Against the backdrop of rising cases of kidnapping in the country, many Nigerians have devised funny means by which they can avoid being kidnapped, report KUNLE AKINRINADE, PAUL UKPABIO and BIODUN ADEYEWA.
As a routine, Jamal Adeolu, a system engineer with an engineering consulting firm in Lagos Island, does not return home through the same road he leaves for work. His strange itinerary is not without a reason. It all started mid-last year when he narrowly escaped being abducted by some gunmen close to his Abule Egba residence.
It was a cold evening after the rains that pounded the Lagos metropolis. To beat the heavy traffic that usually follows such a heavy downpour, the father of three started hurrying home at about 4 pm. Unfortunately, his fear became a reality as he was caught in a snarl of traffic around Oworonsoki section of the popular Third Mainland Bridge.
Three hours later, he arrived at Abule Egba and decided to do some shopping for his family in a mall around the area at about 7.30 pm. As he drove out of the premises of the mall after purchasing a few items, he noticed that a Toyota Corolla occupied by four men was coming behind him, but he had no inkling that the occupants could be kidnappers.
He was, however, observant enough to realise that the vehicle was showing up behind him at every turn. Not one to leave anything to chance, he drove into his neighbourhood on Meiran-Command Road at neck-breaking speed, still the men in the Toyota car followed him. At that point, he realised that the occupants of the vehicle were up to something sinister.
On getting close to his street, Adeolu stopped and jumped out of the car, running into safety.
“Although I was ahead of them, I knew that they might catch up with me if I continued with the race. So, I quickly parked the car and jumped out into safety near my street,” he said.
“When they got to where my car was parked, they shot three times into the air and everyone around ran for dear lives. They started saying that God saved me, otherwise they would have brutalised me before abducting me. I was palpitating where I hid myself in a water tank.
“Since then, I have made it a habit not to return home through the same route I left, because I felt that some insiders in my neighbourhood might be involved in the botched attempt to abduct me.“
Like Adeolu, Aminat Rahman’s traumatic experience with suspected ritual kidnappers has led her into taking some funny precautions at bus stops before boarding a bus to her destination.
It all began after her miraculous escape from the den of kidnappers around Sagamu, Ogun State, barely two years ago. On that day, she had left her residence at Isolo to visit one of her friends at Iyana-Ipaja, boarding a commercial bus at Iyana Isolo Bus Stop. Unknown to her, the occupants of the vehicle were kidnappers.
She said: “I had no inkling that I was entering into trouble when I flagged down a bus under the bridge at Iyana Isolo Bus Stop along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. I got to the bus at 1:00pm and that was the last thing I knew. By the time I regained consciousness, I was already blindfolded among several other captives at a grove. By Providence, the priest rejected me when it was my turn to be sacrificed and I was dumped in a thick forest.
“I ran for several hours and dashed out at a place close to a popular cement factory in Sagamu, Ogun State.”
The experience, according to Aminat, has made her to always wait longer at bus stops before boarding a vehicle.
“What I do now is to wait longer at bus stops and see that passengers disembark from a bus that I would board. I chose to do so because kidnappers don’t drop off their victims on the road.”
But Aminat’s strategy has not been without its consequences. “Sometimes, I wait for more than one hour at bus stops just to make sure I see a bus that would drop off passengers. This often makes me to arrive at my destinations very late, especially when I am returning home from work in the evening,” she said.
Wale Adebayo, an administrative clerk in a Lagos-based finance house, is nursing a gash on his forehead after he was thrown off a moving bus by suspected bus robbers, popularly called ‘one-chance’, around Alakija Bus Stop on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
He was returning from work and joined a commercial bus at Oshodi en route Iyana Iba area of Ojo when the occupants of the vehicle seized him, took his phone and the N20,000 inside his wallet.
Shocked by the development, Adebayo initially struggled with the robbers. In the middle of the struggle, his head was hit against the door of the bus, leaving him with a deep gash on his head.
“It was a terrible experience,” he said. “For days, I could not go to work because I was nursing the wound on my head. Even as I speak, I am still nursing the pain weeks after the wound has healed.”
Adebayo, who attends a white garment church, said the pastor of his church had foretold the incident during a Sunday service, but he did not pay any attention to the prophecy.
He said: “The pastor of my church, during a Sunday service two weeks before the incident, had asked the parishioners to pray against falling victim to ‘one-chance’ robbery. However, I left the church without joining in the prayer in order to attend the naming ceremony of my elder sister’s daughter somewhere at Okokomaiko.”
Adebayo recalled when he narrated the incident to his pastor, he (pastor) gave him a small crucifix to keep in his pocket at all times, assuring that the item would save him from robbery or kidnapping.
He said: “My pastor blessed a crucifix and told me to always keep it in my pocket, assuring that I would be saved from evil, especially kidnapping and robbery.
“To an extent, the crucifix my pastor gave me is working for me. Because there was a day I got to my neighbourhood and everywhere was deserted, only for my neighbours to congratulate me for not falling victim to a robbery operation in my street during which a man was killed.
“They told me that the sons from hell shot indiscriminately during the operation and a man that ran into them in his car was hit by bullets.”
For Anthony Ilevbare, the narrow escape of his daughter from kidnappers instigated by his housemaid four years ago is an ugly incident he would not want to happen again. According to him, the State, his housemaid connived with some persons to abduct his daughter from her school.
Luck, however, ran out on the abductors when his neighbours sighted them and raised the alarm, leading to the rescue of his daughter after the strange men were apprehended and handed over to law enforcement agents.
“Since then, my daughter does not leave home for school without being rubbed with a special anointing oil my pastor gave me. I strongly believe that only prayers can prevent one from falling victim of these heartless persons prowling around for victims. You know, when God is your fortress, there is no way you can be harmed. Hence, I also apply the oil on my head and body so I won’t be kidnapped too.”
Waheed Onasanya’s story is not different from others. Worried by the recent onslaught of kidnappers against travellers and commuters on Itoikin Road in Imota area of Ikorodu, the 45-year-old trader at Mile 12 Market revealed that a Muslim cleric-cum-spiritual leader of his Islamic denomination gave him a seal to always put in his pocket in order to avoid being abducted.
“I am not used to taking items like that until kidnappers recently made life unbearable for those of us living in the Imota axis of Itoikin Road.
“There was a particular day we heard that some landlords in my area were kidnapped and later released after an unspecified amount was paid as ransom. A few days later, some commuters were also abducted by gunmen along the road, and that made me to run to a Muslim cleric and founder of an Islamic organisation I belong to. He gave me a prayer seal to put in my pocket to avoid being kidnapped.
“Although some of the kidnappers terrorising my neighbourhood have been arrested by the police, I have not failed to keep the seal in my pocket for fear of running into kidnappers.”
Two years after, Mrs Yewande Awujoola, a resident of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is yet to overcome her ordeal in the ncident occurred on February 2015 when at his Ogijo residence in Ogun hands of vicious gunmen, who stormed her residence and whisked her away for five days.
The 50-year-old native of Osogbo, Osun State, who had been living in Abuja with her husband for more than 10 years, shared her ordeal, saying: ” The incident happened on the third day of a fasting and prayers session I was doing. I was preparing a meal to break my fast around 6.30 pm and my daughter had gone out to fetch water outside our apartment, hence, the door to our apartment was not locked. As she came in carrying a bucket of water on her head, three young men accompanied her into our apartment. At first, I thought they were robbers.
“But they didn’t ask for money, jewelry or take anything from the house. They asked me to cooperate, and led me out of the house and took me in the dark into a rocky forest near Abuja. Their hideout was under a rock that looked like a cave. They didn’t call my husband that night until the second day when they demanded for a ransom from my husband and also informed him not to involve policemen because that would be counter-productive. They didn’t dehumanise me, however.
“On the fourth day, two members of the gang left for the city in search of food. So, I was left with the third member of the gang, a young man. When I asked him why they were doing such a dirty job, he said it was because they didn’t have any good work to do. He apologised to me and asked me to forgive him. I prayed for him and asked him to forsake that evil way.
“I was eventually released on the fifth day in the night and dropped at the outskirts of Abuja. Since that encounter, any time I see two or three persons coming towards me or passing, I always feel unsaved, and I would detour and hide somewhere to allow them pass again.”
Also sharing the precautions he has adopted to forestall being kidnapped, a foremost filmmaker, Mr Fidelis Duker, said: “I have reduced long road travels and I advise others to do same. I travel by air whenever possible. I have also reduced the level of personal information that I give out to people when travelling or within my environment. Whenever I am driving, I watch out if I am being trailed or monitored and I advise that people should be extra cautious of their environment.
“The government must empower and motivate our security agencies with the right environment and equipment to work with. They must be properly equipped to fight and gather intelligence. In my opinion, l will suggest that our security agencies must work more with intelligence report. They must as a matter of urgency redirect their approach to curtailing kidnapping. Sincerely, the country is under siege; the North East, North West, North Central, South East and now the South West are no more safe.”
Mrs. Elizabeth Oluseye, a caterer, does not leave the house these days without reciting Psalm 91 repeatedly to cover herself, her family and children who are in school.
Mrs Oluseye told one of our reporters that she does that because “divine covering is better than all the bullet proofs in the whole world.” She added: “Our respected father in the Lord, Pastor (Enoch) Adeboye, in one of his books, described Psalm 91 as ‘our comprehensive insurance policy’. So, I cover myself, my family and children in school every morning against the evil activities of kidnappers and rapists. And because the word of God never fails, the scriptures have never failed me and will never fail me.”
Mr. Julius Ademoro, a clearing and forwarding agent, drives himself these days. According to him, he is comfortable enough to take a driver and, in fact, had in the past employed the services of two drivers. “But I had to stop engaging drivers,” he said, “when I started hearing and reading stories of how domestic aides have been implicated in cases of either arranging the kidnapping of their masters’ children or even killing their bosses outright. Although the drivers I had worked with didn’t do anything evil, I just had to take precautions. Of course, I paid them off handsomely.”
A landlord in Igando area of Lagos, who does not want his name in print, told one of our reporters that he and some of his colleagues in landlords associations have since stopped engaging personal security guards or gatemen in their houses because of the reports of alleged complicity of guards in cases of kidnapping, robbery and killing.
According to him, “What some of us do now is to rely on the general night guards to secure our streets. Most of these people are local hunters brought in from villages or members of a popular militia.
We pay them well and monitor them well. They have been doing a fantastic job and so far, there have been no untoward reports about them.”
Since the day Veronica, a computer graphic artist, fell into the hands of commuter robbers called in local parlance“One chance,” she has been wary of the kind of vehicle she now boards.
“Some time last year”, she recalled, “I had to stay the night in the office and on my way home early in the morning the following day, a commuter bus I innocuously boarded at Akowonjo Roundabout in Egbeda, Lagos, turned out to be ‘One chance’. I went through hell in their hands. I was to alight at Jimoh bus stop just a short distance away, but they detoured and took me to Ayobo. They beat the hell out of me, stole my money and also took my ATM. They forced me to give them my pin number and cleared my account. They also took my handset.
“Since that time, anytime there are not many ladies inside a bus or where there are only few people in the bus and the men inside the bus look like ‘area boys’, I will avoid it. These are indeed dangerous times.”
A tittle editor, who pleaded anonymity, will never forget the day he was robbed at gunpoint two years ago.
“It was sometime in March, 2017”, he recalled, “during an acute fuel scarcity in Lagos and other parts of the country. So, I had to take public transport to the office because I had no fuel to power my car. It was a production day; so I left the office late. By the time I got to my bus stop along LASU-Igando Road, it was past 11:00pm; it was drizzling and so the streets were deserted.
“A few meters to my house, three men on motorcycle accosted me and at gunpoint robbed me of everything I had on me – A Samsung Galaxy smart telephone, an Infinix smart phone, a gold-plated wristwatch and some cash. I lost over N600,000 in that encounter. Since then, anytime I see three men riding a motorcycle, my heart will skip in fright”.
The Nigeria Police Force recently launched ‘Operation Puff Adder’ against kidnapping and banditry across the states of the federation.
Announcing the commencement of the nationwide operation on April 5, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, in a statement issued by the Force spokesman, Mr Frank Mba, explained that ‘Operation Puff Adder’ will tackle violent crimes in the country, especially banditry and kidnapping in Kogi, Katsina, Niger and Zamfara.
Massive arrests of notorious kidnappers and bandits and seizure of arms and ammunition have been made nationwide since the operation commenced in several states in the country.