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People said we stage-managed our child’s abduction –Parents of lost but found four-year-old Elo

People said we stage-managed our child’s abduction –Parents of lost but found four-year-old Elo

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In this interview with Afeez Hanafi, the parents of abducted four-year-old Elo Ogidi found in an orphanage in Edo State, shared their bittersweet experience

The father: Afokoghene  Ogidi

What was your experience during the period your child was abducted?

You cannot imagine the trauma, the horror, terror, the devastation and the fear of the unknown. I could not work. Some fraudsters would call me and threaten to kill my child. Some asked for N2m, others demanded between N10m and N20m. There was one that called me recently. He talked as if he had information about Elo’s whereabouts. I sent N10,000 into an account he forwarded to me. Two days after, he called again and said he had not seen the money. He threatened to abandon my baby in a camp he and his gang members took her to. I asked him to send me another account number and I sent another N5,000 to him. He collected N20,000 altogether and kept asking for more. Meanwhile, all the while, I was giving the police information about him. When I noticed there was not result, I stopped sending money.

Were the police able to arrest the fraudster?

No. But they were able to arrest three people around the area where he was calling from. One of those arrested used to work in the church (Christ Embassy) as a cleaner. He was the one that gave the information to the gang.

How did you receive the news of your child’s recovery?

I was in Ghana when a lady called me from Benin (Edo State). She asked if I was the father of a missing child. I said yes. She said she wanted to send some pictures to me and asked if my number was on WhatsApp. I said yes. I saw a notification that the pictures had come in, but I did not want to open it with the fear that it might not be my child because I had earlier received pictures of missing children from people several times.

She started sending me messages, asking if I had checked the pictures. I braced up and opened the pictures. I was so surprised that I thought it was just an imagination. I asked myself, ‘could this be the girl I had been looking for?’ We were four that went to Ghana. I gave my phone to my colleagues to identify the person in the pictures. They said it was my daughter. I shouted. I kept asking them if they were sure it was my daughter. They said yes.

All the while, I did not respond to the girl’s messages. It was after getting a confirmation from my colleagues that I asked the lady where she saw her. She said she saw her at God’s Own Orphanage on Siluko Road in Benin City, Edo State.

What did you do next?

I alerted the police in Nigeria. We were already preparing to return to Nigeria. One hour in the plane seemed like a week. I could not wait to break the news. My wife together with Elo’s elder sister was waiting for me at the Lagos airport to pick me up. I showed my daughter the same picture and asked her who was there. She said Elo. I shouted and said to myself, ‘if the six-year-old can identify her sister, then Elo indeed has been found. That was when I broke the news to my wife. By the time we got to Nigeria, I got a message that Elo had been picked up at the orphanage and the owner arrested.

Some people are saying the whole incident was stage- managed and that I was looking for fame because the story was everywhere. My prayer for anyone who says so is that the person will experience the trauma, the fears, and the pains I went through which I have yet to fully recover from in seven folds.

The mother: Rita-Soul Ogidi

What did the period of Elo’s missing look like?

It was not easy at all. I felt helpless and hopeless. I felt like I should take my life. I had so many terrible feelings because of the fact that my child was somewhere and I did not know what was happening to her. It was God that strengthened me and with relentless prayers. Maybe by now I would have been in a hospital. It was God that kept me. It is not something I pray for my enemy to experience. I could not sleep. I had to be taking sleeping pills so that I could have some sleep. So, it is annoying to hear that we stage-managed the whole thing. Whoever thinks so will experience the same thing.

What were your feelings when you heard Elo had been found?

Oh my God (she exclaimed)! I was just crying. I shed tears of joy. I asked myself if it was true. It was too good to be true. I did not know what to say. I was just shouting and crying. That moment was so precious. It is something I will never forget. The fears, the pains disappeared immediately I saw my child again. I am very happy now and my joy is full to see all my three children running up and down around me.

Did Elo share her experience being with strangers with you?

Yes, but she did not say much. She described how she was tortured with a belt. She brought out a belt and described how they used it to whip her. How they told her to shut up.

What changes did you notice in her appearance and attitude?

When I saw my child, she was dehydrated and sick. There are some marks on her body. But she is fine now. She is sleeping and eating more. She is too excited to see the family again. She is always playing. We have to force her to sleep. But now, when she sees you and does not know you, she runs away. She is now avoiding strangers, whereas she used to be a very friendly person. Even when her siblings were trying to pull away from strangers, she would run to the persons. She was very sociable. She was a type of child that if you took her somewhere, everybody would notice her because she was very playful. But now, she is very careful. We are still taking time to observe her.

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