Mr. Egbe Donatus and wife, Confidence, woke up with their two children, Joseph and Godwin, on Sunday, March 15, 2014, hail and hearty without an inkling that the hand of a child-snatcher lurked in the shadows. By nightfall, one of their children was gone and a search party would turn up nothing for two good months. Their second child, five-year-old Joseph, had simply vanished without a trace.
Punch reports that Donatus, a commercial motorcyclist, was away at work that Sunday, when he received a call to come back home. The missing boy’s mother, a petty trader, explained that few minutes before he was kidnapped, she came back from church with her two children – Joseph and his elder brother, Godwin.
“Joseph told me he wanted to go and play with one of his friends beside our house after we came back from church but I told him he should give me some minutes to shower. I
rushed in, bathed and changed my clothes. I came out again a few minutes later and did not see him. I thought he had wandered off to his friend’s house next door. I went there and called him but I got no answer. I went to his friend’s house and they said he had not been seen there either.
I became worried, I started screaming his name. We went from door to door. Neighbours and other residents too joined me. We searched everywhere. I screamed and cried but my child was gone. But I knew he could not have wandered off because he had never done so before. I knew something was very wrong.”
The residents of Church Village and Donatus’ neighbours organised themselves into search parties and knocked on doors. Among the crowd searching for the boy and knocking on doors to enquire if anybody saw the boy, was a friendly and concerned woman called Mrs. Beatrice Iwu, restaurateur, who operates Feed Well Restaurant in the area. But the groups couldn’t find the boy.
Then 2 months later, May 12, the Donatus family got a break. Donatus’s sister-in-law, Mrs. Oluchi Emereole, got a call from a young man in Enugu, who knew about the missing child. The woman said:
“I got the phone number of one Mr. Fidelis from the young man. The man told me that a lady he knew in Enugu, the daughter of Mrs. Iwu (the restaurateur who also helped in the search) had been arrested for kidnapping and selling a child. He told me the child was kidnapped in Lagos and when he gave me the child’s description, it matched that of Joseph.”
Punch correspondent spoke with Mr. Fidelis, a prophet, who narrated how he got a call telling him about a lady called Esther, arrested in their village, for kidnapping a child.
I was in Lagos when I received the call. I know both Esther and her mother (Iwu). The mother lives in Church Village, Ipaja. Apparently, Esther had sold the child to another woman, who later returned him when he refused to eat. When the buyer demanded a refund, a fight broke out. But neighbours who were suspicious about the deal that caused their fight called the police.”
Immediately Donatus got information about the child, who was then kept in custody of the State Criminal Investigation Department of the Enugu Police State Command, he proceeded to Enugu to see if the child was his.
“I got to the SCID in Enugu and the police asked me about my missing child’s complexion, his height and his name. When I told them his name was Joseph, the Investigating Police Officer said the child was not likely to be mine,” he said.
Joseph had been given another name, Success, by his buyer, Saturday PUNCH learnt.
“But when they brought the child out, lo and behold, it was my child. He ran towards me and hugged me, shouting ‘daddy!’ They asked him who his father was and he pointed to me. They asked him the name I called him and he said Joseph. I wept for joy. They told me everything that happened and how he was recovered. They told me Joseph was sold for N350,000. I begged them to show me the woman who sold her but the police did not,” Egbe said.
- How I was kidnapped – Joseph
With an uncanny detail, albeit in a child’s way of speaking, narrated what happened the day he was kidnapped and taken on a long trip to Enugu. From his narration, Joseph’s kidnappers put him in a vehicle headed for Enugu that same day he was kidnapped.
I was rolling tyre with my friend in the front of our house. The mummy living over there (he pointed in the direction of Iwu’s house about 50 metres away) came and cover my mouth with handkerchief. She (Iwu) carried me to her house and locked me inside. She said she would kill me if I shouted.” He pointed to the house.
“When she locked me inside here, a big car came and she put me inside it and we left. The journey was long. The woman told me not to talk inside the car.
When we got there, he locked me inside a room and later, a woman took me away. They gave me food but I did not eat because my father told me not to take food from a stranger. I was always crying, the woman shouted at me and took me to the woman that put me in the vehicle.”
Donatus’ family and residents of Church Village at a point broached the idea of destroying Iwu’s house in retaliation. But after being calmed by the Divisional Police Officer, Mr. Segun Titiladunoye of the Ipaja Police Division, that justice would be done, the residents desisted.