An ex-member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Abraham Amuta, yesterday allegedly turned down an offer by the Boko Haram insurgents to be freed and go home.
Instead, the ex-corps member reportedly told those who went to the Sambisa forest to secure his release to go back home, saying he had renounced his Christian faith.
Amuta, a native of Benue State, who was doing his one-year mandatory service in Borno State, was abducted alongside a 58-year-old man, Moses Oyeleke of Living Faith Church in Maiduguri and few others, including a schoolgirl, Ndagiliya Ibrahim Umar, on April 10, 2019.
They were abducted along Gwoza road from Maiduguri on their way to Chibok to deliver humanitarian assistance.
Seven months after his abduction by the Boko Haram fighters loyal to Abubakar Shekau, Pastor Oyeleke was released in November 2019, following a mediation process by two NGOs, the Initiative for Peace Building Movement and the Kalthum Foundation for Peace, with the knowledge of security operatives.
Ndagiliya said she was held for nine months.
They made the revelations when they were received by the deputy governor of Borno State, Usman Kadafur, shortly before they were handed over to their families at the government house in Maiduguri.
Daily Trust reports that the negotiation for the release of Amuta and the other captives continued until yesterday when the process collapsed at the last hour following the ex-corps member’s decision to remain with his captors.
However, another captive Miss Stella Ibrahim reportedly returned home with the negotiators led by the chairperson of Kalthum Foundation, Ummu Kalthum Mohammed.
Speaking to Daily Trust in an exclusive interview, Kalthum said they went to the Sambisa forest along with representatives of a state government in the North East, some people from two key security agencies fighting the Boko Haram terrorists in the region, a friend of the ex-corps member whose name was given as Emmanuel and some of her colleagues.
“We eventually secured the release of Miss Stella Ibrahim because Amuta said he prefers to remain with the Boko Haram,” she said.
‘Our journey to Sambisa forest’
Kalthum said their journey began on Saturday, February 2, from Maiduguri to Gwoza hills where they agreed to meet with Amuta’s captors.
“But the insurgents changed the location to somewhere in Bama Local Government Area of Borno State. We got to Gwoza hills a bit late on Saturday and the captors had left at the time. We called them and they told us that they would not come to that place again.
“We asked them to tell us where we should meet them and they replied that we should go back to Bama. We went to Bama and passed the night there because it was late. In the morning, yesterday (Sunday), at exactly 7:30 am, they called and asked us to go to a remote village called Haulari under Bama LGA. So, we proceeded to the village with the instruction that armed men travelling with us must stop at Haulari and that was exactly what happened.
“On getting to the spot they described, we saw their signpost on the road and within the twinkle of an eye, we were surrounded by many Boko Haram fighters who asked us to follow them into the Sambisa forest where we met Abraham Amuta and Stella Ibrahim.
“Shekau’s fighters surrounded us. They were many. I started shaking but I summoned courage,” she said.
She said the insurgents then brought Amuta from one end and Stella from another end and asked if they (the captives) have anything to say.
“At first when Abraham saw his roommate and friend Emmanuel, he could not believe it, he just looked on Emma but the insurgents told them to talk.
“Two of them, Amuta and Emma, kept mute for some time and then Amuta raised his face and said he has something to say.
“He thanked those who worked for his release but then said ‘I am sorry, I have changed my mind. I am not going with you people. I have converted to Islam,’” she said.
Asked if any ransom was paid, she said, “not to my knowledge.”
And on why she was not afraid to face the insurgents, she said, “I am a humanitarian, of course we are always careful and we are truthful in our dealings. Somebody must find a way of bringing an end to the crisis ravaging our people,” she said.
Daily Trust reports that security agencies don’t talk on issues relating to negotiation or ransom payment. Hundreds of people have been rescued by NGOs from the Boko Haram but only a few cases are reported.
Amuta’s friend, church speak
When contacted yesterday, Amuta’s friend Emmanuel confirmed that he was among those who went to the Sambisa forest.
“Yes, I was part of the team and I met Amuta. We spoke and he confirmed to us that he is not coming back,” he said.
“Amuta was my roommate in Maiduguri before he was abducted,” he said.
One of the leaders of Living Faith Church in Maiduguri who spoke with Daily Trust also confirmed the development that Amuta thanked the church for their efforts.
“I spoke with him (Amuta) early this morning (Sunday), he thanked us but said he was not at gunpoint rather, he decided to join them. I think it was part of their strategy that they initially released Pastor Oyeleke so that they could work on him.
“Even the representatives of the church saw him and spoke with him as well. He told our representatives that he is not interested to return, however, we are trusting God for divine intervention, nothing is absolutely difficult for God to do,” he said.
During their abduction in 2019, the Boko Haram fighters reportedly asked for N200m ransom but it was not clear if any payment was made.