One year after their mysterious disappearance, the families of three friends, who used to live in Badagry, Lagos State, are still in dilemma about whether or not to declare them dead.
The men, Seun Omotuwase (26), Elijah Akinbowale (24), and Femi (25) went out on September 10, 2011 and since then have not returned, throwing their respective families into confusion and agony.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the friends used to attend the Four Square Gospel Church, Ilogbo Eremi, in Badagry.
A member of the church, Oriyomi Adebayo, had invited church members to her mother’s burial ceremony in Aisunle, a neighbouring village, which, however, falls within Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State.
It was learnt that the trio, who left together for the party on the fateful day, set out on an unregistered motorcycle but never returned.
Seun’s father, Japheth, said he had looked everywhere for his missing son but without success.
He said, “My son is not the wayward type that keeps late nights. I have spent money, time and all I have in searching for him but he is nowhere to be found.
“In my 65 years sojourn on earth, I have experienced sorrows. I gave birth to nine children, five died and my wife also died eight years ago. Now Seun is missing.
“Out of the three families, my family is the only one making efforts in the search for these missing boys.”
Japheth also berated the police for abandoning the search despite having some leads which could help in tracking their whereabouts.
He said he reported the matter at the Area K Police Command, Morogbo Police Division and the Zone 2 Police Command, Onikan, Lagos but was disappointed that nothing concrete had been done on the case.
Japheth said, “When the three of them got missing, Elijah’s phone number was still ringing anytime we called it. We contacted MTN and traced the signal to Kogi State.
“After making this discovery, the police promised heaven and earth that they were going to mobilise and get to the root of the matter and unearth the mystery surrounding their disappearance.
“But as I speak to you, they are yet to do anything about it. I know if I had enough money to throw around they would have gone searching for them with the leads they have.”
Seun’s elder brother, Moses, said the families of Femi and Elijah had not shown enough enthusiasm about the case.
“At a time, rumours were rife in the community that Elijah’s mother (Olayinka) used to communicate with him on the phone. Though we don’t know how true that is, but the way they took the issue gave the allegation some weight,” he said.
When contacted, Olayinka said she had also been passionately searching for her lost son and dismissed the allegations that she knew his whereabouts.
She said, “It is true that his (Elijah’s) line had been going through until recently. When I tried his phone in July, someone who spoke like a tout picked the phone and claimed he was speaking from Port Harcourt in Rivers State.
“He spoke to me in Yoruba language and he said his name was Kazeem. I explained the situation to him and begged him to help me out with my son’s whereabouts.
“He said I should call him back and when I did he told me I was calling a wrong number. Since then the number no longer rings. It’s not true that I have been seeing Elijah secretly. I have not set my eyes on him since September 10. I have travelled far and wide looking for him.”
She lamented that her health had been failing because of the problem but optimistic she would be reunited with her son one day.
Femi’s guardian, Fatimoh Okon, said his family had been living in sadness since the incident happened.
She said, “My husband who is a policeman has worked tirelessly to locate Femi and the two other missing persons.
“In fact, we are still on it and each time I think about the circumstances behind their disappearance, it saddens my heart.
“Femi is not that kind of person than can run away from home. He is such a cool-headed and gentle man and we would stop at nothing to find him.”
When our correspondent visited the host of the burial ceremony that the friends went, Oriyomi Adebayo, she said they never reached the venue of the party.
“I never set my eyes on any of them. My daughter even complained that they were absent before we heard about their disappearance,” she said.
Her son, Joshua, while corroborating her claims said, “We did not hold a night party. I left the venue around 9pm and till I left, I didn’t see them.”
Assistant Pastor of the church, Lanre Ayoola, said he saw the three missing persons on the bike going towards the direction of Aisunle Village while he was returning.
He said, “I didn’t see them at the party though. However, while I was returning from the party on my bike in the afternoon, I saw them on the bike at Eruiku Village which is just about 10km away from Aisunle Village.”
Ayoola said the news of their disappearance came to him and the church as a shock.
He said, “They were important members of the church, Elijah and Seun were choristers while Femi was an usher.
“We sent different search parties out and we also organised different prayer sessions and vigils and notified all our churches including the headquarters in Yaba about the incident.”
When our correspondent visited Morogbo Police Division, the Divisional Police Officer, Makinde Kayode, was said to be away on official assignment.
When contacted on the telephone, he said, “I was not the DPO at that time, but try and reach the police Public Relations Officer.”
However, the phone of the Police PRO, Ngozi Braide, rang out on Sunday. Also, a text message sent to her phone was also not responded to.