Charles Oruru, father of rescued Ese abducted in Bayelsa State in August 2015 and taken to Kano State where she was converted to Islam and married off without her parents’ consent, was in high spirits. Ese at the time was 13 years old.
Ese’s father who became worried when the incident occurred was elated by Thursday’s judgement by a Federal High Court in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, which sentenced her daughter’s abductor, Yunusa Dahiru (alias Yellow) to 26 years jail.
He said, “Life is good. I am as happy as a butterfly. I’m happy with the news as it would send a strong message to those involved in child trafficking; those working against the law of the country. I am happy.”
Charles added that when his daughter was abducted, he became sad and wept, noting “But we give God the glory because such is life. Life is not always stable. We thank God for life. Ese is in Delta State, my hometown, where she completed secondary school not long ago.’’
Ese got pregnant after her abduction and was delivered of a baby girl on May 26, 2016 at the Bayelsa State Government House Clinic, upon her return to the state.
PUNCH newspapers led the crusade which generated widespread reactions across the country before Ese was rescued and returned to Bayelsa and lived at the Police Officers’ Mess.
Charles, who described himself as a petty businessman, said the child was with his family in Delta. He said, “The baby would be four years on May 26, 2020.
Justice Jane Inyang on Thursday sentenced Dahiru to 26 years in prison. Ese was abducted on August 12, 2015 at her mother’s shop in the Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The then 13-year-old Ese was abducted by Dahiru and taken to Kano, where she was impregnated, converted to Islam and married off. Reports noted that Ese’s conversion and marriage allegedly held in the palace of the ex-Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. She was later rescued on February 29, 2016, by the Kano State Police after public outcry occasioned by intense media reports and handed over to the government. Ese was thereafter said to have been five months’ pregnant for her abductor.
Charles, who spoke with our correspondent from Bayelsa State, noted that Ese would be briefed on the development once he reached out to the mother and his other children in Delta.
Besides, he noted that the incident taught his family a great lesson.
He stated, “Some of the lessons the incident has taught me is that one must protect one’s family to avoid the kind of problem we experienced. Also, the latest development has shown me that there are true judges in Nigeria who diligently follow the truth. We give God the glory when one recalls what we went through as a family when the incident happened. There were several challenges which we faced squarely as a family. If not for God, such a development could cause problems for the family. If we were to be a family that didn’t know God, it would have been difficult for us. The incident taught us a great lesson.’’
Charles further said Ese would further her education, adding that she had never hidden her love for education. He said, “I know that she would achieve greatness. She has never hidden her love for medicine. She desired to be a medical doctor. She’s about 18 years now. She is my fourth child. I have three girls and two boys.’’
Speaking about what strengthened him and his family after the incident, Charles stated, “I knew that God would not let us down. When the case happened, I shed tears. It’s normal especially thinking about what occurred to one’s daughter. But I knew that God wouldn’t let us down. I thank Nigerians for the role they played. I deeply appreciate journalists for the role they played too. The truth has been revealed and justice served.’’
For about five years, the road to justice for Ese seemed full of hitches. But with Thursday’s ruling justice seemed to have finally prevailed.
However, Ese’s road to justice started about four years ago when PUNCH newspapers launched a massive campaign titled, ‘Free Ese,’ followed by a series of over 50 reports by the newspaper.
The paper’s explosive cover story on February 28, 2016, titled, “PUNCH launches ‘Free Ese’ campaign: Kano man steals, forcefully marries 14-year-old Bayelsa Girl,” sparked national outrage, forcing the authorities, including the then-Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, to ensure the release of Ese.
The PUNCH campaign also led to the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, and a former Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, to wade into the matter.
In the report, the newspaper detailed how Ese’s travails started on August 12, 2015 when Yunusa, a commercial tricycle operator in Yenagoa, forcibly kidnapped her at her mother’s shop when no one was around.
Yunusa would later take Ese to Kano, where she was allegedly raped, forcibly Islamised and married off without her parents’ consent. The teenager’s conversion and marriage reportedly took place in the palace of the deposed Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
Ese’s mother, Rose, who stated that Yunusa was one of her long-standing customers, narrated how she journeyed to Kano on August 14, 2015, two days after her daughter’s kidnap, to a village in Tufa, Kura Local Government Area of Kano State in search of Ese.
Rose got the shock of her life when, on getting to Tufa, a village chief told her that Ese had been converted to Islam and renamed Aisha. The chief also told Rose that Ese was married and that the teenager was no longer her daughter.
The chief added that Ese was in the custody of the then Emir of Kano, Sanusi, at the palace.
Not deterred by the chief’s position, Rose, in company with one Rabiu, approached the Emir of Kano’s palace but met stiff opposition by some youths, who pushed them out of the palace.
Rose’s efforts to secure Ese’s release from the then-emir’s palace, including involving the police, proved futile.
A day after The PUNCH launched the ‘Free Ese’ campaign, Nigerians across all walks of life carpeted Sanusi and the then-IG, Arase.
On February 29, 2016, the PUNCH report also prompted the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other related offences to jolt into action, saying it would intervene in Ese’s case.
The agency added that under the Child Rights’ Act, getting married to an underage child was a criminal offence which the police and the Ministry of Youth Development could handle.
The PUNCH campaign also prompted the National Human Rights Commission to promise an investigation into Ese’s case.
In a reaction, the then IG stated that Ese’s freedom was dependent on the intervention of the then Kano emir but promised that the police were working on Ese’s release.
However, following The PUNCH campaign, which gained traction online, several hashtags were created on Twitter such as #FreeEseOruruNow, #EseIsNotAisha as well as #ChildNotBride.
The hashtags were shared several times and retweeted in what could be described as a major social media campaign.
Several online readers in several portals also overwhelmingly condemned Ese’s abduction and called for the immediate release of the teenager to her parents, while also commending The PUNCH for reporting the story and asking that the matter be seen to a logical conclusion.
Barely 24 hours after The PUNCH newspapers inaugurated its campaign, Ese was finally rescued from Kano State where she was smuggled to by her paedophile captor, Yunusa.
The minor was released to the then Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 1, Kano, Shuaibu Gambo, by the Kano Emirate Council.
It took eight months, trips to Kano by her parents, a campaign by The PUNCH, and outrage among Nigerians to secure her freedom.
However, several public figures and human rights activists described the case as child trafficking and demanded that Ese’s abductor be prosecuted.
Many Nigerians who were shocked by Ese’s ordeal called on the Federal Government to ensure that such an incident did not recur by dealing decisively with those who contravened the country’s laws.
A former Minister of Women Affairs, Jummai Alhassan; a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili; Senator Ben Murray-Bruce; Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Femi Falana, Sebastine Hon, Festus Keyamo, Emeka Ngige, Chief Gowdwin Obla and Chief Felix Fagbohungbe; and legal practitioners, Wahab Shittu and Jiti Ogunye, were among those who called for the prosecution of those involved in Ese’s abduction and forceful conversion to Islam.
Several groups also called for Yunusa’s prosecution for his actions. The deposed Emir Sanusi later described Ese’s abduction as an embarrassment by one of his subjects, explaining that when the matter was first brought to his attention in September 2015, he ordered her immediate return to her parents after it was established that she was underage.
He, however, expressed surprise that the matter still lingered months after he gave the instruction.
Ganduje also condemned Ese’s abduction, adding that nobody brought the matter to his attention and that he only got to know through the media.
On March 2, 2016, Ese and her mother were reunited in Abuja but upon her arrival to the city, she was five months pregnant with Yunusa’s child.
Following her release, The PUNCH launched another hashtag, #JusticeForEse, which quickly gained traction on social media.
Some days later, on March 8, 2016, Yunusa was arraigned before the Federal High Court in Yenagoa on a five-count charge of abduction, coercion, seduction into illicit intercourse, sexual exploitation and unlawful carnal knowledge of Ese.
Yunusa was arraigned before Justice H.A. Nganjiwa on a charge numbered FHC/YNG/17c/2016, filed against him by the then IG.
However, Yunusa pleaded not guilty to all the charges while the matter was adjourned until March 14, 2016 for the hearing of the bail application by his counsel, Kayode Olaosebikan. He was later remanded in Okaka Prison in Yenagoa pending the hearing of his bail application.
On March 22, 2016, the suspect was granted bail to a sum of N3m. Two months after, Ese was delivered of a baby girl on May 26, 2016, a week before she was expected to give evidence in secret when the hearing of her case came up on June 2, 2016.
Meanwhile, on June 26, 2016, a police report of the investigation into Ese’s abduction submitted to the Police Service Commission indicted and recommended sanctions for the then-Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 1, Shuaibu Gambo and other officers.
The AIG faced the Force Disciplinary Committee for not taking the necessary steps to rescue the abducted teenager when the case was reported to his office.
Gambo allegedly did not give the case deserving attention as the case was allowed to drag on for about six months until PUNCH newspapers championed the rescue of the teenager.
On July 11, 2016, Yunusa was finally granted bail after spending over four months in prison custody. However, that was not the end of the case as four years after, a high court in Yenagoa convicted Yunusa for his criminal actions.