The joy of the family of Ikimot Awojoju knows no bounds as she has been reunited with her family in the Oyingbo area of Lagos, five years after she went missing.
It was gathered that Ikimot lived with her guardian after her mother, Faidat Awojoju, passed away.
She reportedly went missing on her way back from school on July 23, 2014.
Ikimot’s guardian, Ajoke Abass, said she sold her valuables to raise the money needed to search for her but all efforts to find her proved abortive.
Abass told PUNCH Metro that after two years, she stopped searching but kept on praying for the safe return of the girl.
The Kwara State indigene said Ikimot’s return was an indication that her prayers were answered as everyone had assumed that she was dead.
The mother of four said, “Ikimot’s mother was an area sister to me and we took each other as family members. She already had a child before she got pregnant with Ikimot. The man responsible was not ready to accept the pregnancy and she wanted to abort it. I advised her against it and stood by her throughout the course of the pregnancy until she put to bed.
“I was the one looking after the child, while she was going about her business, because I am self-employed. When Ikimot clocked two years, her father came to apologise and promised to assume responsibility for the child’s upkeep, but he did not keep to his promise after her mother died.
“Ikimot was three when her mother died in 2011 and none of her family members was ready to take over the responsibility of taking care of her and her brother, so, I decided to take it up since I was the one taking care of her before and I was the one that encouraged her mother not to abort the pregnancy; Ikimot was in my custody and I took her older brother to one of my brothers, who is a cleric, to help me train him in the Islamic way.
“On the day that Ikimot went missing, she did not come back from school at the usual time and after some time, I told my children to go and check her in the school. They returned to say that they could not find her. I went to different police stations in search of her.
“I sold all I had to raise the money needed to conduct the search for her. After two years, my husband told me to stop searching and that I should just keep praying for her. And anytime my heart reached out to her, I would give alms to the poor on her behalf.”
Abass said when Ikimot returned, she could not recognise her initially, adding that the girl helped the police to arrest her captor.
“On Tuesday, February 26, 2019, I was outside the house playing with my children, when one of my neighbours called my attention to a girl that stood afar off. She asked if I recognised her and I said no, but the girl was smiling at me. My neighbour asked the girl if she knew me and she replied that she used to live with me.
“I took a second look at her and that was when I was flooded with memories of what she looked like. She arrived around 10pm and people were with us till midnight. When I took her into the room, she noted that I had changed the position of the bed, which really confirmed that she was the one, but she no longer understood Yoruba as she could only speak pidgin English and Igbo.
“In the morning, I took her to the Denton Police Station and I explained everything to the officers there. They took her statement and she kept on repeating an address as the residence of her abductor. We went with the police to the address and the woman was arrested.
“At first, the woman claimed that she was Ikimot’s mother, but when she was asked to provide her childhood pictures, she said she did not have any. She was also unable to produce her birth certificate and the girl insisted that she was not her mother.
“I was asked to bring everything that could prove that she was mine and the police also requested that her father must come to the station to corroborate the girl’s statement, which he did. When he came, the girl also recognised him as her father but the woman kept on insisting that she was the mother of the child.”
PUNCH Metro gathered that another child was also recovered from the suspected abductor, Christiana Onuchukwu, who eventually allegedly confessed to the police to have bought the children for N350,000 each.
She, however, failed to reveal the identities of the persons who sold the children to her.
“The 12-year-old girl, who was released to me on Monday, said she found her way back by asking people for direction,” Abass added.
Ikimot was quoted as saying, “On the day I was abducted, I was on my way back from school when a woman called me. When I went to meet her, she held my hand and took me away. One day, the woman I was made to live with (Onuchukwu) scolded me by saying that she would take me back to my family in Oyingbo and I held on to that.
“The day I wanted to leave, I kept telling people that I was going to Oyingbo and I was told to keep trekking. When I got to a point, I told a man that I was going to Oyingbo and he said that it was not far. He asked me if I had any money on me and I said no. He gave me N50 to board a tricycle.
“When I got to Oyingbo, I remembered that I usually passed through a rail track on my way back from school and I remembered that there was a storey building opposite the house I used to live in. That was how I was able to trace the house.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Chike Oti, said investigation into the matter was ongoing.
“The girl has been reunited with her family. The woman that was found with the children has been arrested and investigation is ongoing,” he stated.