Thursday May 23, 2019 was Andy Bature’s birthday. The day comes once in a year, and the Bauchi-based journalist had planned to celebrate it with friends. However, sorrow and tears shattered his planned celebration when he was kidnapped by eight gun-wielding hoodlums alongside his two friends on Kaduna-Jingir Road; a road that has gained notoriety for being a kidnappers’ haven in recent times.
For four days, Bature, who was born in 1984, was held captive in an unknown forest before he regained his freedom on May 26, after a traumatic ordeal at the hands of his abductors.
‘’It happened on our way back from Kaduna to Bauchi after attending a sensitisation programme organised by the Central Bank of Nigeria,” he said.
“The incident occurred at Saminaka section of Jingir Road when our vehicle was overtaken by eight gun-wielding men.’’
Although he did not share details of how he was eventually freed, Bature noted that the kidnappers thought they were rich men because of the car they were travelling in at the time.
“We were not targeted as individuals. It was not a personality target. We were actually trailed, perhaps because of the vehicle we rode in. They thought because the vehicle was posh, we must be some highly placed persons. But we were miraculously freed after they couldn’t get any money from us.”
Twice a victim
Bature and his friends regained their freedom from captivity by providence, and it was the same experience with Mrs Okoroafor (first name withheld) whose husband and daughter lost their freedom to kidnappers at different times in 2017 and 2019, but were miraculously freed.
Mrs Okoroafor said: ‘’we were living in Owerri, Imo State, where we were doing missionary work. On the eve of the New Year on December 31, 2017, we went to our village for the crossover service. After the service, we went back to our house at Owerri.
“We didn’t notice any vehicle following us, and our house was located in a close of four buildings. So as soon as my husband parked the car for my son to open the gate, we saw a Toyota Sienna car and we thought it was our neighbour’s, only for four men to alight from the car and ordered all of us out of the vehicle.
‘’We all came down from the vehicle, and they dragged my husband back into it and drove off. We tried to raise the alarm by shouting, but my son who went to open the gate thought that our noise was the type that people make to celebrate the New Year. So, he was dazed when he ran to us.
“He was just looking at us when he came and those people even knocked him down with their vehicle. We were all on the floor and they dragged him inside the vehicle and went away. This was around 1 am.
“Suddenly, there were people returning from the vigil among whom was a man who volunteered and took us in his car and carried us to the police station. We returned to the house and used the phones available.
“My son had come down from the car with his phone and my other daughter’s too. With these two phones, we were able to contact our senior pastor and brethren at Ahoada. Even though people had gone home after the vigil, some of them went back to the church for this case. They all started praying.
“Of course, in that kind of situation, you don’t expect us to sleep. People were telling us that God would have His way, and we really believed God.
‘’So, the next day, during morning devotion, I told God, ‘this is my husband’s seat. I won’t sit there. He has to come back and sit in his place.’ We later walked round the neighbourhood.
“I told my daughter to go round; maybe he was somewhere, because we didn’t expect that they would have just driven away as we had vigilantes in our area. So we walked round and came back, sat down and we were contemplating what to do. ‘’Before 10 am, somebody tapped the gate and I initially thought it was my sister’s son who also attends the same church with us. My elder daughter now went to check who was at the gate, only for her to scream that it was his father, my husband, with a different dress altogether. He never even knew where his abductors took him to.
“It was very early, and in that period, there was fuel scarcity. But we had fuelled the vehicle as we were planning to travel back to Ahoada the next day. Then he said they took him and he had to lie face down. He begged them to allow him to sit but they said if he talked again, they would just waste his life.
“He said he was stripped naked, tied and thrown inside the bush. He was begging them not to kill him and also begging God to send him help. So they dropped him inside the bush and zoomed off with the vehicle.
“So, he was crawling inside the bush, and the rope he was tied with was very tight. He was begging God to send him help and God helped him. When he was sighted by some vigilante men, one of them volunteered his coat and gave it to him because of the harmattan.
‘’They took him to the head of the vigilante group and the man gave him clothes to wear. They asked him to stay till the next morning. They asked him if he knew where he was coming from and he told them.
“They asked him to thank God because anybody the kidnappers stripped naked like that would often be killed. They also said he should be grateful to God that no animal came out to attack or kill him.
“The next morning, they gave him money and one of them took him to where he boarded a vehicle to Owerri. That was how he came back alive.”
Okoroafor also recalled how her unnamed daughter was abducted earlier this year on her way to University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
She said: ‘’Also, in January this year, my daughter was going to the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to resume for another academic session after the Christmas and New Year holidays when she boarded a bus from Owerri.
“On the way, the bus stopped and my daughter was kidnapped alongside other passengers in the bus. She was, however, freed hours later through divine intervention. It had been harrowing experiences and nightmare. There is no security anywhere. Only God alone can save us in this country.’’
Drama in the bus
Thirty-one-year-old Miss Toluwalase, who boarded a bus on her way to a Friday vigil, also shared her narrow escape from kidnappers in Lagos.
She said: ‘’I boarded a bus from Lekki while going to a vigil. I had to first go to Ijesha, along Mile 2-Oshodi Expressway, to join my sister so we could go together from her end.
“When I got to Costain Bus Stop, there was a heavy traffic and a lot of people were stranded at the bus stop. There was this bus calling ‘Orile’, so I boarded the bus. When we got to Orile, the same bus took commuters that were going to Ijesha, Cele and Oshodi.
“At Orile-Iganmu, some young men joined the bus. There were five of them and they met me in the bus because I was actually going to Ijesha. Four of them sat behind me and there was a woman sitting directly beside me, so the fifth man sat beside that woman. The man stretched his hand to touch me. When I noticed that he was struggling to reach out to touch me again, I looked at his eyes and told him not to touch me again.
“He started shouting on me, saying, ‘Your body na gold (is your body gold?)’ The woman beside me said to me, ‘Please, don’t mind them.’
‘’At the next bus stop, the woman alighted. The boy moved closer to me and I was no longer comfortable at all. I tried as much as possible not to rest on my back, because they were seated behind me in the bus, hence, I leaned forward.
“Not up to three minutes later, the one sitting directly behind me sprinkled some water on me. As I turned back to look at him, he quickly looked away and started looking outside. Before I could turn my face around, I lost consciousness and didn’t know where I was again. I tried to stand up, my saliva, everything was gone. I also could not hear anything again.
“But in my lack of consciousness, I just knew I had to shout, ‘Conductor, please can you drop me off?’ One of them then said, ‘Conductor, she never pay o. Make sure you collect your money before you push her down.’
“Immediately he said so, I told the conductor that I knew there was nothing wrong with me when I boarded this bus. I had given the conductor my N100 fare. I noticed there was an old man seated beside the driver. I said, ‘Baba, please pray for me, please pray for me, Jesus! Jesus!!’ And that boy became restless.
“They said, ‘Conductor, push her down! Just push her down! How can she be disturbing everybody inside the bus?’ I shouted the more, ‘Jesus! Jesus!! Please pray for me.’
“The Baba asked me, ‘Can you jump and come to the front and sit beside me? Because now, those boys wouldn’t allow me to pass.’
“I threw my bag to the front and jumped to the front seat, not knowing that the driver was watching the whole scenario from the centre mirror but kept quiet. The driver only said in Yoruba, ‘Ee, e tun ti bere (you people have started your evil game again). But not in my bus this night.”
‘’The driver drove on until he got to a spot where a police patrol team was stationed on the road and stopped. The boys started shouting, ‘Why did you park here? Move this vehicle from here! Is this place the bus stop?’
“The driver ignored them but went to the policemen and made a report of the incident. But I didn’t know exactly what he told them. The policemen came and ordered the boys out of the bus, and the driver refunded their fares.
“The driver came back and said to me, ‘Sister, congratulations! You are so lucky, your God is with you. This is what they do. They did the same to someone last week.’
“Immediately he said so, my memory just came back and I explained what happened to them. I called my sister and we eventually went to the vigil.’’
Anthony Iluyomade, a native of Akure, Ondo State, got more than he bargained for when he flagged down a Lagos taxi on Ikorodu Road and ended up in thekidnappers den inside a forest on the Benin-Ore Expressway in March, this year.
According to the civil engineer, he was in a hurry to honour an appointment with a client on Lagos Mainland when he took the taxi but lost his consciousness midway into the journey around Ketu in Kosofe Local Government Area.
He said: ‘’It was on Saturday March 3. I took a taxi in order to avoid getting late to a client’s place in Surulere for a contract appointment. Everything was cool until we got to Ketu and I lost my consciousness.
‘’By the time I regained my memory, I was in the midst of other victims inside a thick forest where people were slaughtered for ritual purposes. One after the other, victims were led out into a makeshift structure where a priest pronounced them fit for the rituals.
‘’When it got to my turn the next day, I was blindfolded and led out to the priest, who rejected me, saying that I was not suitable for the rituals after placing a fetish object on my head. He ordered that I should be returned to where I was seized, warning that failure to comply with his instruction would portend a bad omen.
‘’Instead of taking me back to where I was abducted, the men, who led me out of the place blindfolded, dumped me inside the thick forest, and I had to trek several kilometres in the night until I came to a path that petered out to the Ore axis of the Lagos-Benin Expressway.
‘’When I shared my ordeal with some truck drivers in the area, they gave me some money which I used to transport myself to my residence in Ikorodu, and my wife, children and neighbours rejoiced with me for being saved in a miraculous way.’’