Saturday, June 1, 2019 1:26 pm
A clergyman, Rev. Z.O. Olarewaju of ECWA Church Iyah-Gbede, Kogi State in this interview with Richard Elesho narrates his experience with kidnappers
Q: We understand that you were a victim of kidnapping by some bandits. Can you let us into details of your experience?
It happened on a Wednesday. I was on my farm for brief inspection because the church was mourning. My intention was just to go and supply food and water to the labourers on the farm. So I decided to take my car so that it would be faster. On getting to the farm, I resolved to leave my local gun in the car.
Anybody that knows my land knows it is a flat plain land that I have developed to tractor operator. It was a free land but to my surprise I didn’t see them until they were very close to me, I quickly ran towards my car to carry my local gun but already two people were already in the car. Then four or five of them confronted me. So I picked up a very large stick from the ground and used it to hit the closest person to me, to the extent he got injured. All of them gathered on me and put me on the floor. They gave me the beating of my life. I started screaming for help but no one could hear me. As I was shouting they tied my hands.
Did they shoot?
Yes, seriously. They fired several times possibly to scare people away. They first of all cut me with their cutlass about three times but I didn’t know what deflcted it from seriously cutting me. They then used a stick to hit my head. I felt very weak and they started moving me into the bush very close to my farm. As they were going, moving into other peoples farm would have been easy. They kept hiding me in the bush till evening around 7pm. We started moving; as we were moving they started asking me if I knew some places I had to lie saying no. Then they took me to the main road and asked which street was this but I lied. They also asked if I understood Hausa, I said no. As we continued moving they told me that my kidnapping was on contract.
They claimed that they were sent to kill me. But I knew that it was a lie and that they only wanted to scare me. They then asked how much do I have in my account and I said that it was only forty thousand that was in my account and that it was even a loan just sent to me, so that I could use it to pay my children school fees. One of them then shouted that they needed N20 million and that they would give N10 million out of the money to the person that sent them.
We then moved from Iya-Gbede bush to Mopa road. I knew when we crossed Iluhagba road to the other side. At Iluhagba area there was an informal settlement. I saw peoples properties like women’s cloths and other things in the bush.
You were there for how many nights?
I passed about three nights; Wednesday/Thursday/Friday and Saturday I was released on Saturday afternoon.
Which language were they speaking?
They were speaking Fulani language and sometimes Hausa. I think they were scared of speaking Hausa, maybe they have been told that I understood it. They even called some of their members and spoke Hausa to them. They were all skinny but it was only one of them that put on little weight I thought he was an Hausa man.
Did you at any point suspect they had other collaborators?
May be they had. They were calling people, but I didn’t know where they were. They even called a person asking what was going on in town; who in turn was telling them. Then someone told them that if any police officer came there, then they should kill me first. They were using upgraded gun like AK47 and my local gun that they stole from my car.
Did they all carry guns?
No. Only three of them had guns but they also added my own to make four.
What were you fed with?
When I was kidnapped around 9am they gave me garri around 7 in the evening. After eating it my hands and legs were tied and I was not given water or anything.
Did they give you food every evening?
Yes, that is garri and water. And the garri they gave me I would intentionally eat it slowly so that I would be able to see.
Did they not hurry you?
They did. But I told them that I had sour throat because there was a time they held my neck seriously,
At what point did they make contact with people?
Almost every evening.
Did they ask you about your identity?
No they only told me what they heard about me. That I am a good farmer and that I have four SUVs. But I only told them that I have one bus and it is for the church. They also said that I have money that I am one of the people controlling Abuja, and this was when I started doubting them. I think they only did that to find out the truth. They took my phone put the sim card in their own phone and they viewed most of my contacts. They also saw that my daughter is at the air force but I tried to deny and told them she is my senior brother’s daughter. They then called called her name.
So they could read?
Yes, they could read. In fact, one of them could speak English while the rest were only able to speak Hausa and little English.
Did any of them speak Yoruba?
Yes their commander, a very smart and small boy. Any time they wanted to make negotiation they would ask me in Yoruba but I would speak pure Yoruba that they couldn’t understand.
How old was the commander?
He would be around his late 20s, Most of them were not that old
Maybe around 40s?
Yes, maybe around 40. But there was one that looked like 50. I suspected he was their herbalist. He was the one I injured. When I injured him, he asked two of them to follow him home. When I first saw them they were seven. Then, they were Five and Seven again. They said I should not look at them but the only time they were complete were when we were moving.
So at such time they would free your legs?
Yes but I could only see the two people in my front not at my back and they also tied my hands. And anytime they negotiate and its not good enough they start to beat and injure me,
How did you usually sleep?
They will ask me to sleep on the ground. There was a day they put leaves on the ground. If they wanted to sleep they would ask two people to sleep beside me. And they warned me not to run away that if I run away that they would kill me. However, there was a time I attempted but I couldn’t because they tied my hands and legs.
Did they at any point show kindness or compassion?
There was a time, the first day, they said they would kill me. They even dropped me inside one pit and threatened to finish my life there. They said they would bury me and no one would detect my dead body. They were already prepared to shoot me when two of their men started begging.
Also when they showed me kindness was when they flogged me mercilessly with big sticks. The following morning their boss came to me to apologise for what they did to me the previous night. He then assigned two people to guide me to where they were meant to release me. In Hausa the two people were saying ‘we treated this man badly’. When they were suppose to release me totally they told me four things. Firstly that I should not fight, that I will have money in this world, that I shouldn’t tell anyone my experience in the bush, and lastly that I will live long. If you came maybe two days ago I wouldn’t have been able to talk you. You can even see the traces of my body
All the while you were in the bush what was on your mind?
I had doubts about my survival, but I just continued praying in my mind. I was thinking of my wife and children. My wife had health challenges. And thank GOD my children are already graduating.
They said someone sent them to kidnap you, do you suspect anybody?
But GOD knows the truth.
Have you reported to the police?
The community has since gone to the police and other agencies to report.
How do you feel about your abductors now?
They told me something when I was about to leave them. They said I should not curse them. They said it is because of the way Nigeria is that is why they are doing this, that I should pray for them to leave what they are doing. I told them I was not going to curse anyone.
Is it true they said that no Fulani will kidnap you again?
Yes they did. But they also said I should not look for trouble. They said even if they are passing my farm they will not branch. They told me no Fulani will kidnap me again for life.
How much was paid as ransom for your freedom?
You mean they collected as much as N500,000
Yes, they did. In addition, they even asked them to bring rice, pepper, and milk
And you didn’t eat out of this?
I didn’t, maybe they wanted to use it to celebrate. They were cooking noodles and they didn’t give me. They only gave me garri. They waited till they collected the money before they finally released me.
What advice do you have for people?
To be more security conscious. The federal government should create jobs for people because they mentioned it and that some of them were jobless that is why they find themselves in these activities. I advise government to find job for people and pay wages to people and salary when due. If government can’t employ young graduates they should at least give them what they can do.