An Interview Granted to Biafra Writers Correspondent, Princewill Akubumma
In recent times, there have been lots of stories obout abduction and killing of innocent Nigerians by bandits and terrorist herdsmen in the northern part of the country, with indications that such abductions are targeted at Igbo owned transport companies.
Biafra Writers correspondent, Princewill Akubumma, chanced upon one of the victims who survived the attack and she narrated her ordeal in the hands of the armed Jihadist kidnappers. The victim who doesn’t want her name on prints is a woman in her late fifties from Orumba North in Anambra state. She is a teacher and had lived in Sokoto for almost 25 years before she fell into the hands of these dreaded kidnappers.
This heartbreaking story according to the eyewitness happened in January 2020 in a place called Guzao at Zaria-Kaduna road around 12 midnight. Excerpts:
Biafra Writers Correspondent: Good day Madam, we learnt you are one of the passengers traveling with Ezenwata Transport Company from Sokoto to the East that were kidnapped. How true is this?
Victim: Yes you are correct. That’s very true; I was on that bus that very night.
BWC: How many years have you lived in the north?
Victim: I have lived and worked as a teacher in Sokoto for about 25 years now but I haven’t witnessed this type of thing before during this number of years I have spent in Sokoto.
BWC: So tell us when and how it happened.
Victim: I was traveling home to the Eastern region from Sokoto state where I live, and I boarded Ezenwata Transport Company bus around 4pm on that day. We were scheduled to travel by night. We left Sokoto at around 10:30pm that very Thursday, the 9th of January, 2020. On getting to Zamfara, we were told to stop by other motorists who were travelling in the opposite direction because according to them, armed men were shooting sporadically at travelers and our driver had to stop by a petrol station along the road. We spent an hour there before we were told again that the road is clear and we continued on our journey.
Then reaching Guzao, along Zaria–Kaduna road, our driver applied automatic break and was about putting the bus to reverse when all of a sudden armed men emerged from the nearby bushes and started shooting sporadically and shouting on top of their voices. They commanded our driver to stop or be killed. Threatened, our driver to stop and we were commanded to alight from the bus.
The armed men told us to obey every command as that will be our only way to avoid being killed. We were told to line up by the roadside and we did. Then they asked the Christians to stand by one side and Muslims on the other side. The Muslims were asked to go back into the bus, with the explanation that their ransom had been paid by the Muslim community. The driver was then asked to take them to their destination.
Thereafter we the Christians were commanded to follow one of them. We were led into the bush together with the bus conductor. We trekked for about four hours -thirty minutes during which one of them repeatedly took phone calls in a strange language. We got to the thicket of the jungle and were told to sit on the ground and rest.
Then were commanded to come forward and pick our mobile phones which they spread out on the ground. As we did, we were asked to make a call one after the other to tell our people that we were kidnapped. While you are on the call, one of them will snatch the phone from you and complete the talking by telling your people how much they will pay as ransom.
When morning came, we found out that we are in the middle of nowhere. Everywhere was bushes. We were told again to stand up and were led further into the bush. After about one hour thirty minutes, we were told to rest. On reaching there, we found out that there are cooking pots, bowels, and bags of rice, palm oil, salt, and magi. Some ladies were told to cook rice with those available items.
The feeding pattern is that everyone must eat from the same bowel which is passed from one person to another. You have to dip your bare hand into the bowel and take the food as big as your hand can carry and wait for another round. Sometimes it will not come to you again and you have to endure and manage the one you had.
On the third day, in the middle of the night, we heard the sound of helicopter as its blades were tearing lower above us and we all have our hopes raised thinking that the Federal government has come to our rescue, but our hopes were dashed when we saw that it came to deliver some things to the bandits.
The kidnappers bragged that there’s nothing anyone can do to them, that even the federal government is aware of them and will not do anything to them. This they said as the warn us to pray that our relatives should cooperate with them if we want to leave there alive. This threat continued every day until I was released after a ransom was paid for my head.
BWC: How many days did you spent with them there before you were freed?
Victim: I spent seven days in their captivity.
BWC: How much was paid for your release?
Victim: Initially, they demanded for 10 million naira from my relatives but after much negotiations and pleading, they accepted 2 million naira.
BWC: How were you freed? Did they ask you to just walk away?
Victim: No. We didn’t just walk away. When my ransom was paid, I was asked to come forward alongside others whom their own ransom was paid. We were taking on a bike to a certain destination during which we were all blindfolded. We were conveyed to the main road and asked to find our way.
BWC: How many of you were sitting on a bike at a time?
Victim: We were three on each bike – the rider in the front, a captive in the middle with another kidnapper sitting behind us.
BWC: What happened to the rest of you that were abducted?
Victim: I wouldn’t know because as at the time I was freed, many of them whom their people cannot afford their ransom were told that they will be taken to another camp at the expiration of another four days and maybe to be killed or something. I wouldn’t know.
BWC: Was the 2 million naira a uniform ransom to be paid for everyone?
Victim: No, it depends on the bargain but we were told that the least they will collect from my people is 2 million.
BWC: Now that you are freed and in the loving hands of your relatives, do you think that you would go back to Sokoto again?
Victim: God forbid! As I am now here in Asaba, I have forgotten about my properties and other belongings in the north. I will never go back there again in my whole life.
BWC: What’s your advice for those Easterners living in the north?
Victim: My advice is that every Igbo or non-Igbo living in the northern states, especially Christians, must begin to come back home without delay because it is now obvious that we Christians are no longer wanted in the north.
BWC: Thanks for your time and happy survival.
Victim: Thank you.
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media