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I feel like committing suicide whenever I see photos of my two daughters kidnapped since 2009 – 64-year-old Rivers retiree

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A 64-year-old retired civil servant in Rivers State, Rowland Monokpo, tells DENNIS NAKU he’s been suffering psychological and physical trauma since his two daughters, Maryanne and Scholastica, were kidnapped on the farm 12 years ago

Please briefly tell us about yourself?

My name is Rowland Monokpo. I am from Deeyor community in the Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State. I am 64 years old. I was a civil servant, but now retired. I retired in 2014. I was attached to the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital, now Rivers State University Teaching Hospital.

It was said that your two daughters were kidnapped. When and how did it happen?

On the 16th of May, 2009 I travelled with my wife to Akwa Ibom State to buy palm oil; my wife sells palm oil. My two daughters, Maryanne and Scholastica, were indoors when we left the house. But when I returned around 2pm, I didn’t see them. At first, I thought they went for a stroll. But about one hour later, I got a phone call from someone who told me that my two daughters had been taken away by some unknown persons. The person said they were on the farm working when the unknown persons came to take them away.

I was shocked. I started rushing down to the farm but on my way, I saw some of my village people trooping back to the village. They advised me to turn back and warned that if I dared to go further, those boys from Deken (a neigbouring village) would kill me. They said it was the Deken boys that took my two daughters away.

What did you do then?

I ran to the police station in Kpor, (headquarter of Gokana LGA) to report what had happened. The policemen asked me to bring N5,000, which I gave them. They said it was for fuel. They took the money and drove to Deken. But they came back about an hour later and said they didn’t see anybody. I then reported the matter to the Bori Police Division but no action was taken. I left and went to report at the Area Command, but still no action was taken. So I returned to my house. And that is how since 2009 – 12 years ago – I haven’t set eyes on my daughters, Maryanne and Scholastica, again.

How old were your daughters at the time the incident happened?

My first daughter, Maryanne, was 23 years old then, while her younger sister, Scholastica, was 19 years old then.

Were they students or working?

They were students; they were about to go into the university; they had taken the UTME (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination) and were successful. Manyanne was to study Marketing at the University of Port Harcourt, while her sister was to study Law at the Rivers State University. They were intelligent girls. I still have their WASSCE results with me.

Was it on your instructions that they went to the farm on that day?

No. It was a Catholic sister that asked them to assist her on her farm. I am a Catholic. The Sister would to come to my house. She took them to the farm like friends or sisters. My daughters didn’t usually go to the farm. They didn’t even know the farm routes.

Was the Catholic Sister with them on the farm when the attackers came?

Yes, she was; but she was able to escape when the boys came because she knew where to run to. My children might have even run into the kidnappers’ hands because they didn’t know where to run to.

What exactly did the Catholic Sister tell you about the incident?

She came to sympathise with me, and as a Christian, she said sorry to me for what happened; I don’t have to retaliate. We greet each other and she comes to visit me.

Did the kidnappers contact you thereafter?

Yes, they did. They called me on telephone; they said my daughters were with them and they were safe; they asked me to bring N2m to secure their release.

Did you speak with your daughters?

Yes, they gave the phone to them and I spoke with them. They told me to try and look for the money, that they were in a critical condition. They said they were being raped by the kidnappers and they were subjected to all kinds of evil acts. I asked that they should give the phone to the kidnappers and started pleading with them. I told them that I could only raise N200, 000. After so much pleading they agreed and asked me to bring the money to a junction called Kpopie, which leads to Gokana Local Government. So, I immediately went about and borrowed N200, 000 and went to drop the money at the spot where they instructed me to drop it. While I was there, they came out of the bush and picked the money. But I could not identify them because it was in the night, about 8pm.

What happened thereafter?

After paying them the money, I was expecting they would release my daughters to me but they didn’t. Later, I called the mobile number which they used to contact me but they told me that if I make further trouble, they would come for me, to kill me. But I continued to call the number; they didn’t respond and later the phone was switched off.

It’s been 12 years since that happened. How have you coped, not knowing what has become of your daughters?

Every day I dream of reuniting with them someday. It is as if I should just end my life, but I don’t want to believe that they are dead because I know God can do His miracles. I have not lost faith or hope. I have left it in God’s hands to bring my daughters back to me.

It is God that has kept me till now, because even my wife would have died when she was admitted in the hospital. But I have left all my problems in the hands of God. I also thank the police for the efforts they made to get my daughters. I still plead with them to keep searching for these bad boys so that I can find my daughters too, because I know there is God.

I have been hypertensive since then. My wife and I have been battling psychological trauma; we’ve been sick. I have also been battling with an enlarged prostate and I go for a check-up at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital every month.

You have the photographs of your daughters. How do you feel seeing these photos every now and then, not knowing where they are?

In fact, I have thought of burning all these photographs because each time I see them I feel like taking my life. It reminds me of the sad experience and what they told me the kidnappers were doing to them. But my wife and other people have tried to talk to me to keep the photos.

Was anything done at the community level to search for your daughters?

When the incident took place, our village people came and sympathised with us. But now, all I get are insults. Some people say I have not tried enough to secure the release of my daughter. Such comments make me feel really bad. But I feel it is the nature of human being, you know after sympathsing with you for some time, the next thing is to be insulting you. They don’t even understand that such a thing can happen to anybody.

Do you have other children?

I have a son, Nature, who is a 200 Level student of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt and another daughter, Faith, who is in Senior Secondary School II now. I am a retired civil servant. I have not been paid my gratuity and pension arrears. I have just been at home like this without money. I have been suffering and it is difficult to take care of my children.

What exactly do you want to do about this case now or have you given up on the search for your daughters?

No, I have not given up. I want the police and other security agencies to help me trace these kidnappers, arrest and bring them justice. As I said, I want to see my daughters dead or alive.

I also want help in cash or in kind to enable me to take care of my health, my two children left with me and my wife who is sick of arthritis and hypertension. I am also hypertensive. I want help, especially from the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, our Mr Project. He should please help me. He has been helping people; let him extend help to me, too. I am begging because of my health and what has happened to me.

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