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FOR FIVE MONTHS, I WORE THE SAME DRESS AND DID NOT WASH MY MOUTH OR TAKE A BATH –14-YEAR-OLD BOY

By NBF NEWS
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On August 27 last year, 14-year-old Precious Clophas was sent on an errand that should not have taken him more than 15 minutes to accomplish, but he ended up spending five months in the den of kidnappers.

His mother had sent him to pay the family's electricity bill for the month of July, 2009 at one of the offices of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria in their Akoka, Lagos neighbourhood. That, however, turned out to be the last time his parents would set their eyes on him before he resurfaced on January 18, 2010.

When our correspondent visited the residence of the Clophas on Wednesday, there were clear indications of their resolve never to allow their lost-but-found son to go out of their sight again. Precious was seen playing football right in the sitting room.

But there was little to suggest that the SS2 student of STA International College was as worried about his own security as his parents were. 'My experience has shown me that it is only God that protects,' he declared.

Recalling his journey into kidnappers' den, Precious recalled that he had barely left home on his way to the PHCN office when some men approached him.

'They said they were looking for somebody. I can't recollect the name they mentioned. I told them I did not know anybody by that name in this area. That was the last thing I remembered. I must have sniffed something or those people used a charm on me. By the time I woke up, I found myself alone in a room,' he said.

Back home, his sudden disappearance had caused serious anxiety. Precious' mother, Mrs. Roseline Clophas said, 'Initially, I thought he had branched somewhere to play football. Although my children are well brought up and would hardly do a thing like that, I had to think in that direction just to convince myself that something awful had not happened to him.

'Then night fell and we started looking at the clock and asking his friends in the neighbourhood if they had seen him. The day was a Thursday. By 2 am on Friday, I could no longer stand the tension, so I called his father who was in Port Harcourt.'

By 10 am the following day, tension had turned into panic as the mother and concerned neighbours searched for Precious all over Lagos.

When it finally dawned on them that he had disappeared, they went to the police station to report that Precious was missing. On hearing the news of his son's disappearance, Precious' father, Akpan abandoned his duty post in Port Harcourt and rushed down to Lagos to join in the search for him.

While these were going on, Precious struggled to adjust to his new environment. 'From the little I could see from where I was kept, I knew that I was no longer in Lagos State. I was left in the room for a long time after I woke up,' he said.

He said that after he had waited for a while without seeing nobody, he decided to explore the possibility of escaping from the room. 'The window was tinted somehow, so it was difficult to see outside. I tried to open it, but it appeared as if it was locked from outside, and there were burglary proofs. I also decided to start digging but I was afraid that if the saw it when the come to see me, they might beat me up, so I did not did the ground. Anyway there was nothing to dig with,' Precious recalled.

His calculation was right as the door to his room was opened not long after he made the decision not to dig. 'Some men came in, including the two men that came to our neighbourhood. They looked at me, and one of them told me that my father offended them and that was why they were punishing me. I was afraid. I did not know what my father had done to offend them, but I know that he is not a bad person. I tried to tell them this but they told me to keep quiet. Then they left. They did not give me any food, although I was not even hungry. I just wanted to go home.'

The following day, one of the men finally brought some food for Precious. But he would later learn that food in his cell would not be a regular thing. 'They gave me food any time they chose. There was nothing like breakfast or lunch. I started managing the food they gave me. They would just bring it and none of them would talk to me,' he recalled.

But lack of food was not the only thing the young man had to worry about. For the period was incarcerated, he was not allowed to take a bath or wash his mouth. After trying in vain to make whoever had brought food for him to understand that he needed to take a bath and wash his mouth, he finally accepted his fate.

'In fact, the cloth that I wore the day I was kidnapped was still the one I wore the day they released me. They did not give me any cloth to change into and did not allow me to cut my hair. I tried to talk to them, but apart from the time they told me that my father offended them, nobody spoke to me until I left them,' he said.

Precious said at the beginning of his plight, he lived each day in tension because he did not know what exactly they wanted to do with him. 'They did not beat me. They did not torture me. They did not take me to any place for rituals. After some time, I stopped caring less about what they would do and started praying that God should allow me to return home.'

Then one morning, there was an
unusual activity behind Precious'
room. 'Many of them came into
my room on that day, but there
was a particular man who looked different from them. He dressed better that the other people. I think he was the one that sent them, but I don't know him. He was not that old, but he was not young either. He asked the others, 'What is this boy still doing here? Go and drop him somewhere and let him go.' I was too afraid to be happy. Later, two men came and put me in a car. We drove for a long time and they dropped me in a place and drove off.'

Precious recalled that the place was secluded, but he had not lost his knowledge of geography. 'I saw a tall building far off and moved towards it. I made sure I did not lose sight of the building. Soon after, I got to a gate and discovered that it was that of the University of Benin. I was happy.'

Precious went inside the gate and approached some people who operated a business centre. Before they could send him away because of his unseemly appearance, he started explaining. 'I told one of them my story and she took pity on me. She gave me a phone and I called my father's telephone number. When he did not pick the call, I called my mother's number, but she did not pick it either. Then I called one of my uncles who lives in Port Harcourt. That was the number that I remembered. It was that my uncle that alerted my father who in turn arranged with his friend who lives in Benin to pick me up.

'Immediately I got to his house, I went into the bathroom took a bath for the first time in five months. Then the man gave me a cloth to change into. and the following day, I was taken home in Lagos.'

It was a happy reunion with the parents, friends and neighbours as Precious stepped back into the house he left five months ago.

The mother was the happiest, 'Why won't I?' she queried. 'As you are seeing me now, I am just trying to recover. I was more than worried. I went to police station and after the police could not find him, I went to church.

'I thank God that I did not go to any place that is not of God, but we prayed and fasted. Dry fasting, night vigil…name it, I did it all. I just couldn't comprehend how a 14-years-old-boy would vanish into thin air. I have never planned any bad thing against anybody's children, so I knew God would not allow any bad thing to happen to my child.

'When he told me that those people said that daddy offended them, I said may be they were mistaken. My husband had no other job apart from what he was doing, and he is a quite person. He is contented,' told our correspondent.

Precious is trying to adjust to life after his incarceration. 'I dream about it now and them, but they are not nightmare,' he told Saturday Punch. But his parents are leaving no stone unturned in seeing that he recovered very well.

'We took him to hospital and medical examination was conducted, the test showed that he had slight malaria and low blood count; he has been treated and I expect him to put his experience behind him,' his mother said.

Precious is also back at school and although he missed a term, his teachers did not think it would affect him since he is a brilliant child. For him, life continues.

Spokesman of the Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Frank Mba, said the police had closed the case file since Precious returned home. 'When the case was reported at Ilaje police division, the policemen there did what they should do-investigating the case. Anyway, he is back and that is that,' he said.