Eight months on, girl stolen from church still not found

•Embattled mum narrates travails

By Bose Adelaja

It is eight months since four-year-old Goodness Igwe mysteriously disappeared from the premises of the church where her parents worshiped as she played with her mates after a Sunday service.   The doll she was carrying at the time she was last seen by her parents was later found in her mother’s tricycle.

Penultimate Wednesday, the mother of three, Mrs Kehinde Igwe, took a break from her daily routine to call on spirit filled Nigerians to rally round her family to recover her daughter who was last seen on June 3, 2018 at the Latter Rain Assembly, Akilo Road, Ogba, Lagos. Meanwhile, she quoted the General Overseer of the church, Pastor Tunde Bakare, as saying the missing girl will be found.

On that fateful Sunday, Kehinde, a commercial tricycle operator, working in Ajao Estate area of Lagos, had rode in her tricycle with other members of her immediate family, including little Goodness, to the church and parked the tricycle within the premises while they worshipped.

Being the first Sunday of the month, the entire worshipers were said to have observed the ‘Thanksgiving Sunday’ in the Main Bowl of the church unlike other Sundays when the children are looked after by their teachers.

According to her, the Sunday service went smoothly and ended at about 1pm, leaving the church members to hold departmental meetings and do other sundry things while their children played around and Goodness, carrying her doll, was playing with her colleagues.

Because it is a big church, the children were said to have been instructed to play safe and remain within the premises until it was time to go home.

Suddenly, Kehinde noticed that the girl was no longer among other children playing around the church premises and she drew the attention of co-worshippers to this but some of them allayed her fear that she may be playing elsewhere.

As clock ticked, the church members joined the mother to comb all the nooks and crannies of the church in search of the girl but their efforts did not yield any fruit.

After some time, Goodness’ playmates advised the searchers to intensify their efforts in search of the doll the four-year-old was last seen with as they believed the little girl would not, for any reason, part with the doll.

Kehinde said the searchers did not discard the advice and some of them volunteered to go in search of the doll and, moments later, it was found in the mother’s tricycle where it was parked within the church premises.

This development raised the hope that the girl was nearby and will resurface on her own accord. But she never did.

Speaking with Sunday Vanguard eight months after, the distraught mother expressed optimism that her daughter will be found as she believed God will intervene in her situation.

Asked about the various steps taken so far to recover the missing girl, she lauded the efforts of Pastor Tunde Bakare who, according to her, immediately it became obvious that Goodness may have been stolen, alerted the Inspector General of Police for necessary action.

Salt upon injury

Weeks into the search for the little girl, events took a sad turn when three youngsters deceived the family on two separate occasions by placing calls across to Goodness’ father, demanding ransom of N2m and N200, 000 respectively.

The pranksters reportedly said the missing child was in their custody and will be released provided the family met their demand.

The parents acted according to the Yoruba saying, Omo mi ku, o san ju omo mi nu lo (it is a better for one’s child to be dead than for him to be missing), and quickly requested for the account details of the ‘abductors’ only to discover it was a scam.

The tricksters were arrested by the police and they are reportedly being tried for advance fee fraud.

Several months since the little girl went missing after church service, the sudden disappearance of Goodness has remained a mystery to the family, friends and worshipers though the mother rekindles hope saying, “I became pregnant after 13 years of family planning and the baby was born at 44 years of age. I am a Yoruba lady married to an Igbo man and she was named after my mother ‘Eniomosin’. Apart from this, the literal interpretation of her Igbo name Odinakachukwu is ‘Placed in God’s Hand’. How can something placed in God’s hands be missing for the past eight months? I believe my baby is not lost and I’m convinced in my spirit that she is hale and hearty somewhere. It is only that she cannot trace her way back home”.

Kehinde said she believed in miracles and the prophecy of her pastor (Tunde Bakare) that the girl will be home someday.

She added, “Nothing will make me leave the church where I have been worshiping for the past 23 years. My pastor is a prophet and has assured us the girl will be found; so, who am I to doubt God?”

Back to Mafoluko area of Lagos where the family resides, neighbours and well-wishers were still in shock over the sudden disappearance of the girl. Some of them said the ‘abductors’ are likely to be close associates of the family.

Also, co-worshippers at the Latter Rain Church expressed the hope that Goodness will return home someday.

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