Another round of controversy is on with the alleged kidnap of a 15-year-old girl, Ifeoma Nicodemus in Zaria, Kaduna state. The teenager whose parents live in Zaria, hails from Ebonyi State in the South-East region of Nigeria, and was a student of Total Child Bible Secondary School in Samaru, at the time of her supposed abduction.
According to her father, Nicodemus Odugusi, Ifeoma was ‘abducted’ on September 14, 2014, when she was just 14 years of age and has been held against her wish since then by one Shehu Abdullahi, who runs an Islamic school in the Samaru area of Zaria.
In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Ifeoma’s father, Mr. Odugusi, who is a schoolteacher said he had been in agony since his daughter was taken away from him. He lamented that the most painful part of it all was “that I knows where my daughter is being kept but I’m powerless against the forces that are holding her hostage”.
Narrating his ordeal, Mr. Odugusi said that on September 14, 2014 when his daughter who was in SS2 at the time, did not come back home, he searched everywhere for her. On the following day, September 15, 2014, he got a call from a school in Zaria informing him that his missing daughter was with them; that she had converted to Islam and was now married to Mr. Abdullahi.
The embattled father said for the last 18 months, he had been engaged in a lone fight with Mr. Abdullahi who he said mocked every attempt to free Ifeoma from his captivity and that he reported the matter to the Samaru Police Station in Zaria and subsequently got a lawyer to file a case of abduction in court. Mr. Nicodemus said,
I am a schoolteacher, so you can imagine my pains at watching another man truncates your child’s education.
I have been to the Police; I have been to the Court and all the court said fell on deaf ears as far as Alhaji Shehu Abdullahi is concerned.
A Zaria based human rights lawyer, Ezekiel Dyagas, who spoke to the aforementioned news agency in a telephone conversation, revealed that Ifeoma has been held against her will for the past 18 months in the home of Mr. Abdullahi and that when her family traced her to the house of the Islamic teacher, Mr. Abdullahi simply informed them he had properly married the 14-year-old after she was converted to Islam.
The lawyer, Mr. Dyagas, said he suspected conspiracy in Ifeoma’s case, saying he had since found that the proceedings of the case against Mr. Abdullahi was not recorded.
Mr. Abdullahi, the alleged abductor, on his part, denied either kidnapping of marrying Ifeoma saying he only kept her in his custody following an order of a court. He also opposed ever making the comment that he had married the girl, saying there was no way he could have claimed to have married the teenage girl because he was already married.
Narrating his own side of the story, Abdullahi said it was Ifeoma herself who approached a Sharia court asking to be converted to Islam and following her conversion, the court ordered him to keep custody of her after she stubbornly refused to return to her parents.
He said the police was called in to persuade her to return to her parents, but she refused especially after her father threatened that she would not be allowed to practice Islam in his home.
We even engaged people close to her family to persuade her to return to her parents, but stood her ground. So I pleaded with her parent to be patient while we continue to try to reconcile her with them.
I was the one who called the attention of her parent, and asked them to come and take her home, but she refused to follow them.
However, the police denied allegations of the girl’s abduction, saying her parents were just twisting the story. The Divisional Police Officer in charge of Samaru, where the case was first reported, said the problem was not with Mr. Abdullahi, but with Ifeoma. The DPO, who refused to give his name said,
She coverted herself to Islam, and then refused to return home. We intervened here, the commissioner of police intervened, and three times she ran away from her parents. The court then handed her over to Mallam Shehu and co. for custody.
One day, we brought her to the station, and asked her parents to take her away. She refused. She said she preferred to be detained in our station rather than go home with her parents. We couldn’t keep her in the station because if she disappears, the commissioner of police will hold us responsible.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, Ifeoma corroborated the police’s version of the matter, insisting that she was not abducted and describing Mr. Shehu Abdullahi as someone who is like a father to her. Her parents said she is 15, but Ifeoma claimed she is almost 19. According to her,
I’m married now, not to Mallam Shehu but to someone else.
My parents are aware, and my sister recently came to my house. I just don’t wan’t to go home because I can’t live with my parent anymore.
My name now is Aisha, and that’s what you should call me.
She said on telephone, warning a PREMIUM TIMES reporter who referred to her as Ifeoma.