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Missing ABU students feared abducted by jihadists

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On February 6, 2016, 24-year-old Hauwanat Yusuf and her close friend, 19-year-old Nasrat Oyeyemi, packed a small bag with few things and left their school hostel in the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, with the words that they were going away for the weekend.

Missing ABU students
Missing ABU students

Hauwanat, a 200 Level medical student, and Nasrat, a 200 Level nursing student, have since vanished without any clue yet as to where they may be.

But there are now fears that the students might have been lured and abducted by ISIL jihadists.

Part of the information gathered from the ladies’ classmates was that Nasrat usually chatted with a young man named Nasif, a former student of the school who they said suddenly abandoned his studies in his first year and went to Libya for unknown reasons.’

The missing students’ parents learnt that there was another student identified as Saka, who has a connection with Nasif and might be able to determine whether there was a connection to the disappearance of the girls.

Saturday PUNCH was told that security agents later arrested Saka while his phones and laptop were seized. It was later learnt that he had hurriedly deleted some information on the devices which further raised suspicion about his links to the students’ disappearance.

The families of the students fear that the girls might have been abducted for indoctrination by Islamists. Security agents have also raised the possibility of their abduction by Islamists with links to ISIL in Libya.

There has been no information to support this claim so far.

The students’ disappearance has since thrown their families in turmoil as the parents of both ladies wait patiently by their phones for any news from security agencies handling the case. But that has never come.

Every minute that passes by without words from the girls has kept the families apprehensive.

Our correspondent spoke with the fathers of both girls, who expressed frustration about the way the case is being handled by the authorities.

Hauwanat’s father, 64-year-old Ibrahim Yusuf, a native of Ede, Osun State, who live in Lagos, explained that his daughter searched for admission for seven years until she eventually got admission to ABU, Zaria to study medicine.

“She insisted she wanted to study medicine even though she could have studied another course. She was looking for admission for seven years and insisting that it had to be Medicine,” he said.

Hauwanat was said to have attended the Ahmadu Bello University School of Basic and Remedial Studies in Funtua, Katsina State, to improve her chances before she finally got admission to study Medicine.

“It was while she was in Funtua that she met Nasrat and they became friends. They also got admission at the same time but int1o different departments,” Ibrahim said.

Day of disappearance

Saturday PUNCH learnt that on Monday, February 8, when Hauwanat’s classmates did not see her in class, they quickly called one of her aunties based in Zaria, whom she usually visited to spend the weekend. They informed her that she had not been seen in school being the assistant class representative.

In panic, the woman called Hauwanat’s father to inform him about the situation and the following day, Ibrahim boarded the first vehicle to Zaria to find out what had happened to his daughter.

He said, “When we got there, we realised that Nasrat’s parents had already arrived ahead of us and had even reported the case at the Samaru Police Division in Zaria.

“We decided to approach other students for information about when the girls were last seen. Hauwanat’s class representative told us about how she and Nasrat were seen with small bags as if going away for the weekend and did not tell anybody where they were going. Her classmates said when they did not see her in class, they tried to call her but her numbers were switched off.

“My daughter’s roommate said sometimes, Nasrat would leave her hostel and come to Hauwanat’s hostel to play with her because they were very close.

“The last time I heard from my daughter was on February 5, when she called and I discussed the issue of her brother’s result with her. There was no indication she was going anywhere the following day.

“Hauwanat had asked one of his elder brothers to give him some money. He said that he did not have money yet. On Sunday evening, he said he spoke with her on the phone, and told her to be patient and that he would send the money the following Monday. But when he called on Monday to inform her that he had sent the money, he noticed that her number was switched off and had never been through since then.”

“Hauwanat has two phones, both of them have been switched off. Nasrat has three, none of them has been going through too.”

Saturday PUNCH learnt that an uncle of Nasrat, who is based in Zaria, in whose home the teenager sometimes spent the weekend, got a Whatsapp message from her on Tuesday, which said, “Tell my parents not to panic, I am safe. They should pray for me. I will soon be back.”

The number has not gone through since then.

When the family of the ladies reported the case to the police, they said the police advised them to report to the Department of State Services instead, advising that DSS investigation might be faster than theirs.

Hauwanat’s father said, “The issue of tracking the ladies’ phones with MTN came up. MTN had already asked for a letter from the divisional police officer of Samaru to effect the tracking but the police said it was better we leave the MTN issue because it might take long. They told us to go to the DSS office instead.

“Why I am afraid is that, nothing has been heard from my daughter for more than a month now. It is taking too long. The security agencies are not telling us anything.”

Nasrat’s father, Mr. Amisu Oyeyemi, voiced the same concern.

He said, “We have been contacting the university, they are not giving us any reply as to what is happening on our daughters’ issue.”

Asked about the young man in Libya, Mr. Oyeyemi said, “I really don’t know much about the young man living in Libya whom they said my daughter was always chatting with.”

He told Saturday PUNCH that both the DSS and the police have blanked them out in terms of information on the investigation into the disappearance of their daughters.

“We have asked the DSS too about how far they have gone. They said they operate in secrecy and said we should go and rest because there is no cause for alarm,” Mr. Oyeyemi said.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that pictures of the missing students have been pasted in different parts of ABU campus, while the institution’s administration said they are doing all they can to ensure the girls are found.

The Chief Security Officer of ABU, who identified himself simply as Mr. Barnabas, told our correspondent on the phone that the university authorities are doing everything possible to ensure the safe return of the students.

“We are not resting and neither are the other external security agencies. What would I tell them at this point if they say we have not been telling them anything? All we can pray for is their safe return. We have no doubt that they would be found,” he said.

The Commissioner of Police, Kaduna State Command, Mr. Umar Shehu, did not pick calls to his telephone line seeking information on whether the police is taking any step on the case at all.

Also, the DSS in the state was not reachable as of the time of filing this report.

Director of the Esther Child Rights Foundations, Mrs. Esther Ogwu, who has decided to approach the National Human Rights Commission in Lagos over the girls’ case, called on the DSS and the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, to prevail on security agencies to intensify efforts on the missing students.

“She said, “We believe that Nigeria’s security agencies can do a wonderful job with the necessary pressure. These girls have been missing for too long. Hauwanat’s father came to us in frustration. Government should bring these families peace.”

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