On a bright morning on November 13 last year, Mercy, a four-year-old girl, joined her elder siblings as they all headed to their primary school in Awka, Anambra State.
Their mother, Comfort Nwadukwu, had bid them farewell, as usual, expecting them to return home in the evening like they always did. Unknown to her, fate had a different game plan but she was oblivious of the trouble that hung in the air.
The reality dawned on her late in the afternoon when everyone else returned from school but there was no sight of Mercy.
Unknown to them, a man whose identity is yet to be revealed had abducted the hapless girl and took her to an orphanage where Philomena Okoye, a woman in desperate need of a child, acquired her with N2 million as part payment.
Explaining how she came about Mercy, Okoye said she had been married for years without a child, hence she decided to adopt a baby from an orphanage in Nnewi, Anambra State in November last year, who turned out to be Mercy.
“I was told that the child’s mother brought her to the home (orphanage) on the excuse that she had too many children to cater for,” she said, adding that she made a part payment of N2 million and was issued documents to that effect.
She, however, said she was not involved in the abduction of the child.
Mercy herself had said that she was taken away from her school by a man shortly after the school dismissed.
“The next place I found myself was in the midst of other children before I was finally taken away by a woman who took me to her home,” she said.
According to Nwadiukwu, her daughter had left for school in the morning of that fateful day together with her siblings without any inkling of the fate that would befall her.
She said: “It was on 13 November 2019. I was in my shop where I sell yams when a woman on evangelism came to my shop and told me that I was about to lose something precious.
“She advised that I should offer the money I intended to restock my shop with a sacrifice to God.
Little did I know that it was a prophecy that would be fulfilled within a few hours.
“When it was time for my children to return from school, the others came back but I did not see Mercy.
My first daughter who she normally came home with said she thought she had returned already.
“I started making calls but nobody, including the teachers, seemed to know her whereabouts. Some said she must have followed one of the aunties. It was like a joke.
“I rushed to the police station and reported the matter. They sent signals to all their stations across the state. I also gave out the announcement to radio stations in the state as well as town criers, with some of them collecting money.
“I also sent messages to all the prayer houses around. There was no church in Awka that was not praying for my daughter. Some of them collected money.
“I spent more than N200,000 in some of the prayer houses. One of them collected as much as N84,000. My husband counted the money and gave it to him with Mercy’s pictures.
“The following day we visited, he said he saw the girl in the hands of one Alhaji with 32 other children.
“Another prophet said it was not long my daughter was abducted; that she was taken out of the state to Enugu. He later said she was in the hands of ritual killers. One even requested for N180,000, which I refused to pay.
“Because of this same child, I had to embark on one-week fasting and prayers without water. Immediately after that exercise, however, God started revealing to me that my daughter was still alive. This was before Easter. For me, that was enough encouragement.
“Later, my husband and I decided to take the baby’s clothes and shoes to the altar of our church where she was dedicated at birth. We made some prayers there, asking God to locate our child for us.
“Meanwhile, we started receiving another revelation of where I was killed, with the poster of my obituary. My husband had to embark on a 21-day prayer and fasting, during which he saw himself bathing the child with the blood of Jesus.”
Mercy’s miraculous reappearance
Nwadiukwu described the reappearance of her daughter as the greatest miracle she had ever witnessed, saying she would not forget that day in her lifetime.
She said: “It was on a Sunday morning, precisely on 21 June. One of our church members was on his way to church with his family when one of the daughters sighted from the car a little girl walking on the roadside with a woman. She quickly called the attention of the dad to the girl, shouting, “Daddy, is that not Mercy?’
“The father stopped, alighted from the car, and approached the woman, requesting to know how she got the child. Although the woman claimed to have adopted the baby, the man insisted she should join them in the car to the police station for further inquiries.
“However, they first drove to the church to inform me of the development before we later drove to the police station.”
Disclosing that she fainted on receiving the news of her daughter’s reappearance, Nwadiukwu said she could not believe her eyes when her daughter was brought to her.
She said: “I had gone to sweep the church early in the morning because I could not go the previous day. I was there when one of our members drove to the church with his family members.
“He had not parked the car when I saw the kids beckoning to me. They quickly jumped down from the car with my daughter and started shouting: ‘Is this not Mercy your child?’ I fainted. I could not believe my eyes.”
Nwadiukwu also recalled how the news of her daughter’s return filled the air barely one month after she was abducted.
She said: “It was not up to a month after the incident when rumours started spreading that my daughter had been found. I went to the school where she was kidnapped and requested that they should produce my daughter but they rather mocked me.
“In the midst of all this, I refused to be discouraged. I challenged God that if my daughter was to die, it would have been during her pregnancy when I took drugs that a pregnant woman was not supposed to take.
“Besides, I didn’t get her from a herbalist. He allowed her to survive, it meant she had something to do in my family.
“How God catapulted the woman who claimed to have adopted my daughter from Ogidi area of the state where she earlier resided to Okpuno in Awka North Local Government Area, remains a mystery.
“And while I had sleepless nights over the condition of my daughter, particularly because it was exam period, little did I know that she was being adequately taken care of. She was enrolled in a special school where her academics were taken care of.”
Nwadiukwu pledged to hand over the girl to God by ensuring she served him for the rest of her life. She also planned to withdraw her from her former school to a better school where she would receive a quality education.
A senior Police officer at the Central Police Station, Awka, who spoke to newsmen on condition of anonymity, said some persons had been arrested in connection with the case, while the victim had since been reunited with the family.
He however said the prime suspect and owner of the orphanage was still at large, adding that the matter has been transferred to the state CID for investigation.
The Police spokesperson in Anambra State confirmed the incident, saying the investigation was ongoing.