Lawal Lateef and his wife, Monsurat, an Ibadan, Oyo State-based couple, are still thanking God for saving their newborn baby.
The couple is currently trying to shake off the anxiety which gripped them following the theft of their three-day-old baby at the Ogbere Tioya area of the state.
The tot was retrieved from one Itunu Adepoju; a self-acclaimed acquaintance to the Lateefs, through the help of well-meaning Nigerians.
Narrating the incident to Saturday PUNCH, Monsurat, who gave birth to a baby girl on Saturday, July 16, 2022 at Mission House, Yahora Faith Mission, Ogbere Tioya, Ibadan, noted that she went to immunise the newborn at Abaemu General Hospital, Ona-Ora, when she met Adepoju. She stated that the lady later stole her baby at their residence the following day.
“On Tuesday, July 19, 2022, when I went for immunisation, I was breastfeeding my daughter when she approached me claiming she knew me. She claimed to have known me from my area and that she was the daughter of my in-law’s friend. I couldn’t doubt the veracity of her claim because that is where I live. “She further said that she stays in Lagos State and came to Ibadan because she intends to relocate soon. She told me that she would prefer my area because she had previously lived around there. Out of love, I said I could help her because I know of a vacant apartment in the area.”
Monsurat noted that she exchanged contacts with Adepoju and departed after her session at the hospital. However, on Tuesday evening, Monsurat received a call from Adepoju stating that she was in her area to see the vacant apartment.
“When she got there, I took her to the vacant house behind my house and she negotiated with those in the house about payment and other things. She even chose her preferred room and gave time to make payment. “When we returned to my place, she called her supposed husband and said that she had seen an apartment and that it dragged into some minutes past 7pm on Tuesday. Then she begged me that she wouldn’t be able to return to her place and requested if she could pass the night in my house and leave in the morning after paying for the apartment.’’
Monsurat stated that when her husband returned home, he interacted with Adepoju who also claimed that she knew her and mentioned names of those who they worked together in his workplace.
She also told him that she was the daughter of one of his mother’s friends in Egbeda, Ibadan, adding that the names and descriptions she gave convinced her husband to allow her to pass the night at their place.
“The following morning, on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, after my husband left for work, she informed me that her husband had reached out and would soon send the money for the rent. Around 11 am, I was called by my husband and his mother to confirm that no one knew the lady and that the person she claimed to be her mother was not her mum.
“At that moment, I became restless and confused. I was told to find every means to get out of the house. When I got back inside, as if she suspected, she told me that she was ready to leave and that her husband had sent her the rent and the only thing left was for her to withdraw it at a Point of Sales shop. “My husband called me on the phone again and because I didn’t want her to listen to our conversation, I stepped out. Before I came back, she had my baby strapped to her back already and asked me for the nearest PoS shop and that when she returned, she would bathe. I wanted to follow her but she said I shouldn’t and I couldn’t bear it so I sent two of my neighbours to follow her; 15-year-old Segun and 12-year- old Gbenga. ‘’
Monsurat further said that immediately when they stepped outside the gate, one of her husband’s siblings came to see them and asked after the baby. Thus, she said she had to excuse herself to call Adepoju to return home immediately.
“When she picked the call, she said they had yet to be attended to. I told her that my husband’s sibling came visiting and that she could return to withdraw the money later and she said she was coming. At that point, I started tracing her to the PoS shop because I heard a background noise of bikes and cars which was not supposed to be. At that point, her phone was switched off and it was the last time I saw my baby until today.”
In his own narration, Lawal said that he was suspicious throughout the night when he returned home and saw Adepoju who despite saying he knew him, he couldn’t recall if they ever met.
“When I got back home that day, she greeted me properly but I couldn’t place if we ever met. She told me she knew me from Iso Parts, Sawia, Ibadan, Oyo State where I work and I was taken aback. She further asked me if I knew Habeeb, a part dealer like myself and I couldn’t do anything because she was right about the claims. However, I was not contended because despite those she mentioned, if she were someone I knew, I would have recalled her face. “The following morning, I left for my mother’s house immediately instead of going to the office to confirm her identity. When I got there, I told her my wife brought someone home who claimed to know me but I can’t recall her face. My mother said I should be careful and I called my sister whom she claimed was her friend’s daughter. Immediately, she said that she did not know the woman and thereafter, I called my wife asking her to get Adepoju out of our house immediately and to be careful of my baby around her.”
Lawal explained that it was not long after the call that a friend in the area called him on the phone to tell him that his newborn had been stolen.
Explaining how the baby was recovered, Lateef noted that immediately the baby was stolen, she went to Agidigbo FM, Ibadan and Target Police Station, Ogbere Tioya, to report the incident on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
“When we got to Agidigbo FM, we told them what happened and they assured us that we would recover the baby. They told us that they would work on it and that we should put our mind at rest. They sent some of their staff members with us to make further findings. To our surprise, we were called by the radio station on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, to confirm if the baby they saw was our baby. To our surprise, it was our baby and the lady who stole her.”
Monsurat noted that she was grateful to God for giving her the opportunity to set her eyes on her daughter again and thankful to everyone who assisted them.
In her explanation, the suspect, Adepoju, said she started facing challenges at age 13 and was abused sexually which she said affected her psyche.
Twenty-three-year-old Adepoju said she had been married to four men and had four pregnancies for them; Israel, Florence (deceased) and Mistura whom she gave birth to for her third husband.
“When I met with my current husband, I was impregnated and I told him that I didn’t want to take him to my parents because of my father’s attitude of belittling me before my suitors and they also changed towards me after meeting with him. He was fine with it and also told me that he would also not want his mother to know yet that he impregnated someone.”
Adepoju explained that she took Mistura to live with her parents until a day when her mum called her to say that her dad had sent her packing. She stated further that she was asked to come to Ibadan to take her and on her way she was involved in an accident at the time she was also pregnant.
“I returned to Ajah, Lagos State, to treat myself and I was in the hospital for 10 days. However, after leaving the hospital, I noticed that I started bleeding and went for a test. I was delivered of the baby later but the baby didn’t survive because of internal injury I sustained during the accident. “I could not tell my husband what happened and came to Ibadan to explain to my parents why I couldn’t pick Mistura. My husband called me and noted that I ought to have been delivered of the baby. I didn’t know what to tell him.
“On Ileya day, I called him to say that I had been delivered of a baby girl which the scan had earlier shown. He told me they want to arrange to come for the baby but I told him that my parents wouldn’t allow that and he should remember that I didn’t want him to meet my parents yet.”
She noted that despite her efforts to stop her husband’s family, the pressure they mounted on her was much.
“My father also mounted pressure on me that I must leave his house with Mistura. I left alone in the morning for a clinic because my stomach disturbed me. Also, I had called my husband that I would bring his baby for him. “I met with Mrs Lateef when I got to the clinic and told her that I needed to rent an apartment which I planned to move in with Mistura. I noticed she just gave birth and later met with her in the evening of Tuesday.
“On Wednesday, I planned to leave their house. However, I needed to use the PoS and while I was going there, my husband called me again lamenting about his baby and since I was with Mrs Lateef’s baby and I felt it was an opportunity for me to take the baby to my husband in Ikorodu, Lagos State which I did.
Asked if she regretted her action, Adepoju stated that she did regret her actions, adding that she tried to return the baby but couldn’t under the watchful eyes of her mother-in-law.
Speaking on behalf of the radio station on how Adepoju was apprehended, the Head of Station, Agidigbo 88.7FM, Ibadan, Yousuph Adebayo, who spoke to our correspondent, noted that that after the issue was brought to their notice, they did a programme alerting Nigerians to help in locating Adepoju’s whereabouts.
“We had one of our informants supply us with her original number which was not the same as the one Monsurat had and we started tracking her. We tracked her to Odonla, a close area to Odongunyan, Ikorodu. “We contacted some of our sources there who linked us with those who knew her and we were able to track her to her house. Those persons informed the family of what had happened and they brought her to our radio station on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.”
Adebayo added that the suspect was later handed over to the Oyo State Police Command after the baby was reunited with her parents.
The state police command confirmed the incident to our correspondent, adding that investigation was ongoing into the matter.
Contacted on the phone, the state police spokesperson, Adewale Osifeso, also noted that updates on the case would be provided accordingly.
Earlier in a statement, the police said,
“The dragnet of the eagle-eyed crack detectives attached to the command’s Special Enquiry Bureau caught up with one Itunu Adepoju, 23, of Badore area, Ajah, Lagos State, who on July 19, 2022, surreptitiously absconded with a three-day-old female baby from her mother.”
Commenting on the development, a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and senior lecturer at the Department of Psychology, University of Lagos, Dr Aroyewun Afolabi, noted that the psychological trauma Adepoju had gone through was the primary reason why she had found herself involved in the situation she was in.
“It has been established that trauma has the tendency to make people have impaired judgement. Evidence has shown that trauma generally, either physical, sexual, or psychological, has a relationship with impaired judgement. Psychological abuse and physical or emotional abuse has an association with depression. The trait looks like post-traumatic disorder. “Adepoju, with her history, having gone through four husbands at a young age, had children delivered four times, with three surviving and only two children alive and alongside a stillbirth a few weeks ago, can be traumatic. Going through that immediate trauma can trigger the past experiences she bottled up with nothing done about it.”
Afolabi noted that research had shown that a little life event could affect someone who experienced a traumatic event whether treated or not. He further noted that anxiety, depression, and impaired judgement could have develop in Adepoju due to her past experiences.
“After her current stillbirth, owing to the fact that she had not been earlier treated of her past experiences, she just had another problem added to what she was nursing. The person whom the police arrested and will charge to court is emotionally sick and needs attention and treatment. Despite how wrongful her actions were in the face of the law, she is a sick person that needs to be attended to. “Some people will say that it is a crime but I’ll say that it is what trauma brings and the impaired judgement which elicits criminality committed while she was not of a sound mind. Instead of being called a criminal, she should be treated as a sick person who acted under a sick state which the law should look into.’’
Afolabi also noted that if any punishment would be meted out to Adepoju, she should first be treated to realise that what she did was wrong.