Adamu Duguri, 65, is an elder brother of the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed. The retired Deputy Comptroller of the Nigeria Customs Service, who holds the traditional title of Wakilin Bauchi in Bauchi Emirate, was kidnapped on March 25, 2020 by four gunmen. He was released on April 20, 2020. He shares his experience in the hands of kidnappers with a group of select journalists, including ARMSTRONG BAKAM
You were kidnapped some few weeks ago and held by your abductors for over three weeks, how were you taken?
I was stolen! What has been destined to happen will surely happen; nobody can change it. When you see people with rifles, the next thing is to look for an escape route, but at that time, there was no possibility of escape. So, I had to submit and I told them, “Wait! You want to take me? Let’s go.” Because if they had started releasing bullets, only God knows how many people would have been killed. So we entered the vehicle and they drove off.
Where did they take you to?
Not far away from where they kidnapped me, not up to a kilometre. You know, when they kidnap someone, they would blindfold the victim and cover their faces too. We took different turns; left, right before they entered the house. It was within Bauchi metropolis. All along, I was inside Bauchi. I could hear prayers and sermons from Izala and all the places that I know.
What was your experience in the hands of the kidnappers?
It was a hostile environment because when you couldn’t show courage, you’d be in trouble. I was courageous enough to want to know what their motive was, and it took time before I realised what they wanted. The weather wasn’t favourable; it was a small room and we were six in the room. There were watchmen with rifles. The environment was hostile and very hot.
You said it took you time to realise what they wanted; what did you find out that they wanted?
You know, kidnappers have so many motives and if you are intelligent enough to realise what brought them to you, you have achieved one step. I was thinking: Is it political? Are they my brother’s enemies? Are they looking for money? My mind and brain were working seriously to figure out what they were looking for, but it took time before I realised what they were doing. The situation was pathetic. The kidnappers had a strong religious ideology and all of them were Muslims. I am equally a Muslim. So, what will give you a nightmare (is that) we prayed together though I refused to follow them for some obvious reasons. We prayed the same prayers, recited the same Quran but they were my kidnappers. You see, there is a kind of gap between individuals and their faith; I noticed that. They were not people who had a different faith from mine, but still, they were my kidnappers. They also gave me respect as an elderly man.
During the time you were held captive, what did they feed you?
If you are here in the North, there is nothing you cannot eat. Our food here is uniform. There was no Tuwo. What they gave me were macaroni, rice, and spaghetti. There was a woman there cooking and I would eat the food (laughs). When I refused to eat, they gave me fruits. They were very hospitable to me, really.
What kind of conversations did you have with the kidnappers?
They didn’t talk inside the room; they only used signs but before we parted, I realised that I even knew all the signs. They didn’t speak because they didn’t want any other person around to hear them. The room where they kept me was very close to the main road so if anybody was standing outside, he would hear us. You can imagine how surprised I was when they told me that the Emir of Bauchi went somewhere and requested that people should pray for my freedom. They came and told me that. You see, whatever happened around, they would come and tell me. But I can tell you that they didn’t do anything to humiliate me.
Were their faces covered?
Some of them did; most of them are not from this state but I could identify the voices of one or two of them but I don’t know who they are but I knew their voices.
Was their motive political or purely financial?
That is still a source of nightmare for me. They mentioned some names. Don’t allow kidnappers to mention names because they know how to tell lies. They have the ability to create unhealthy rivalries among people, so when I noticed that, I refused to allow them mention the names of people allegedly behind my kidnap. They called a name and I said no, I don’t have any problem with the person and don’t believe in what you are saying unless you have your own problems with him.
Then they mentioned the name of a former governor and I believe the former governor is not feeling well, so I see no reason why he should arrange that I should be kidnapped; he cannot be heartless to that extent. I told them not to mention the other nine names to me and they kept quiet. They listened to me actually because they had agents going inside the town who saw that people were getting worried. One of them told me that he monitored my movements for more than three years and never saw me in a bad place. He said he never saw me doing anything bad and that was why they were afraid of me. I told them not to be afraid of me but that they should be afraid of themselves and what they were doing.
I said to them: “Now, you’ve separated me from my family and friends and you are telling me that you are doing a good work. No!” The first thing I noticed was that religious motive was there because Nigeria is a very funny country. They were mainly youths and I know that there is no clear-cut policy for Nigerian youths. Most of them were youths with polluted minds because what they were saying about the government and successful people was bad.
They knew you were the governor’s brother before they kidnapped you…
They knew. I told you they said they monitored me for more than three years; they even told me that I had an attaché.
After you regained your freedom, you released a statement saying you had forgiven your kidnappers…
You see, Nigeria is a funny country, I told you earlier. These people, we started as enemies but when I was leaving, they were crying. The place was hostile and very hot: one small door, two small windows which they had blocked and they locked the door. It was very hot so they used the local hand fan to fan me. They didn’t do anything to humiliate me. I have heard how kidnappers tie people up and beat them but they did nothing like that to me. It was just like a military formation; in the morning, one of their leaders would ask me if anybody insulted me. There was one who did something to me and I queried why he did that, they removed him and gave me another guard (laughs). So, it was a well established formation.
They said they had so many orphans to take care of and that was why they must kidnap people and collect ransoms though I don’t believe that. I asked them, “How do you get the orphans?” They said from their members, so I realised it was a religious organisation, so I stopped trying to get more (information) on that because it was dangerous. But I asked if they had any relationship with Ibrahim Shekau (Boko Haram leader) but I noticed that they hated him. If they had their way, they could kill him. This kind of thing would make you get confused; if it was purely a Boko Haram organisation, they would be for Shekau, but they were hostile in answering questions about him.
What was going through your mind during the time you were there?
I understood they didn’t want to kill me; they were not in support of killing people. I even asked them, “What of bombing?” They said no, that is what they don’t want. They said they didn’t want to see people dead. Is that not a contradiction? That was why I told you earlier that I had not yet reached a conclusion on what their motives were, but I noticed it was a religious organisation.
Did they release you or did the police rescue you?
I was afraid of having security men coming to rescue me. I believed I would die if that happened because they would come and start firing gunshots to kill all of us there. I know we don’t have a sophisticated way of handling rescue operations. I asked them how they talked (during negotiation) and they said they would not talk because they would be tracked. They are educated; they had western education not only religious education. They did not communicate with my family directly; they knew what they were doing. They would take the audio recording of my voice to Jos, and from there give to somebody in Kaduna. That person will send it to Kano, then the person in Kano would call my family; that was what they did. When they did that twice, I told them, “Look, your anti-tracking measures will fail, you must change.” They agreed. They went to Gombe not Jos this time to avoid being tracked.
What lessons did the experience teach you?
We have a lot of problems in this country. I said earlier that there is no clear-cut policy for the youth; this is the most important thing.
Are you saying that some of these youths are doing this because of high rate of employment in the country?
Yes, because an idle mind will start thinking of how to be like others and to do that, they will take the most dubious route.
High profile personalities like you are kidnapped every now and then, what suggestions will you give to the government as regard how to improve security?
Some members of the National Assembly visited me and I told them to prepare a clear-cut policy for Nigerian youths. If they are left this way, it will be a problem in the future. They are large in number and have physical strength. They have similar issues that will bind them together, so it will be a very volatile problem in the future if it is allowed to continue like this. They must eat, they are strong enough to look for women, they can drink, whereas nothing (jobs) is forthcoming, what do you think will happen? And they are being used by politicians and others once they give them some money. The problem affects the whole country. Look at the Niger Delta youths, Sara Suka youths, and others; each society has its own problem of youth restiveness.
When you met with the governor after you regained your freedom, how did he react?
We have so many brothers (half-brothers) but what makes it emotional (for us) is because I am the only one who shares the same father and mother with him. He was emotional but I wasn’t. He felt bad. People think I was abducted because they wanted to bring him down but I am not sure of that.
You said you had already forgiven your abductors…
I went sentimental to do that; don’t encourage violence. I know they are human beings. Capital punishment is not the solution. If you forgive, God will forgive you equally; that is the only reason. There must be a reason for doing what they did which I don’t know and nobody knows but God knows it; that is why I have gone emotional.
They wouldn’t have released you if no ransom was paid…
(Laughs) You know it was a big catch; they said it. They also said they had never kidnapped somebody as big as I am; they went through my records. They knew I was with Customs. They knew I knew what they were doing. I cooperated with them; I was doing it to know who they were anyway. They felt I was a threat to them. They demanded N350m and I told them, “Come, if you are looking for such money, I will continue to be a liability to you here and you know I have acclimatised (to the conditions) already. I am not feeling bad. I eat well; the only problem is that I don’t sleep well.” All of us were sleeping on a mat; they gave me three pillows. I told them I had acclamatised (to the conditions) and if they wanted me to continue eating their food, no problem. They gave me apples, malt drink, and so on. Anything I wanted to eat, they provided for me.
I said I didn’t have that kind of money and I asked them, “Or are you thinking that the governor will bring Bauchi State money and give you so that they can impeach him?” They told me there is a problem in the House of Assembly regarding whether the governor would take money from the state coffers and give to them. I said maybe in my capacity as a private person, I could get that but since I was there with them, where did they expect me to get the money? Then they became sentimental. They said Bauchi government was their government and that they could kill anybody who went against the government. When I saw that, I had to follow that line. I told them we didn’t have that money.
I asked them how much a barrel of oil cost in the international market and they said $20 to $25 per barrel. I reminded them that the Assets and Funds Recovery Committee said over N1tn was missing in Bauchi; they said they heard about it. Then I asked them what should we do and they said they would see what they could do. They said they could reduce it to N150m. I told them it meant I would continue to stay there with them because nobody would give them that kind of money. They said they would release me after collecting what they could get and then I would give them the balance later. I asked them how they would collect the money. I said if they should come to my house, I would shout: “They are my kidnappers.” The money we paid is not even up to N100m; it is not up to that because my family did very well on that. Actually it was about N50m they collected. I must tell you that is what it is. As an old man, why should I even lie? I can afford N50m, you know? I don’t need it from Bauchi State Government, I can afford it.
As a retired Deputy Comptroller of the Nigeria Customs Service, what do you think should be done to address the problem of insecurity?
I fought Boko Haram when I was in service and in Maiduguri, what was given to us? Nothing! Anybody who tells you that motivation is not important in personnel management, (know it is a lie). They (soldiers) are afraid; they value their lives because in the event of death, even their entitlements are not paid to their families. How can they put in their best? They need encouragement and motivation as human beings; without that, we are going nowhere.
See the lives they are living, are they doing well? They are not. Even when they should get allowances, go and ask the management if they are giving them. They can’t put in their best.
But billions of naira are being budgeted for security in the country every year…
Are these monies being disbursed? Go and ask and see if they have reached the destination they are expected to reach. Budgeting doesn’t mean disbursement.
Source: Saturday PUNCH