whose fate remains unknown.”

Bonzon added that the Red Cross had more than 5,200 documented cases of unaccompanied children in Africa.


 On June 22, reports noted that there incessant disappearances of children in the Wakari Local Government Area of Taraba State.


Troubling cases of disappearance


Fifty-eight-year-old Ager Samuel is another parent who had suffered the agony of losing a child. Samuel described the disappearance of his two-year-old daughter as hell, stating that he left the community after the heartrending experience.


Samuel noted that his missing daughter, Joy, was outside playing with her friends and her older sister took some cake to give to Joy who he said was nowhere to be found.

He said, “I was in my brother’s place which was two meters away from mine that day. My children were also there with me playing in front of his room. My brother initially gave them (the children) cake but the older one came again to collect another to share with her sister. However, she came back to me and told me that she didn’t see her sister to give her the other half of the cake.

“I looked everywhere. I informed my brother and we raised the alarm. All the women in that area came out and we searched for her but she was nowhere to be found. I immediately called my wife and told her. We then went to the police station to make reports but nothing was done. We also reported to the elders in the community but nothing was done.

“My wife and I went through hell after the incident. My wife couldn’t eat nor sleep throughout that week. She couldn’t take her bath, and she kept saying she would rather die. I also went through hell and it wasn’t easy for me. I have left the community. As I left there, I heard that the child of one of my close friends in the community went missing. It is something that has been happening over and over again.”


On her part, Selepha Saluhu, lamented that efforts to find her three-year-old son, Faruq, who disappeared in June, were abortive.


The 38-year-old housewife, who was too sad to speak, managed to mumble a few words to our correspondent, stating that Faruq didn’t return after leaving home to buy sachet water nearby with his friends.


She said, “Faruq disappeared after he went to buy sachet water with his friends. His friends came back but we never saw him again, even till now. My husband has gone everywhere but efforts to know his whereabouts were abortive.”


Some women in the community who spoke to our correspondent over the matter said every day they lived in fear and dread whose child would be next. The women lamented that the worst pain for a parent was not knowing whether a child was alive or dead. They added that they were taking precautions to avoid being victims.


In October 2021, The PUNCH reported that three-year-old Noheem Ishola disappeared in the Ogundimu area of the community.


It was gathered that the victim and his two siblings were on their way to their grandmother’s house when two people started a fight in the area.

The victim’s father, Rafiu Ishola, said, “I don’t know how my child got lost. But I feel they were followed to that area because the fight started by those people was unnecessary and immediately they took my boy, everywhere cleared. When his siblings didn’t see him, they ran to their grandma’s house to tell her. Their mother cannot sleep or eat. The incident has affected her a lot because it’s not the first time a child would be missing in the community and would not be found.”


 Police, experts speak


Commenting on the issue, the state police spokesperson, Benjamin Hundeyin, stated that there were no new records of children missing in the community.


He said, “I am not aware of any new report of a missing child in that community. There has been none in recent times.”


In his view, a security expert, Akin Adeyi, stated that the community had not done enough to address the issue thereby making them culpable for the matter, noting that the police should comb the area and unravel the mystery surrounding children disappearance.


He said, “If children are going missing in the community and nothing is being done, the entire community is suspect in this case and in the midst of them, they have people who are into nefarious activities or a group of people that are doing that.


“It’s not possible that kidnappers would be coming from outside to kidnap the children and nothing is being done. They should look inward. This government in particular at this time seems to have left everybody to his or her own fate.”

“That kind of community is a community where the police should comb and mount surveillance, deploy district surveillance, deploy mobile and technical surveillance or ask whatever might be responsible for such. The community leaders should also be invited by the police.


“It is an evil society until proven otherwise, children are missing and the community isn’t doing anything?  Even when there are complaints to the police, it depends on the level of seriousness of the complainant at times because if you don’t follow your case up, there’s little they (the police) can do. They work on information given to them and process them to intelligence to be able to unravel whatever mystery is going on. But when the whole community has gone into a conspiracy of silence, how will the police determine the culprit in this case?”


Adeyi advised that the government should confiscate the slum and build a habitable place that would no

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