Saturday, 29 March 2014

"My son cannot recognise me" - Heart broken mother of Ibadan ritual dungeon suvivor

Mrs. Sufianat Ola was not sure if the skeletal figure in front of her was her son. She sobbed uncontrollably, trying to hold her son and embrace him but the mosquito net and the burglary proof blocked her.
Surprisingly, her son, Adewale Ola could still remember his sister. With his thin and barely audible voice, he said, “my sister”.  Tears freely flowed. It wasn’t long before the weeping became contagious as all women at the hospital put their own sorrow behind them and wept with the woman. A woman can joke with any other thing but not the child she carried in her womb for nine months.

As Saturday Vanguard got to the hospital, the women clung to the window of the ward where the survivors were kept. Some of them could no longer talk or recognize anybody. Apart from 45-year old Mrs. Titilayo Dokpesi who could still mutter some intelligible words, others were only grunting like a pig. It would take a lot to make them behave as normal human beings again.
When Saturday Vanguard asked Mrs. Sufianat Ola why she was crying, she responded tearfully.
“My son can no longer recognize me. Is that not enough reason to cry. Ah! This world is wicked. For the past thirteen years, I have been looking for my son not knowing he was in a dungeon.”
How did you know he was in the dungeon?
“He told me. That was what he told me. He said he did not see anybody to rescue him from the claws of those heartless, God-forsaken people.How can people be so heartless all because of money.”
How are you sure he is your son?
“I have a picture he took with his friends here before he was taken away from me. Look at the picture he took with his sister. Apart from that, immediately we got here, he identified her calling her ‘my sister’. She then broke into tears”.
When Saturday Vanguard turned to Wale, he could only mutter, “won pa, won pa” meaning, “they killed the person”. He did not mention any name. That was what he said last before he lost consciousness. Probably sensing the correspondent could help locate their missing persons, four other women swooped on him each saying they were also looking for their loved ones. Saturday Vanguard listened to them one after the other.

Mrs. Anifatu Olaiya who identified herself as the sister of two siblings that got missing said, “my two brothers are missing. Their names are  Nurudeen Rasaki Olaiya and Ismaila Olaiya. Rasaki was a driver who was working between Lagos and Ibadan. He said, he was going to Lagos one day and never came back. Ismaila, was a university undergraduate. At the timehe got missing, he was 29 years. That was about 17 years ago. I am here to check if they could be among those rescued from Soka”.

Morufat Olawale who lives at Olopometa in Ibadan, said her brother
Saheed Ganiyu was last seen ten years ago.
“He was married and he had children. He just disappeared”.
Bose Faniran, with tears in her eyes, recalled that her brother Oluokun Adedeji has been missing since 1992 when he travelled to Lagos and Ramota Inaolaji said she lost contact with her brother, Moruf Adekunle Inaolaji about 13 years ago. According to her, Adekunle’s friend came from abroad and  Adekunle left with him. “We heard that he boarded a taxi and had vanished since then”.
Meanwhile a report by Punch says the people of the community were deceived into thinking mad people were being housed there..
The estate’s Chief Security Officer, Pastor Samson Okoh, said the suspected kidnappers started using the forest about two years ago. He was, however, quick to point out that residents never knew about the kidnapping ring.

He said,
 “We noticed that they used to bring people in chains to the river to bathe. They would line them up. We were concerned and so the residents’ association took the matter up.
“We went there and saw the man in charge, who had tribal marks. He told us that the then Oyo State Commissioner for Environment gave him approval to treat mentally-ill people there. He showed us a paper (document) to prove it.
 “He showed us round the place and what we saw was very unpleasant. The first room he took us to was full of people who looked like mad people (mentally-ill). The second place was a hall with over 100 people. The place smelled of faeces and urine. If one stayed there for one hour, one could become mentally-ill. He asked them, ‘won’t you greet them?’ and they echoed ‘good morning sir.’The third room had people who looked more normal than the others and he told us that they had newly been brought there.He told us that he was working for the state government to rid the streets of mentally-ill persons by picking them from the streets and caring for them there. So we’re surprised to hear the state government denying being aware of the activities going on there,” Okoh said.
In spite of Gbadamosi’s reassurance, the residents said they were still concerned about having ‘mentally-ill’ persons close to them.
For instance, Adepoju said an incident occurred in 2012 when about four persons in chains escaped from the den and passed through the community.
 “They crossed the river to this side and passed through the community. They looked like mad people. So we were concerned for our children,” 
  Following the incident, Adepoju said community leaders went to report the activities going on at the den at the nearest police station, Sanyo Police Station. He said,
“But we were told that the police station at the Lagos-Ibadan Toll Gate was in charge of the place. The then Divisional Police Officer at Toll Gate Police Station was not around but we met the Divisional Crime Officer 1, who confirmed that Gbadamosi was working for the state government.So after that confirmation, there was nothing else we could do. Since then, there had been no incident until we recently heard that they found dead bodies and body parts there.”

Adepoju also said that residents used to hear cries of agony from the place but could not take  the case up because of the reassurance given to them by the police.

 He said, “Sometimes, we heard people shouting ‘oro o’ in the night and sounds of digging, but we thought what they were doing there was legal since we had been assured by the police.

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