Six months after they went missing in the Republic of Cameroon, the fate of three Nigerian police officers is still shrouded in uncertainty, a development that has been giving members of their families sleepless nights.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Olutope Falode, Inspector Yohama Gamida, Inspector Mohammed Usman, attached to the Interpol section of the Nigeria police in Abuja, and a civilian vehicles mechanic, Mommoh Usman, went into Cameroon en route to Gabon to recover a stolen car when contact with them was lost, it was learnt.
The stolen vehicle had been traced to the Republic of Gabon in Central Africa through the Interpol database for recovered vehicles before the team was dispatched to return it to Nigeria.
The policemen, in the company of the mechanic, left Nigeria through the border in Akwa-Ibom State and entered Cameroon on September 3, 2018.
As soon as they entered the neighbouring country, DSP Falode, who was the team leader, logged in with the Interpol in Cameroon, from where it was believed that the team had continued by road for their destination.
However, it was gathered that Falode and the rest of the team became unreachable while still in the Cameroonian territory and have since not communicated with the Nigerian police officials and their family members back at home.
Police sources noted that the procedure, as was done when they entered Cameroon, was also to log in with the Interpol in Gabon, which did not happen.
It is believed that the policemen and their civilian counterpart were lost in Cameroon.
The plan was that one of the police inspectors would drive the Hilux van on the return journey to Nigeria while the civilian mechanic would drive the recovered vehicle.
Falode’s wife, Mrs Titi Falode, told Daily Trust on Sunday that she became alarmed when her husband did not call to update her about his travels.
“This is not the first time he is traveling; he goes anywhere he is sent to. I don’t know his whereabouts. They said he was going to Gabon.
“I want them to help me find my husband. I have four boys; it’s only the help of the family of my husband and the people around me that is helping me pay school fees.
“The eldest son is 13. The government should please help find my husband. He is working at the Interpol. I don’t know where he is that Interpol cannot find him.
“The president should please help me find him. If it is money they need they should please settle them. If he offended them, this is not the way they should punish him,” she stated.
Falode’s elder brother, Oluyemi Falode, told Daily Trust that family members, including their parents, had met with senior police officers at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, where they were told that efforts were being made to find the missing men.
“Assistant Commissioner of Police, Interpol, Lanre Balogun, first came to Ibadan to speak to our parents.
“We came to Abuja on September 17, 2018; they said when he left on September 3, there was no reply to his number, that was how we sensed that something was wrong,” he said.
He said they were told it took a long time for Cameroon to respond to initial enquiries, adding that after two months, the Cameroonian military attaché in Nigeria was contacted, with a plea that his country should assist in locating the missing policemen.
He said Falode’s family was briefed of efforts to find the policemen through information exchange and the involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cameroon Embassy in Nigeria.
He said the family learnt that authorities were working with a theory that the missing men may have been caught up in Cameroon’s conflict zone, between the Cameroonian border with Gabon where separatist militia are active.
He said frantic efforts were being made to find out if they were captured by the separatists and are being held captive at a prison or detention facility.
When contacted, the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), ACP Frank Mba said: “The Police have done so much to ensure that this case is cracked and the personnel brought home. The Force has mobilised all relevant government and international agencies for mutual assistance.”
He said the Police had contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria Immigration, Office of the National Security Adviser and the National Intelligence Agency, noting that the agencies also contacted their counterparts in both Cameroon and Gabon.
“Similarly, the Interpol department of the Nigeria Police Force is working assiduously with other corresponding Interpol offices, both at the regional level and its world headquarters in Lyon, France.
“Specifically, the Interpol has placed a ‘Yellow Notice’ for easy identification of the missing men anywhere in the world.
“The relevant information of the vehicle in which the policemen were travelling has been declared on the Interpol database.
“You can see that the Police have activated all investigative platforms and channels at national, bilateral, regional, continental and world levels.
“We are also in touch with communal leaders in Gabon, Cameroon and the border areas of Nigeria. It is a mysterious disappearance, yet we will stop at nothing in ensuring that our colleagues and brothers are safely located and reunited with their families.
“We appealed for patience and understanding from the family of our missing colleagues. At the same time appeal for relevant information from members of the public.”