My captors threatened to attack Yorubaland on a large scale – Victim

Abduction victim Idowu Ajayi in this interview with ABIODUN NEJO shares his experience in the gunmen’s den and the hardships of relatives, who secured his release

How were you kidnapped?

It happened along the Ikole-Ijesa Isu road at 4:30 p.m. on March 14. I went to Ijesha Isu from Ikole to help my mother carry yams which were already on the side of the road. I picked them and was on my way home when it happened. I arrived on a bad part of the road, where I had to slow down.

When I applied the brake I heard a gunshot sound and I wasn’t sure if it was a gunshot or a tire blowout.

Before I knew what had happened, two armed men had emerged from the bush. I saw two more ahead and they started shooting. There were two of us in my car because I offered a 14 year old girl a free ride from Ijesa Isu to Ikole.

As I saw them, not knowing that two others were in the back as well, I put the car in reverse, but with the flat tire and those in the back, I had to park. The gunmen were six in number, two of them were positioned before the bad part, two were in the bush at the bad part while the other two were after the bad part. It was the ones on the side of the pothole who pulled on the tire of the car.

They ordered me out of the car and started beating me. They smashed car windows and shot sporadically in the air to prevent other vehicles from coming. They searched the car and took the N21,000 out of it and also took the N14,000 from my pocket.

Later they took me to the bush. We didn’t go more than a post off the road. They took my shoes, wristwatch and belt and ordered me and the girl to lie down. From there I heard when people arrived at the vehicle and when the police arrived on the scene, but I could not say anything.

Didn’t the police comb the bush?

According to them, they raked the bush, but I want to believe that they went through the other side. If they had reinforced immediately and searched everywhere, the story might have been different. The police were there about 35 minutes after the incident.

Did you stay there all the time?

We left the place at 6:30 p.m. as it was getting dark. We walked about 30 minutes in an old cocoa farm. That’s when they told me they weren’t ritualists, but kidnappers. They said they were Fulani men from Nigeria, Niger and Mali. Two of them were fluent in Pidgin English.

Before leaving, they went back to the car to remove the charger from my phone. They had about four high-capacity power banks that they charged their phones with, carried bags, and had charms on their bodies. They had four AK-47 rifles and a double-barreled pistol.

They asked me to call my people. I called one of my brothers and told him that I had been kidnapped, but my brother said they knew. As I spoke, the phone prompter alerted me that I had one minute of airtime left, the gunmen asked me to call anyone I knew could send me airtime . My sister-in-law sent me a 2000 naira airtime card. My phone was used for calls throughout. After each call around 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., they turned off the phone. About five minutes before calling my people, they started flogging me.

However, they didn’t torture the girl, they were nice to her. As they moved around, if there was a papaya or a banana, they would feed it, but I was denied access to food. They didn’t offer me food or water. The gunmen took garri and smoked cigarettes and hemp all the way. They carried garri in their bags as well as water in plastic bottles. They would pack up all the food found on any farm and have it brought to me for them.

What did they discuss with your family on the phone?

They told my people to respect them, that they were Boko Haram. When my people asked what was expected of them, the gunmen said my people should bring 30 million naira.

My family members begged them, I begged too. They said I used a big car and asked me what my profession was. The car I was driving was a Toyota Sienna. I realized they were attracted to big cars because they weren’t stopping the utility vehicles that were in front of my car that day. They said they had seen me when I passed a few minutes earlier but only that they had not yet taken up position at that time.

How was a normal day with the kidnappers?

When it was around 7:30-8 p.m., we started moving. We went from Ijesa Isu to Oko Isaba then to Oko Ikoyi; from Oko Ikoyi to Oko Igbemo we wandered around until daybreak, but around 6 am they were looking for a discreet place to hide.

At this place, they blindfolded me, tied my arms behind my back and put me somewhere. I would be in this position until about 7:30 p.m.

Even there, they could be angry and flog me. Every time they smoked, they put out the fire on my body. The suffering and the torture were very important during the four days that I spent with them. They were mean – there was even a moment when they saw an army ant colony, they just put me in the ant colony to sting me. The pains are indescribable.

What did they tell you was the reason for their abduction and who else were they communicating with?

One of them told me that I was a “useless Yoruba”. When I asked how, he said I was one of those insulting ‘Sai Baba’, I said I didn’t understand, he said we were singing ‘Nigeria jagajaga’. I said I didn’t know. He said that by the time they were done with us, we would have learned our lesson. He told me that they used all the ransom they got to buy ammunition.

When I tried to inquire further, he said I shouldn’t ask him a silly question. So, I kept quiet because they left no chance to look at their faces. I lay face down. To avoid being recognized, their faces were always covered.

After contacting my family, they called two people on the phone to give them their comments. They communicated with the first in the Fulani language (Fulfude) and the other, who was also fluent in Yoruba. He spoke to me on the phone the second day. He asked me about my job, but when I said I was unemployed, he asked why I was driving a car, but I told him I was not the owner. I told him it was my child who got sick and I was looking for money to pay the bill. I told him that the money recovered from me was part of what I wanted to take to the hospital, and it was the truth. He said if my people did not bring the ransom that day or the next day, I would be killed. I begged him that my people would look for money, only that it wouldn’t be up to the 30 million naira requested. He then spoke to the armed men in Fulani about the outcome of our discussion.

How did you find your freedom?

After many pleas, they agreed with my family to release me. They asked for money alongside 12 Origin plastic bottles, Kakaraka (gin bag), three cigarette rolls and a few others like Indomie. That Thursday, they took us back with the girl to Oko Ijesa, near the road that was unknown to us, it was preparatory to freedom. It was my brother and friend who came by motorbike with the ransom.

An armed man then called my brother to turn around and walk towards Ikole for someone to collect the items at some point. My brother called later to advise that he couldn’t locate the person, they said he would have to come back to the leaf spot. All of these had to make sure that there were no police following them.

Afterwards, they asked my brother and his friend to wait, so they appeared to them, pointed guns at their heads and took them into the bush. I wasn’t far. My brother told them that the family had sold a lot of things to realize the 2.5 million naira they had brought. They accepted the money after many pleas, but they grabbed my brother and friend and started whipping them mercilessly. One of them even threatened to kill my brother and the friend, it was one of the armed men who begged the colleague not to kill those who were bringing the ransom he was supposed to leave them. That’s when they broke my phone but returned my charger. Then they ordered that we had to leave the place in less than two seconds. We fled.

How does it feel breathing the air of freedom?

I was taken to the hospital for treatment immediately after my release. But I really thank God. After my incident, I told people to be careful on the road because I heard the armed men saying that I was disturbing them, that my people should have come for my release since their assignment was still long. They talked as if they were given a goal of how much to earn per week. I was released Thursday and they were kidnapped there again Friday evening. I thank God.

How did you feel when you learned that Amotekun agents had arrested one of them?

I was so excited. Since that experience, I was alarmed whenever someone was kidnapped or the police arrested a kidnapper. So when I saw the photo of the shooter (one of the six kidnappers) on social media that he had been arrested, my heart skipped a beat; I recognized him.

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