Yakubu Saleh Bawa Esq is Lawyer to Mallam Ishaku Tanko & Family, whose 14-year-old daughter, Habiba, was abducted on August 16, 2016. In this exclusive interview with The New Diplomat Editor, Yemi Ogunsola, he raises the alarm that the Police tacitly encourages the criminal abduction of female minors in the North by not acting to stop the crime. As at the time of filing this interview, the lawyer says, Habiba remained in the clutches of the Katsina Emirate Council and her parents are no longer allowed to see their daughter.
Has the abducted minor, Habiba Isiyaku, been released by the Katsina Emirate?
The abducted minor, by name, Habiba Ishaku, is yet to be released since the 16th day of August, 2016 by the abductor ( Jamilu Lawal ) and his cohorts . Jamilu Lawal is ably supported and encouraged in his criminality by the Emir of Katsina and Katsina Emirate Council.
What is the update on Habiba’s abduction?
The update right now is that we have filed an action before Katsina High Court of Justice. The action is seeking to enforce the fundamental rights of Habiba and her biological Father, Malam Ishaku Tanko. We sued Katsina State, the Governor, Acting Katsina State Commissioner of Police, Katsina State Command, the Emir of Katsina and Jamilu Lawal.
Does the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) plan to file charges?
No. CAN national has no plan to file charges at all.
What has been the role of the Islamic Council?
The Islamic Council has not played any role so far. However I Learnt that Cardinal John Onaiyekan had contacted the Sultan of Sokoto who also promised to talk to the Emir of Katsina in order to secure the release of the girl. Till this moment there is no response in this direction.
The girl being a minor by the Nigerian constitution, are the abductors not guilty of rape?
No. In the instant case, the offence of rape is difficult to be established by the provision of Section.282 of the Penal Code. It says a girl under the age of 14years. However from the facts of the case, we are charging the abductor for an alleged offence of Abduction under Section 272 of the Penal Code and the offence of Procuration of minor girl under Section 275 of the Penal Code.
Is it the emir himself or one of his aides who allegedly married the girl?
No. It is neither the Emir nor his aides that abducted the girl. It was one fellow by name Jamilu Lawal who lives in one Village called Wawar Kaza in Kankara L.G.A in Katsina State
How would you rate the current regime in terms of sensitivity to Nigerians’ freedom of worship?
In Northern Nigeria, the freedom of worship, particularly to Christians, is being curtailed and is extremely limited to certain unconstitutional regulations by Government and Muslims. And such impediments and limitations are biased and discriminatory towards Christians and for several years and the situation has not improved.
Has Reverend Kukah intervened in any way? What is the outcome?
Bishop Matthew Kukah has not intervened yet. However, I met his deputy personally who has agreed to fix an appointment for me to meet with him. Actually am yet to secure the appointment.
Has the CAN President intervened? With What result?
The CAN President has not intervened in any way. We were at the CAN HQ in October 2016 with the girl’s father, her Sister and others where we briefed the National Vice President, General Secretary and other CAN officials. Yet CAN as a body has not taken any action officially even though sometime ago, Northern CAN leaders visited President Buhari and mentioned the matter to him. But CAN has not officially— well I recall one time I was told that CAN has written to the IGP.
What are the main obstacles to the girl’s release?
The main obstacle to Habiba’s release is the Emir of Katsina and Katsina Emirate Council. For instance, all this saga will end if the Emir can instruct one of his aides to call Jamilu Lawal to release Habiba. I am sure Habiba within two minutes will return to her parents.
How has the girl’s parents been treated by the emirate and the Police?
The girl’s parents have being treated unjustly and have been denigrated and dehumanized by the emir. The emir told the girl’s father to his face that he could not continue to be the father of the girl. The commissioner of Police refused to act in accordance with the law having released the girl to the emir after interviewing the parties concerned in his office.
Have the parents been given access to the girl?
No. Well, at a point the abductor allowed the girl’s mother to see her but now he has refused.
Has the girl been opportuned to express her own views, experiences in an atmosphere free of duress or subtle threat?
We strongly believe that she is under their influence and she has been hypnotized.
What are civil societies doing on the case?
The civic societies are yet to do anything. However, NUJ Katsina State Chapter has indicated interest in intervening by interviewing the parties concerned but that has not yielded any results.
How common are such cases of abduction and “rape”?
The case of Abduction in Katsina, Kano and other states is common in the North. Recently, in Katsina State, particularly in Kafur L.G.A while Habiba’s case is ongoing, three girls have been abducted . Saratu Isah, 13 years old is currently with her abductor. 2. Another. Rifkatu Markus was abducted and hypnotized by some Islamic police (Hizbah) .The father stood his ground and eventually she was released to the father. The third girl was released by the abductors but returned home pregnant.
What really is the difference between such cases and Boko Haram abduction of Chibok girls?
This one is more terrible than Boko Haram abduction of Chibok girl because in Habiba’s case the abductor is known and visible and yet the constituted authorities have refused to act appropriately by ensuring that the girl is released to her parents and the culprits are apprehend and prosecuted accordingly.
What steps have the IG taken to release the girl?
.IGP has not taken any step despite the petition written to him sometime in September 2016.
Advice to Christian parents in the state/region?
Advice to Christian parents is for them to keep vigilant and to train their children very well.
What measures are being taken to prevent such occurrences?
No measures taken so far. I have contacted some leaders on this issues we will soon come out with some measures.
Where can such acts lead the country if not stopped?
The act will lead the country to anarchy and crisis.
What is the position of the law?
It is criminal and unlawful for a citizen to do such an act.
How would you respond to allegations that these abductions and forced conversions are part of a subtle islamisation going on in the country?
The abduction and forceful conversion of a 14-year-old Habiba Ishaku from Christianity to Islam is an Islamic agenda that has being going in the North for decades.
Any other comments or revelations you wish to make?
Nigeria as a nation cannot make a progress until issues of religious subjugation and suppression have been addressed. Since independence, Islam in Nigeria, particularly in the North, has always exercised supremacy and superiority over Christianity. That has been its quest and agenda against the religious freedom enshrined in the constitution. In the North, there is no religious rights and freedom. Everything is Islamic and the state governments in the North predominantly promote Islamic agenda. We cannot make progress in this country until we address issues of religious rights and freedom