CHILD THEFT: THREE PUPILS ABDUCTED IN AKWA IBOM

…ONE ABANDONED IN A NEARBY BUSH

Three siblings aged 6, 4 and 3 were abducted, one later released by a stranger at a primary School during the early hours of Wednesday, March 4, 2020, parents have said.

The children, pupils at Nsit N0.1 QIC School, Afia Nsit/Mbiokporo 11, Nsit Ibom Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State were abducted by a woman suspected to have been lurking on the kids at a popular fresh coconut merchant’s stall, approximately 30 centimetres away from the school few days back before she finally launched her attack on the unsuspected kids.

The suspected abductor is said to have approached the kids amidst other kids in the school, while queuing up in a line for onward matching into the School Assembly hall for morning devotion , (a daily routine of every christian based schools), picked them out, deceived them on taking them for vaccinations on the instruction of the father who dropped them off in school few minutes, before the alleged abductor clinched the kids, Blessing, the abandoned victim narrated.

The strange woman now suspected abductor is alleged to have carried the three siblings Blessing Akaninyene Archibong (Female) aged 6 a pupil in early childhood education (ECE) 2, Ndifreke Akaninyene Archibong (Male) aged 4 of early childhood education (ECE) 2 and Uwana Akaninyene Archibong (Female) aged 3 in early childhood education (ECE) 1 into a nearby bush, changed Ndifreke (Male) aged 4 and Uwana (Female) aged 3 school uniforms into mufti. On her attempt to equally change Blessing’s uniform (the oldest) aged 6, she (Blessing) started crying and the woman dumped the two uniforms in her school bag, absconded with Ndifreke and Uwana, leaving behind Blessing to her fate in the bush.

Recovered uniform

Pupils who witnessed the incident were said to have notified teachers who raised alarm, the father who was still within reach was alerted, neighbours and passers-by swung into into action, combing operation became imperative in every possible bush, a good samaritan (woman) called nearby police stations for urgent stop and search, village heads, elders, youths and women were not left out of the search, yet the abductor was far from reach, the incident took place at 7:45am on Wednesday, and the once orderly community (Afia Nsit Urua Nko) suddenly became rowdy beyond comprehension by motorists and other road users, the father narrated.

It was during the prolonged intensive search that Blessing the oldest was found in a bush not too far from the school, while the pair of Ndifreke and Uwana are still missing.

The father of the abducted kids when inquired on circumstances that led to the incident of Wednesday March 4, 2020, Mr. Akaninyene Archibong, an indigene of Afia Nsit Urua Nko, Nsit Ibom local Government Area, a peasant farmer and palm wine tapper, a physically and emotionally traumatized and distraught looking young man in his mid thirties, narrated amidst agony, pains, anxiety and desperation how three of his kids were stolen by a strange woman believed to have been monitoring him dropping and picking up his kids from school for some time.

Mr. Archibong rides his 6, 4, and 3-years-old children to and from school each day because he knows the busy nature of Afia Nsit/Airforce road connecting the popular Enin Nsit road. He said he wouldn’t be comfortable letting them walk alone these days even if that weren’t the case but the thought of someone lurking over his children was the last one on his mind.

The parents of the abducted kids

“I dropped my kids in school on Wednesday morning as usual about 7:45 am where they rushed and met other kids on line, on my way back, I met kids from my neighbourhood who were apparently late for school, so I obliged dropping them off, one was a primary school pupil, the same school attended by my children while the other child was a student of Government Secondary school Mbiokporo 11.

“On dropping them off, while approaching my children’s school, the scenery was unusual, human traffic increased drastically around the vicinity, youths running up and down and when the news got to me, I lost guard, I ran into bushes, calling out for my kids but no response came from any of them.

“It was in one of the bushes that we found my older daughter Blessing crying, she then narrated what transpired among them and the woman and how she fled with her other siblings, leaving her behind in the bush.

“Her information sparked intensive search in the environment, yet my kids are no way to be found till date. We have notified Nsit Ibom divisional police headquarters and my first two front line suspects were arrested by the police, they were later released on bail.

“There is a fresh coconut stall close to the school, when I dropped my kids on monday, I saw a woman sitted there, I saw the same woman on Tuesday and even that Wednesday morning when I passed with my kids I saw that same woman at that same spot but when this incident occurred that woman was no way to be found. So, I got the owner of the business arrested for questioning and one other guy we had a fight with earlier this year, who swore on dealing with me in a painful manner.

“I am calling on Nigerian Police Force to intensity efforts in searching for the where about of my kids who were abducted for two weeks now”, the father of the victims said.

Mr. & Mrs. Akaninyene Archibong, parents of the kids are being through agony, fearing the worst after their children were abducted at Nsit N0.1 QIC Primary School, Afia Nsit Urua Nko near Ikot Abasi Nsit, at 7.45am.

It seems the longest of two weeks to Mr. Archibong’s family and they are anxiously waiting to hive a relief from the agony of this ordeal.

According to Blessing (aged 6) the abandoned victim, who tried to recollect what transpired from school to the point of their abductor changing the siblings’ school uniforms to mufti in the bush; “the woman took was from school. She said daddy asked her to pick us up for injection. She took us to the bush and fled off with Uwana and Ndifreke when she tried changing my clothes and I started crying calling out for our mum and dad”.

Mr. Akanimoh Udo Fred is a fresh coconut merchant, his stall is few centimetres away from the school, he is one of the persons arrested in connection with the kids’ abduction.

In a chat with our reporter, Mr. Fred said his business stall is situated by the road side which passers-by, and other motorists are his major customers.

“It was an unpleasant surprise when Akaninyene, (he is my friend) the father to the stolen children got me arrested alleging the suspected abductor was my customer, who used my stall to spy on his kids.

“I’m I supposed to interrogate any customer that patronises me their intent and mission in the community? Is that under my purview! I was detained for over a week at the police station, Ikot Nya, my wife had to run around to sell our property to secure my release.

“God knows I knew next to nothing about the abduction of those children nor have a fair knowledge of the said woman in question, I know God will bring the perpetrator to book and truth shall be revealed”.

The Village Head of Ikot Abasi Nsit, Eteidung Jacob David Udo acknowledged the incident and posited they believe the abductor had panicked when the oldest girl started crying, for fear of being trapped, she fled with the two quiet ones and left behind the crying child.

He said Nsit Ibom divisional Police Command has been put in the know accordingly and the abductor shall be apprehended hopefully.

The headmaster of the school, Comrade Uyoatta Ntong reasoned that he is forced to believe it was not a random attack as the children may have been specifically targeted by the abductor.

Comrade Ntong said in a school with over 800 pupils, it is not random attack for the suspected abductor to have picked out three siblings amidst other kids.

He said he swiftly launched complain at the police but their actions towards recovering the kids isn’t encouraging, although the school management and the parents have been asked to convene at the police station, Ikot Nya, yesterday Monday, March 9, 2020.

The headmaster decried that a major security challenge faced by the school is lack of indigenous teachers, as all the 14 members of staff are visiting staff with the nearest to the school residing at Afaha Offiong, Nsit Ibom headquarters, while six operate from Uyo axis, four operate from Afaha Nsit and others from other parts of the Local Government Area.

“Atleast if there are two or three indigenous teachers in a school, it will be easier for a teacher to identify whose child belongs to who”, the headmaster said.

The Councillor representing Mbiaso Ward 11, comprising Afia Nsit Urua Nko, Mbiokporo 11 and Ikot Abasi Nsit Villages, Hon. Uduak Ubom attested to having heard the incident from grapevine although he claimed not being informed officially while the Executive Chairman of Nsit Ibom, Hon. Eric Akpan affirmed having no knowledge of the abduction.

When contacting the DPO, Nsit Ibom Divisional Police Headquarter, Ikot Nya in his office, SP Jacob confirmed the incident saying that; “We are now in the process of investigating the full circumstances as the case will be transferred to State Police Head Quarters, Ikot Akpan Abia for proper investigation.

The recent abduction of these school children, especially stranger abduction, is gradually making up significant percentage of missing children cases in Nsit Ibom, according to testimonies gathered by our reporter from this recent child theft.

Schools around the vicinity is currently experiencing pupils and students apathy and that is seriously detrimental to a State with a high funding on free and compulsory education policy.

Police within these affected domains remain very aware of the risk of abduction – and other risks, such as crossing traffic, that children face on a daily basis especially in the cosmopolitan areas, this should be tackled by governemnt and other relevant authorities.

There is urgent need to have school crossing guards (Akwa Ibom Ofonama Initiative example), who are at the most busy intersections who do watch out for the children’s wellbeing. Also have police cars that are in the school zones not only in the morning when children are arriving but also when they’re released from school in the afternoon can serve as a scare to abductors.

Akwa Ibom educational system, not limited to security challenges is seriously crying for revolution if our kids must be preserved for the future. It is time we return to days where school buses pick and drop pupils and students who live within a certain distance from their schools, public schools can achieve this too, yes, government can achieve it, when there is will-power.

In order to curb disheartening consequences of child theft in our public schools, there should be strict rules for releasing younger puplis/students in the afternoon. In most cases, parents must come into the school lobby to meet their children, rather than waiting for them outside. And teachers wait with the students to ensure the proper person picks them up, an injury to one Akwa Ibom child is an injury to the future of Akwa Ibom State.

By Abigail Isaac

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