Abuja and Minna — Four imams of some mosques in Madalla town in Suleja local government area of Niger State are still missing since their alleged abduction in the last eight months now, Daily Trust can now reveal.
Malam Ahmed Adamu, chief imam of a Jumma'at mosque located just behind Madalla market along Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, is among them, it was also learnt. Also still missing is Malam Mohammed Sani, an imam of a community mosque and a proprietor of Millatul Ibrahima Islamiya School all in Madalla.
The Muslim clerics said to have been abducted by unknown gunmen believed to be security operatives were said to have been picked up from their homes at night only a week after the Christmas Day bomb blast at St Theresa Catholic Church Madalla.
Daily Trust also learnt that two months after their abduction, another imam identified as Malam Shuaibu, who is a student of College of Education Zuba and also a teacher in one of the adult Islamic School in Madalla, was also abducted by unknown gunmen in same manner. Malam Abubakar, the deputy chief imam of the Madalla Jumma'at mosque, was equally reported missing a week ago after the abduction of the chief imam.
Again, a resident of the area, one Babayo Sani was arrested by operatives of the State Security Service for buying a house from a mother of a young man alleged to be a member of the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
Speaking to Daily Trust, senior wife of the chief imam Aishatu Adamu narrated how her husband was abducted, saying on that fateful night sometimes in December last year, they heard a knock at their door around 1 am with a voice calling the name of her husband. She said he attempted to go out, but she stopped him because it was very late in the night. And when they kept on calling him by his name, he felt they must be the people from the neighborhood and so he opened the door and went out and before she could know what was happening, the man was taken away, she said.
"I heard the knock while he was asleep and when I woke him up he attempted going out to see who they were but I quickly stopped him; and when they heard us talking, they now called his name; upon hearing his name being called he walked towards the door and opened. Not long after he opened the door I heard them wrestling; but he was over powered and so they took him away", she said.
Aishatu went on to narrate that the gunmen were not wearing any form of uniform but were well armed, saying after taking him away a few of them stormed the house and ransacked it, turning everything upside down. She said when they were about going out they turned to the wives and asked of their handsets which they all surrendered to the gunmen.
The wife said while ransacking the house the gunmen neither introduced themselves nor told the family where they were taking her husband to, let alone telling the offence he so committed. She said not long after they left she immediately called the district head of the area through a mobile phone of their neighbor phone to inform him of the development. The district head later came to the house after the morning prayers and promised to do something about the matter.
Her husband, who is also a primary school teacher and a trader, was never known to be a person with any questionable character, she said; and therefore wondered what he might have done to earn him such a treatment.
"Malam (her husband) was taken away on Friday; and on Saturday and Sunday his phone was going through as many called him; and whenever he was asked, 'who were the people that took you away?' He would always say they told him 'they are security operatives'; and when asked, 'where are you now?', he would say, 'I don't know'. And when finally he was asked if they told him of his offence, he said, they arrested him in connection with the bomb blast in St Theresa Catholic Church Madalla", she said.
Since that last Sunday they spoke, according to her, her husband's phone went off till date. And when asked if she reported the case to the police, Aishatu said she had only reported the matter to the district head who had promised to take up the matter.
On her own part, Iyami Babayo, wife Babayo Sani who was arrested by SSS operatives for buying a house from a woman believed to be a mother of the young man who is a member of Boko Haram sect, said, "my husband was arrested towards the end of February this year by the SSS and since then he has been in their custody".
Iyami told Daily Trust that her husband is a driver with PW Construction Company and on two different occasions he was invited by the SSS men and on same occasions told her that the case had to do with the house that he bought in Anguwan Fada in Madalla.
And when he was invited for the third time for some questionings, he never came back up to this moment, she said, saying she had had already contacted a lawyer over the matter and that a suit had already been instituted.
However, many of the residents were unwilling to speak to our reporters because of what they called "fear of the unknown", but one of them, Mr. Kayode Dauda, said about 10 imams had so far been kidnapped within the community in a manner that had created panic fear for residents.
"I know two of the kidnapped clerics. One heads the town's main Jum'aat mosque situated between Mandalla market and Mobil filling station along the Zuba-Kaduna Expressway. He was kidnapped by unknown gunmen about six months ago at midnight in the presence of his family members. He has not been seen since then. Also, the imam of the mosque located at Etsu Jabago Street, Area 1, Madalla, was kidnapped in the same circumstance just last week. Other residents have confirmed that no fewer than 10 imams were kidnapped. Right now, everyone is afraid to talk. Even those concerned and their families prefer to keep sealed lips", he said.
"A friend of mine, Yahaya, told me that last week, gunmen came in a van at about 2am to kidnap his father. According to him, the kidnappers broke down the door and demanded to see his father, and that when he came out to inquire what was wrong, they slammed him down and blindfolded him. They then rushed him into the vehicle, and that nothing has been heard from his father", Dauda added.
Confirming the incident to our correspondent on phone yesterday, Yahaya said his father was kidnapped at White Mosque around 2am last Wednesday, adding the incident had created a serious concern for the family. He, however, said he needed to seek the consent of his uncle before speaking further on the issue.
When contacted, worshippers at the Jum'aat Mosque also declined comment, but one of them, who pleaded anonymity, simply said: "Everyone is fearful. Nobody is quite sure of what he or she would say that would lead to trouble for him/her. I am being careful myself."
At the Madalla police division, a senior police officer, Mr. Sadeeq Jimoh, said the police were unaware of such incidents, stressing that the only cases of missing teenagers and children were reported to the station a few months ago.
He said: "There is no such case as far as this police post is concerned. If there were, you would have seen this in this booklet. Those making such claims should come forward so that we can assist them through investigations. If they don't do that, how can we know?.
Contacted, district head of Madalla Musa J. Sa'idu confirmed the missing of four imams and the arrest of one person from his domains. "Yes, these cases of missing imams were reported to me by their respective family members and I have forwarded the matter to my superiors", he said. He also said when the case was reported to him, the police divisional officer for the area and the SSS were contacted over the matter but said they were not aware of any operation of such kind by their respective organizations in Madalla.
Also contacted on the matter, Police Public Relations Officer for Niger State DSP Pius Edobor said he was not aware of such case, saying, "I am yet to be detailed on that".
Emir of Suleja Awwal Ibrahim, who spoke to Daily Trust through Secretary of Suleja Emirate Council Malam Sani Ibrahim, said the case was reported and that it was under investigation. "The case is still under investigation", he said.