Horrors of kidnapping, tough ransom negotiation, by survivors


  • EVICTION: Afenifere, MBF, PANDEF, Amechi tackle NEF
    Armed herdsmen

    Herders kidnapped me, butchered my guard, destroyed my farm – Falae

  • Abductors nearly raped my wife with her three months pregnancy – Ex-captive

  • All my business money gone into ransom payment, market women leader laments

  • Kidnapped student: How I escaped from human parts dealers

  • We were told never to return to our farms — -Delta women

By Dayo Johnson, Akure, James Ogunnaike, Abeokuta, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Ado-Ekiti, Shina Abubakar, Osogbo, Ozioruva Aliu, Benin-City & Nnamdi Ojiego

STATES, especially those in the southern part of the country, have been under siege by bandits, herdsmen, kidnappers, rustlers, all manners of criminal elements.

Residents raised concerns over the murderous activities of kidnappers who not only destroy farmlands but also maim, rape female daughters and wives of farmers.

In Ondo State for instance, a regent was abducted, a first class traditional ruler killed and wives of monarchs kidnapped in different attacks.

The activities of herdsmen suspected of involvement in killings in Oyo State came to a head after activist Sunday Adeyemo (also known as Sunday Igboho) led a group to give Fulani resident in Ibarapa area of the state a seven-day ultimatum to quit the area.

The ultimatum is still generating ripples across the country.

Reports from Ogun State said residents of many communities are on edge over killer herdsmen.

Women in Edo and Delta states trooped to the streets last week in protest against kidnapping in the two states.

Herdsmen, according to Ondo State government, have turned forest reserves to hideouts from where they kidnap and negotiate ransom with families of captives.

Most attacks take place on highways but the assailants also lay siege to towns and farms indicating that nowhere is safe.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu was accused of treating the rampaging herdsmen with kid gloves.

But all that changed when he issued a seven-day quit notice to herdsmen forest reserves.

This led to a meeting brokered by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) between Akeredolu and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).

Six governors, four from the South-West and two from the North, attended the parley.

They are Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti and NGF Chairman), Alhaji Badru Abubakar (Jigawa) and Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi).

Lagos and Ogun governors were not present at the meeting.

The meeting banned night grazing and underage herders in the South-West while the NGF supported Akeredolu order that herders operating in forest reserves should register.

Meanwhile, whereas several states, especially those in South-West, are on red alert over violent crimes, some of the survivors of kidnapping say they are still shaken by their experiences.

One of them, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Chief Olu Falae, who was abducted in his farm on his birthday, spent four days in kidnappers’ den.

Herdsmen butchered my guard —Falae

“The herdsmen butchered my farm guard and took away his heart and rifle”, Falae started as he recounted his story to Sunday Vanguard.

“It is over 35 years since I started operating my farm here in Akure (Ondo State capital). And the cattle and their owners have become a threat or tool for harassment for many years.

“At first, they would come in the night to drink water. We were tolerant and they did not stay here.

“We told them, ‘just drink water and go’. Later, they would come in the night, eat our maize and go. I complained to their people more than 10 times. Later, the same people kidnapped me.

“When people say they were Fulani kidnappers, they ask you, ‘how do you know they are (Fulani)?’ “Everybody knows a Fulani man. Fulani himself knows himself. They are not children. When they were brought to court, they said they were Fulani themselves and most of them were jailed by court.

“I have been at the receiving end a lot of times. After I was kidnapped, they went and killed one of my guards – Ayo. They killed him, opened his chest and took away his heart.

“His gun, they took it from him and killed him. It is still an unresolved murder case with the police.

“Is it (reason for kidnapping) economic? I am an economist myself. “They burnt the non-crop area because the grass was already dry. Cows don’t eat dry grass. They burnt it so that fresh grass will grow. They were already growing grass on my farm as if it was their land.

“They burnt my oil palm farm. I did a video of it for the Commissioner of Police to watch. I played it also at the Afenifere meeting.”.

Falae, speaking on another attack on his farm late last year, narrated, “They attacked my citrus farm and stole harvested oranges and destroyed what they could not carry away.

“The police on duty on the farm were sent to drive them away.

Olu Falae inspecting his farm after it was set ablaze by herdsmen

“But they have been coming back to attack my workers in our camp, breaking their doors and carting away their belongings!

“Let Amotekun save us and our livelihood. They first kidnapped me on the 21st of September 2015.

“My farm has been attacked five times and it is a deliberate act to probably kill me, run me out of business or make me run away from the farmland which is not possible.”

Rape

A couple, Mr. and Mrs. Gbenga lbikunle, who were kidnapped by gunmen along Owo/Akure road around Uso community in Owo council area of Ondo State, also related their horrors to Sunday Vanguard.

Gbenga lbikunle said they were released after spending three days in captivity and paying N2m ransom.

“It was around 5pm on the fateful day and we are approaching Ogbese town when a motorcyclist riding in front of me swerved to my side and I hit him”, he recalled.

“I stopped the vehicle to sympathise with him and check the condition of my car when about six gunmen emerged from the bush, shooting sporadically and we had to lie down.

“I had never been so beaten the way they did to me all my life.

“They beat me and my wife, dragged us on the floor and ransacked our car before dragging us into the forest, leaving our three children in the car after collecting their phones.

“The children cried but they took us away.

“They ransacked my car and made away with N700, 000. They tied my wife and I together and we walked for hours into the bush.

“In the course of walking, we crossed a river. The water was so deep it reached my chest.

“Before we got to the place where they keep their victims, it was around 10 pm.

“They were Fulani and they knew the terrain very well. The way they operated inside the bush, it was as if they were brought up in that domain. “Even the guns they carried were intimidating.

Camp

“Where we were kept was not a camp. It was just under a big tree and we could hear farmers working on farms nearby. We could hear them clearly.

“When we got to their hideout, they removed our wristwatches as well as jewelries we had on us. They tied our legs and hands.

“They also covered our mouth with clothes and blindfolded us. After doing that, they began to beat us heavily. They really descended on us with heavy beating.

“Later in the night, our phones began to ring because our relations expected that we should have arrived Akure. But they were just beating us.

“It was the following day that they asked us to look N20 million before we could be released.

“We met a young man also taken captive at the hideout, they tied him and blindfolded him and they beat us together before they opened negotiation with my people.

“They even wanted to rape my wife but she told them she was three months pregnant.

“They told my people to bring N20m to secure our freedom but, at the end of the day, they agreed to take N2million. They collected N10million ransom from the family of the other captive.

“They collected the N2m ransom from my brother on the road very close to Ogbese. The money was not dropped in the bush; they physically went to collect the cash on the road between Uso and Ogbese town.

“I understand the police claimed to have rescued us. You can ask the other guy, we left the forest together; there was no police or Amotekun anywhere.

“I can confirm to you that some people within these communities who speak Yoruba are working with these kidnappers.

“I want to advise that those who love their lives should stay away from that axis for now.

Kidnappers

Gbenga Ibikunle’s younger brother Lanre, confirmed to Sunday Vanguard that he personally handed over the N2million ransom to the kidnappers on the highway and the couple were handed over to him.

According to him, the family agreed to pay the ransom when it was clear that security operatives could not do anything to rescue the couple.

“The kidnappers warned me against informing police, and threatened to kill the couple if I tried to involve security agents”, he said.

“The ransom was contributed by family and church members.

“The kidnappers initially demanded N20 million. Then they brought it down to N15 million, then N10 million, and then N7 million and eventually N2 million and it was paid in cash.

“They released my brother and wife to me after they got the ransom, escorted us to safety, waved us goodbye and told us to take the woman to hospital because of the trauma she passed through and her pregnancy”.

Sand quarry

Another victim kidnapped same day the couple were abducted, Olatunbosun Johnson, 35, narrated his sad story: “I went to a sand quarry with my brother who is a medical doctor and three others.

“We spent about 45 minutes inside the place and, when we were leaving, I noticed these men with guns, they were about five and, because I was the one driving, I tried to reverse the car to avoid them but another group of armed men were shooting from the back.

“They took me and one of the workers with us who was Hausa but who they released about an hour later. We kept trekking for over six hours in the bush.

“I was seriously beaten, they tied and blindfolded me and I was with them for four days.

“There was no food or water for the first three days but when they went to town, they brought food for me on the fourth day and it was garri (cassava) and water.

“The third day when one of them went to town to buy food, he came back to tell them about certain information about my family.

“I want to believe that there was someone very close to my family who was feeding them with information.

“The abductors had information about what was happening in my family because they kept asking me why some people were with my father at a particular period.

“When they opened negotiation with my father, he told them to speak Yoruba language but they never spoke Yoruba whenever they were with me.

Delayed

“My freedom was delayed because the kidnappers made a u-turn after my family paid the initial N5million they demanded asking for extra N5million.

“We paid N10m. Initially they demanded for N5million but when my family brought N5million, they increased the ransom to N10m. They threatened to kill me if my failed to bring the money.

“When they brought the N5million around 11pm that Wednesday, they asked me to count the money and I counted the N5million but they gave the phone to me to talk with my father that they won’t accept the N5million.

“They threatened to kill me if my family failed to add N5million, they threatened to shoot me and my father was forced to look for the extra N5million which was paid on Thursday around 10:30pm and I was released.

“I was surprised to learn that the police claimed I was rescued by them and two people were arrested. .”

They tortured us as if we were animals —Market women leader

Mrs. Helen Edward, the Iyaloja (market women leader) of Isua in Akoko South-East Local Government Area of Ondo State, whose kidnapping occurred along Akure-Owo Road, also shared her experience.

She was released after five days in kidnappers’ den.

“I was coming from Akure where we attended a meeting. I and some other people had represented our local government at the meeting”, she said.

“Those in the team were local government staff members including HOD Community Development, Alhaji Mumuni.

“When the bus that conveyed us got to Ogbese town, some of us bought snacks and, after leaving Ogbese, it was not up to five minutes between Ogbese and Uso when some men carrying guns stopped us.

“There were about 10 of them, five in the front and five at our back. They stopped three other vehicles. They robbed the occupants of those vehicles.

“They asked us to get down from the bus and they took us into the bush. The occupants of the other buses were also abducted.

“The abductors carried rifles and began to shoot sporadically into the air. Our phones and money were taken from us by our captors.

“We met a man and his child in the forest who they asked to show them the road after which they also kidnapped him. “‘

Informants

“Our maltreatment increased when we got to their hideout and one of us escaped in the night.

“l discovered that the kidnappers had informants around the towns where we were kidnapped because they usually had telephone conversation with the informants who supplied them information about what was going on in the area“, she added.

Abductors made me trek for 15 hours in the forest —Edo North man who paid over N4m ransom

In the case of Dr. Howiks Iraoya of the Primary Health Care Department in one of the local government areas in Edo North, almost seven months after he spent five days with kidnappers before being released, he is still being haunted by the horrible experience he had with his abductors.

Iraoya was kidnapped on his way to Benin-City to collect Covid-19 training materials for his staff.

He told Sunday Vanguard he was still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“For instance, I have not come to Benin since then because of that experience”, the victim said.

“There was a seminar I was supposed to attend in Benin organised by the state government.

“I had to prepare the slid e and send it to a colleague. It was the colleague who went to help me deliver the lecture.

“Even going to work now is by the grace of God. If I see somebody, maybe a farmer just emerging from the bush as I am driving, I get scared and begin to feel he might be a kidnapper.

“I feel a sense of insecurity everywhere I go and these people are still doing the same thing to people every day.

“Even after my experience and I was advised to incident the case at the SCID which I did, nothing has come out of it. “These people use phones and it is still difficult to track them?”

Iraoya said his kidnappers told him that they hired the guns they were using from security officers and, if their victim’s family was unable to pay ransom, they will take the victim to the owners of the gun and shoot him to death in their presence to convince them that they did not collect ransom.

His words: “That torture was always there and, in the night, they will torture me and threaten that I won’t wake up the next day. “They will blindfold me, tell me to face the bush and cock their guns. I was always waiting to be shot because there was no hope that anybody was going to rescue me.

“By the third day, they said their time had expired as their rifles were rented and that it was time to return the rifles by killing me so that the owners of the rifles will know that there was no ransom collected and negotiate a new contract.

“By the time my people raised N3million, they said the amount was just for rifles and that my family had to get their own money.

“So they moved me from that location into the forest. We started trekking from 6 pm on Monday till 9 the next morning (15 hours) in the rain until we got to one thick forest which I later found out to be Sobe, a border town between Edo and Ondo states.

“There they called somebody to give them food. I didn’t see the person because I was blindfolded but I later saw them eating rice packaged in nylon.

“They had stopped giving me food because my people were not coming with the money they were expecting.

“Before we got to Sobe, I told them my blood sugar was low and that I couldn’t trek anymore, for saying that they beat me mercilessly. In fact, I regretted asking them to allow me to rest.

Negotiating

“At Sobe, they tied me again and started negotiating with my family members. I had to make friends with one of the kidnappers, the youngest of them who should be around 19 years.

“He said he would help talk to other members of the gang to forfeit their own share if my people could raise N4 million out of which he said N3million will be for the rent on rifles, the head of the team will take one million and they will forfeit their own share so that I could go home.

“He went to meet the gang leader but the gang leader became aggressive. After a while, the gang leader now called my younger brother to ask how much he had and my brother said he had been able to raise N4, 256, 000.

“He asked my brother to package the money according to denomination and come to Sobe at 3 o clock that evening to drop it.

“Around 3pm, they told me to get up, loosened me and we waded through four rivers that were so deep they reached my neck and, in about one hour and thirty minutes, we were at Sobe bridge because I could hear the sound of vehicles and bikes. ”

I was hypnotized by human parts’ dealers— Student

After her escape from kidnappers’ den, a student of the Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, Miss Mary Olaniyan, said she was hypnotised by her abductors who kidnapped her in front of the school gate.

Before the abduction of Olaniyan, two students of the college, who were identified as Blessing Oladepo and Mary Oluwasemilore, had reportedly been victims of kidnapping as two of them were declared missing by the institution.

Narrating her ordeal, Olaniyan said she and other victims experienced hell in captivity which, according to her, is located in a thick forest between Osun and Ondo states.

The student, who lives outside the campus, said after finishing her academic activities on the campus on the fateful day, she was heading home when she was picked up by the kidnappers at about 6.30p.m outside the main gate of the college on Ondo-Ore highway.

“I boarded a taxi cab in front of the school main gate, alongside a lady at the same location and two men. The two men said they were going to Yaba in Ondo town.

“As soon as I boarded the vehicle I became unconscious and by the time I regained consciousness, I found myself in a building located inside a thick forest.

“I don’t know the exact town where the forest is located but it was a very thick forest.

“I discovered that there were two guys and three ladies that had been already kidnapped and kept inside the building in the forest. The three men that kidnapped us were with us there too.”

herdsmen, RUGA
herdsmen

On how she escaped, Olaniyan said:”

“As they were fighting, they left us alone and we used the opportunity to run out of the building into the forest.”

I wept like a baby when cattle destroyed my farm —Adebiyi, farmer

In Ogun, kidnapping may not be as rampant as it is in Ondo but farmers say herdsmen’s cattle are destroying their crops, leaving them with huge losses.

One of the farmers, Mr. Anthony Adebiyi, operating in Osoro village in Abeokuta North Local Government Area, cannot forget in a hurry the havoc done to his three hectares of farmland in November 2020.

Adebiyi told SundayVanguard that his heart was broken when he got to his farm on the fateful day and discovered that cattle had destroyed all the crops planted on the large expanse of farmland.

According to him, he had cultivated the three hectares of land and planted maize, plantain and pineapple on the farm.

“When I got to my farm on this fateful day, November 23, 2020, I met the farm destroyed by the cattle.

“I spent over N2.7 million to get hybrid seed of maize, plantain shoots and pineapple sucks that I planted, but the cattle ate up all I cultivated on the land.”

‘Herdsmen wreaking havoc in Ekiti’

In Ekiti, the founder of the House of Faith Christian Church, Revd Tunde Afe, raised the alarm over the invasion and destruction of farms by suspected herdsmen in the state.

Earlier, there were reports of the destruction of multi-million naira maize farm belonging to members of the Maize Grower Processing Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN) in Aduloju farmstead located along Ado-Ijan road in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, by herdsmen.

But the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Olabode Olatoyi, was quoted to have said that there was no farm destroyed by herdsmen in Ekiti.

The cleric faulted the Commissioner, noting that his cassava farm was destroyed by herdsmen in Itapaji, Ikole local government area of the state.

Herdsmen are our nemesis —Osun farmer

On his part, a farmer in Osun State, Reuben Timothy, said herdsmen repeatedly grazed their cattle on his farm at Asi in Odo-Otin Local Government Area of the state, destroying his crop.

He added that he was attacked when he challenged them on a particular occasion and took the intervention of neighbours to curb what could have led to bloodshed.

“The herdsmen nemesis is suffocating; they just move their cattle anyhow destroying our farms and everything on it.

“In 2018, a particular herder was in the habit of bringing his cattle to my farm, he did it like four times and, when I challenged him, he drew a sword while his colleagues threatened to attack me with their clubs.”

Herders took over our farms, told us never return—Delta women

In Delta, two victims of attacks by suspected herdsmen, Mrs. Angelina Osenyelim and Victory Osakwe narrated their ordeal to Sunday Vanguard. They  are indigenes of Obiaruku, Ukwuani Local Government Area.

Osenyelim, a widow, said: “Two days ago was our market day, but we were told not to go to our farms because of herdsmen. We couldn’t go to the farms to uproot cassava that we would sell on market day. Cassava is the major cash crop we sell in the market. We buy the cassava stems that we plant.  I lost my husband four years ago. I am the only one taking care of my children and my aged mother. My sister, who supports me sometimes, also suffered the same fate at the hands of herdsmen. Her farm was destroyed by herdsmen. ”

We protested at the police station but the police didn’t listen to us. We protested at Obinoba, but they didn’t listen to us. Our people told us not to go to our farms because of herdsmen. Those who ignored the warning and went to their farms were driven back by herdsmen who have occupied our farms. They even set some farms ablaze. Some men who went to their farms were driven away by the herders who were shooting guns.

Similarly, Osakwe lamented thus: “Whenever we complain about herdsmen, our chiefs would convene a meeting at Oparauku’s place, but nothing comes out of the meeting. The herdsmen always say that they have given our chiefs money. In a neighbouring community, Ogume, the people didn’t rely on their chiefs because the leaders connived with herdsmen. They chased the herdsmen away after they killed about eight natives who had gone to their farms. Whenever we take the matter to the police, the police seem to support the herdsmen.”

Vanguard News Nigeria