The two-storey building on 15, Iheanacho Street, Olodi Apapa, Lagos, has all the signs of an abode for struggling Nigerians.
Home to Tobichukwu Nliam, 4, the nursery school pupil who mysteriously disappeared weeks ago.
“We all lived together as a family in happiness in this same house, but his disappearance turned our happy home to a grieving one,” Cyprian Nliam, Tobichukwu’s father said grimly. “As I speak to you, my wife has been going in and out of hospitals, taking different drugs to suppress her rising blood pressure all to no avail. I fear she may soon develop stroke as she continues to grieve over our missing son. We’re dying.”
Cyprian, a soundtrack producer working in Nollywood and also an event planner, described his son’s disappearance as a mystery. He narrated that on the fateful day, he left all of his five children including his wife at home when he stepped out at about 12:30pm. But at 6pm, while watching a football match his wife called him to break the news that they have been looking for Tobichukwu for almost two hours.
Cyprian narrated: “I was told he followed one of his elder brothers whom their mother sent on errand to the second street. But the brother was said to have asked him to return home while he alone will go and deliver his mother’s message. At this time, the mother herself was downstairs at her shop, braiding hair for a customer. Someone who sells fuel at the street juncture confirmed the brother’s narration that he truly saw him when he asked Tobichukwu to return home.
But that the boy began to cry and appeared to still be following his elder brother who had left him and could not have known if Tobichukwu was still on his trail. Up till now, no-one can say what later transpired about his disappearance.”
Curiously, one of Tobichukwu’s closest friends, Babalola Olanrewaju Obazuaye had also disappeared mysteriously on November 22, 2015. Both Tobichukwu and Babalola were classmates in the same school. He was said to be playing in front of their house on Ladipo Street, when he went missing. Both Ladipo and Iheanacho streets where the two kids got missing are adjacent to each other.
Babalola, whose mother said would have been marking his 4th birthday on May 23, 2016 was described as a cheerful boy who will always be found close to her.
“I remember I was inside the house, trying to prepare the meal the family will eat while also cleaning house utensils. He was playing outside and I remember I asked him to come in but he declined. When I finished what I was doing and I stepped out to look for him, he was nowhere to be found. My child doesn’t play far away from me. If he steps outside in few seconds, he will soon return to check on me,” Maria Obazuaye, Olanrewaju’s mother said.
Maria however did not really need to explain her predicament to anyone meeting her for the first time. Written all over was the anguish and pain of motherhood.
According to Maria, Olanrewaju’s father was literally forced back to work with the reality of catering for his family. She said even with the fact that her husband has to resume duty, the psychological trauma he and Olanrewaju’s elder brother have had to contend with, is conspicuous.
The case of the third missing kid within the community was even more dramatic. Three-year-old David Sunday was declared missing on August 17, 2015 in what was described as a perfectly hatched strategy by his mother’s apprentice, who was barely three days into the programme, when she was said to have kidnapped the boy and disappeared.
Orgar who said the fleeing apprentice was introduced to her by a man whom she simply knows as Sunday in the neighbourhood, lamented that life has taken a turn for the worse for the family after David was kidnapped. “I have been to police stations on many occasions but it has always been one promise or the other with little or no result yet. After the incident, I fell sick for several months and I was taken to my village. I just returned to Lagos few days ago,” she said.
David’s mother however expressed displeasure with the way police has been handling the incident. She argued that the suspect who brought the girl to her has been in police custody for many days, with no meaningful information or a confession. And she is not the only one complaining about the police, as Tobichukwu’s father also expressed regret that that the police, though may be working discreetly in unraveling the mystery behind the disappearance of the kids, are not updating the family.
Cyprian however appealed to both the Federal Government and the Inspector-General of Police to assist his family and that of others in locating their missing kids, saying not knowing about their children’s whereabouts is taking a toll on their health.
On her part, Obazuaye’s mother wants the police to come and spread its dragnet within the community insisting that the perpetrators live among them. “They seem to have agents in this area. I want to also appeal to Nigerians that anytime they apprehend a suspected child kidnapper, rather than lynching, they should be handed over to the police,” she said.
While responding to the complaints of the parents of the missing kids, Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Police Command, Superintendent Dolapo Badmus said: “Concerning the issue of missing kids in the Apapa area, we have two complaints so far from there.
In the first case, we have three suspects arrested and one of them confessed to have sold the child to another. All of them have been charged to court; meanwhile the other is still under discreet investigation. Parents are duty bound to take exclusive care of their children/wards as the onus lies on them to do so. Leaving underage children to stray around is not safe for the children.
However, the Lagos State command is ensuring safety of lives and property within Apapa and Lagos in general.”
On the allegation that the police appeared not to have “pressed” the suspect in custody in the case of David Sunday, Badmus said: “Many complainants want suspects to be tortured in order to confess, but police personnel are permitted to do that, as our men are now trained to use process of interrogation to obtain statements, after which the suspect is charged to court.”