Mother begs police to intensify search effort
Police detectives’ trips to Kano, Katsina fail, as main suspect evades dragnet
How their 25-year-old daughter, Cynthia Amarachi Nwawije, a female corps member suddenly disappeared is a mystery the Nwawike family is yet to unravel.
Cynthia, a Political Science graduate from the University of Lagos was posted to Osun State for her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) service in 2018.
On March 15, 2019, she decided to visit her family in the Ikorodu, Lagos. The corps member was seen off to the bus station by her friends, who wished her a safe trip as she boarded a commercial bus from Osun State to Iwo road, bus park in Ibadan, Oyo State. She was expected to alight at Iwo Road park and board another bus to Ikorodu.
However, her expectant friends who looked forward to hearing from her after arriving her parent’s home in Ikorodu, Lagos, safely were astounded when consistent calls to her telephone did not elicit any response many hours and even days after her departure.
Concerned that she might be in danger, her worried colleagues resorted to Facebook to trace her parents and, luckily, they succeeded. Her family did not know about the said Cynthia’s journey, as they confirmed the fears of her friends. A whole week after she left her NYSC station, she was not home.
The news of Cynthia’s disappearance triggered serious tension in the family of six. Her mother, Mrs Constance Nwawike, a primary school teacher, said the family spent their savings investing in Cynthia’s education.
Speaking on how far the family had gone in search of the corps member for the past five months, Mrs. Nwawike said, “On the fateful day, March 15, 2019, I called my daughter’s number but it was switched off. I thought it was network. I didn’t call again. On Monday, I called the number again but none responded. I continued for three days without response. I then alerted my husband. It brought tension on everybody in the family.
“The entire household were in tears and even my younger daughter expressed surprise that her elder sister, Cynthia, did not wish her well on her birthday which took place that weekend. Suddenly, somebody called from her place of service and said that they were looking for her. Before I got the news, it was on a Friday, a week after March 15.
“The State Coordinator for NYSC in Osun State also called and reported that they didn’t see her after she travelled home. Shocked at the unfolding drama, I also informed them that she did not return to our home at Ikorodu. I made further enquiry, the coordinator said her friend, also a corps member, told them that she travelled to meet us in Lagos and since then, she has been calling her number without reply.
“I asked the man to give me the lady’s number. I talked to the lady and she said that she has been trying to reach me. In fact, that Saturday, I wasn’t myself. I went to Ikorodu police station and reported the case. They said that I should go to Ibadan because the lady made it known that she took Ibadan -Iwo road bus and when she got a vehicle going to Ikorodu straight, that they had a conversation. She told her that she had boarded a bus going to Ikorodu and her friend said she wished her safe trip. Since then, she hasn’t seen her and she hasn’t heard from her.”
Mrs Nwawike said the family had also travelled to Osun to know exactly what happened. She said the head teacher in the school where her daughter was serving told same story.
She continued, “The head teacher told me that my daughter called her to say that she had boarded a bus coming to Ikorodu straight, and she asked her about the fare which she said N1,200 and since then, she has been trying her number because she agreed calling her when she gets home.
“Since then my daughter has not called her and she has been calling too but she didn’t get her. I have been trying my possible best to find her, even we have gone as far as consulting anti-kidnapping squad, and they told us that they have tracked her number at Kano. The anti-kidnapping unit told me later that they made arrest and I asked how far but the policemen there kept on posting me.
“Last week, I called them but they said that they will call me back but they didn’t call me back. I also reported the case in Osun State Police Command. They later invited me for interview but when I got there, they said I should connect them with the anti-kidnapping unit investigating the matter in Lagos, which I did only for the police in Osun to say that they have been trying the telephone number of their colleagues in the anti-kidnapping unit, Lagos, without success.”
Amidst tears, Nwawike adds, “All my pleas to them to intensify efforts and locate my missing daughter fell on deaf ears. In fact, at a stage, the police in Osun told me point blank that their counterparts in Lagos do not want to relate with them over the case. I kept on asking my missing daughter’s friend called Yetunde if there was any quarrel, or does anybody visit them, she said no. I have tried every possible thing I can do up till now since March 15, this year, I have not seen my daughter. She is 25-year-old.”
Speaking on the personality of her daughter, the distraught mother said her daughter was not wayward but cool. “She is very cool, she is not a wayward type, she doesn’t go out unless I tell her to go out.”
In search of a solution to the mysterious disappearance of her daughter, Mrs Nwawike has become a regular face at churches. She said, “I went to churches, all the churches I have visited, they will be telling me that she is alive.”
Asked if there was anyone she suspected to have abducted her daughter, she said, “Actually, I don’t know because when she was coming, she didn’t call me. The state coordinator also told me that it is not in their character to restrict any child going home on weekend, if it is during the day that she would have filled a form, now it was during the weekend.
“So, they don’t know what to say but I don’t suspect anybody because since she went to Osun, she had visited us at least twice. I don’t see her with any friend, she doesn’t even have a boyfriend. Because she schooled in UNILAG and most times, she comes to my school near her school, most times she comes home and stays at home.”
Calling on all well-meaning Nigerians as well the police to come to her aid, Nwawike said, “I am asking for help, to just look for her. I called the line on June 4, last two month and the line went through but the person did not answer. I sent a message. The message was, ‘please anybody, if you know that you are a child of God and you are in possession of my daughter, please, release the child for the sake of God.’”
Lamenting the resources the family has spent in the search for Cynthia, uncle of the missing corp member and the factional President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Chief Joe Ajaero said they had committed a fortune to trying know her whereabouts without success.
“The entire family has been in confusion and sorrow after my nephew, Cynthia disappeared mysteriously. After we received the sad news, her mother went round all the motor parks. We went to hospitals, mortuaries without any trace. So, the matter continued and we decided to take it up with the police. We took it to the Anti-Kidnap squad in Lagos. When they went for operation in some areas, they got some link based on the people who are still using her lines. Three suspects were arrested in one of the forests in Ogun state.
“They took them to their office, I wouldn’t know what happened between them and the higher authorities, but they were released. Then, her second number, the person did not remove her SIM card, the person was still making calls with her number and it was traced to Kano. We got across to the anti-kidnapping squad in Kano and after some efforts, the details they gave us was not encouraging at all. Some of the guys in Lagos again had to go to Kano to join them. After some days, the man was still using the SIM to call and up till now, the man didn’t show up and the authorities have not gone beyond this. This is a case that has kept the family disorganized because we don’t know whether she is dead or alive.”
Faulting the police laxity in handling the matter, Ajaero said, “The issue now is why the police could not take this matter seriously and that is the main problem. Although some of the police chaps who are working on the IT side were able to trail the areas where the people using those lines are but beyond that, nothing has happened.
“We have prayed and we have done everything humanly possible without success. Cynthia was posted to Taraba State but she redeployed because of insecurity and this is what has now happened. She is very friendly, very honourable. I have never seen a lovely young lady like her. You cannot say she has any disagreement with anybody, that’s why up to this moment, everybody is still praying that she should be found.”
A Police source at the anti-Kidnapping unit, in Surulere, Lagos spoke on the attempts made by the police in tracing the missing corps member. According to him, after the report was made, they worked on two telephone numbers belonging to the victim and three suspects were arrested inside a thick forest inhabited by Fulani herders in Ogunmakin, a boundary between Ogun and Oyo states.
According to the source, the three suspects who are soft targets were the father of the main target, his wife and sister. They were brought back to Lagos for further investigation. They were later granted bail to reliable sureties because they were not the main target.
The source said, “When the detectives came back to Lagos to work on the victim’s second number, which was earlier not accessible, they discovered that it was going through and they tracked it to a town called Rijazaki in Kano State where a girl suspected to be the girlfriend to the main target was arrested. The girl reportedly interacted with the main target who claimed to be in Katsina State on phone in the presence of detectives and he told her to meet him at a nearby town called Rijaremi in Katsina State.
“Unfortunately, when they all got there, they could not arrest the target as he failed to show up as expected. While they were still with the female suspect, a human rights group quickly intervened insisting that police could not continue to detain her by proxy. Based on that, the detectives handed the female suspect over to the leader of the town they call Mai Angwa after making a video recording of their activities with the suspect on the condition that he should produce her anytime her attention was needed by the police.”
“The detectives laid ambush in the town for days expecting to arrest the main target without success prompting their return to Lagos. Before returning home, they also contacted Police Tactical Squad in Kano and after briefing them, the unit assured that they would continue to monitor the target.”
However, for the Nwawikes’ what matters is to find their daughter, dead or alive as the months of waiting without any news from any of the police formations prolongs their agony.