Court documents say Pa Atser Kyausa, father of Benue millionaire, Chief Athansius Iordye Kyausu is 101 years old. In the last six years, he had been kidnapped twice from his residence. With one of his kidnappers recently bagging life imprisonment for the 2015 abduction, the centenarian is still living in fear in his Vandeikya residence.
Chief Atser Kyausu is 101 years old. He should be allowed to live out the rest of his days in peace. But for some reason, this old man has been kidnapped for ransom on two different occasions.
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At his home at Mbagbiantwer, in the upper area of Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State, from where he had twice been abducted, he sits on a wooden chair and issues admonition to young people to avoid the ‘get rich quick syndrome’ and work their way to the top.
Pa Atser could be referring to Aondona Atim, who recently bagged life imprisonment for abducting the old man from his Vandekiya residence in July 2015. His two other accomplices were killed by the police in a separate incident.
His second abduction was in December 2017. He had vivid recollections of that first incident. Clad in a traditional attire draped around his shoulders, his wife seated close by, the old man recounts the first time he was abducted in July 2015, his two-day ordeal in the kidnappers’ den and the subsequent trial that convicted his kidnapper almost six years after.
“It happened on a certain Saturday in 2015,” he said. “Four young men who rode on two Bajaj motorcycles barged into my home. On that night, I went to sleep with one of my sons in his room. So, they got hold of my last wife; this is the cloth I had put on that night (pointing to the fabric over his shoulders.)
“They asked her to show them where I was. My wife told them that I went to the hospital. And they said I did not. So, they held her by her cloth and slapped her twice on the face while pointing the gun at her.”
His first wife was not around and Pa Kyausu heard this exchange from his room, where he and his young son, Terpenda, were.
“So, my wife burst into tears, while calling my little son, Terpenda, to open the door. Once Terpenda did, they rushed into where I was sleeping and took hold of me, removed my cloth and threw it away,” he said.
There was a reason Pa Kyausu was targeted and that soon became clear. The gunmen asked him to give him the money his son had sent to him for his upkeep.
Pa Kyausu is the father of one of Benue’s leading business tycoons, Chief Athansius Iordye Kyausu, an oil magnate popularly known as ‘Kyabiz.’ He was not surprised that they would make such demand on him.
“I told them that my son did not give me money to keep. They said again that I should produce the money my son had given me to keep and hand it over to them. I told them again that my son did not give me money to keep,” he said.
This back and forth went on for a while with the gunmen insisting he had money in the house. They believed his son sent him money every week and when he told them that wasn’t the case, they asked him for his life savings.
“I told them I don’t have much. I had only N7, 700 and it was on the table. They picked the money and said they will take me away,” he said.
They led him out and sat him on one of their motorcycles. They then tied up his eyes and rode off with him.
“We went until I felt dews on my legs,” he said. “Then we entered a tunnel that led into a house. Once we got into that house, they asked me about my phone. I told them that I left it on the bed when they seized me. And they said they will go and bring it.
“Meanwhile, they had the phone with them. It was not long when they went out that they came back with it and said they’ve gone and brought the phone,” he said.
Apparently aware that his first son the tycoon had travelled, they asked for the name of his second son and he told them.
“The following day, they told me that they’ve asked my eldest son, Iordye, to give them N20 million to secure my freedom or I will not go back alive; that they would bury me alive. They also told me that my children are wealthy, yet they don’t give them money, only giving it to the police and soldiers on the highway. And since my children have refused to give them money, they will put them to shame by ensuring that they do not have the benefit of a tomb for their father,” he said.
The recollection of those words, that experience made the old man shudder and nod his head slowly.
He spent two days with the four kidnappers and on the third day, the police rescued him.
Pa Kyausu said something had triggered the attack on him. That day, he had opened his house to an artisan, a chainsaw operator, he had hired to do some work for him.
“One of them, who was left behind as a guard told me that one of them, who worked for me, told them I had a lot of money in the house. According to him, the fragrance from the money I paid him indicated this. And so, they should follow him to go and pick the money.
“What wrong have I done by paying someone for the work done for me?” the 101-year-old asked.
Despite the traumatic experience, Pa Kyausu, has no plans to leave his home.
“Would I have to leave my house here to go and live elsewhere? I have placed myself in the hands of God. I don’t engage in magical practices to say that I’ll fortify myself against kidnappers and to disappear when they come,” he said.
Pa Kyausu is worried about the kidnapping trend. He is even more worried that the kidnappers are mostly young men. And he is gravely worried that they target old men.
“I am advising young people to understand that life is not a do or die race. They should stop abducting old people for money.
“Life is slow and steady. That was the advice I gave my son; he bought a car and asked me to tell him what to write on it and I told him to write: Life is slow and steady,” Pa Kyausu said.
The first time he was abducted, he did not see it coming. When his kidnappers came to his house and called his name, he gingerly walked out of his room to meet them and was met by four young men.
“They were behaving as if they wanted to get hold of me, but I moved away from them. And they asked if I was afraid, so I asked them to tell me why they were in my house. They said they were sorry, I should go back to bed. It was still on a Saturday, in the year 2015; they told me to go to bed that they will come back the following day to tell me why they were in my house. But they came back, the following Saturday, exactly one week after and could not find me in the main house because I had joined my son, Terpenda, in his own room,” he said.
During his abduction, he was not manhandled. He was only poorly fed. Since his rescue, he said he had not been feeling the same. Now he has health challenges with his eyes, waist and legs ever since then.
“They were giving me only three pieces of bean cakes (akara) in the morning and then evening,” he said.
The experience has left him exhibiting symptoms of PTSD.
“Whenever I go to bed, my mind would be racing as if they would come again. My daughter, truly if not for God, whenever one is abducted, the person may die there because the captors will be threatening their victim with a gun. And they were very many.
“The first time, they told me that they have taken me to Cross River State and no matter how my people look for me, no one will find me. And that if my children do not want to give them money, they will not have the grave of a father,” he said.
For someone who has been praying for a peaceful death, those words troubled him. He said he did not want to die in an accident or through violence.
“I am praying to God not to take my life in an accident. Apart from that I don’t have any specific number of days I want to live; I am only praying against accidental death,” he said.
For now, he is still very much involved in the day to day running of his household, doling out instructions on whatever needs to be done and demanding accountability from those responsible for carrying out his directive.
During the interview, a worker he had hired to carry out repairs in the house interrupted to present the bunch of nails he had bought for the work.
Pa Kyausu inspected the nails and seemed to approve. The worker left to carry out the task.
A family member told Daily Trust that this ritual must be complied with otherwise, the worker would incur the wrath of the old man because he does not joke with accountability.
It is a useful way for Pa Kyausu to keep his mind busy.
“Once you are alive, you don’t stop working. You keep praying to God for the strength to do more. You can see that I am working on my kitchen. It is not my son who is doing it. My in-laws are also coming here, and I will be happy to receive them. Those are the immediate things that occupy my mind,” he said.
The other thing that occupies his mind is the fear of being abducted again, even after a High court in Gboko had on January 22, sentenced Aondona Atim, 40, of Abuul Benga village, Mbayem in Ushongo LGA of Benue State to life in prison for the abduction.
“For armed robbery, conspiracy and kidnapping of 101 years old, Pa Atser Ikyausu of Vandekiya LGA,” court documents said.
Justice Polycarp Kwahar in his ruling had held that though the offence of armed robbery and kidnapping carried the death sentences, he however tampered justice with mercy because the convict was a first offender.
The court said the accused, alongside two of his friends, Terta Apuu and Bem Shie, now deceased, had on July 25, 2015, at Mbagbera community in Vandeikya LGA armed with dangerous weapons attacked, robbed and kidnapped the victim and kept him in the bush for two days before his rescue by the police.
The court held that the convict and his co-conspirators demanded a ransom of N20 million, but luck ran out on them as they were arrested by the police.
After their arrests, two of the accused were granted bail and went about committing another crime where they were killed by the police.
The prosecution had called seven witnesses including the victim, Pa Kyausu and his wife who identified the convict as being among the gunmen who attacked and kidnapped Pa Kyausu, while the convict testified for himself.
Our correspondent recalled that the Benue State Police command in July 2015 paraded three suspects over the kidnap of Pa Atser Kyausu, father of a renowned business tycoon in the state.
The then Commissioner of Police in the state, Hyacinth Dagala, who paraded the suspects at the command’s headquarter in Makurdi, had said that the old man was abducted from his home in Vandekiya on a Saturday at 9:00 pm.
The commissioner said that the command was on the trail of two other persons who escaped.
At the time of his arrest, Atim who was 33 at the time, had told reporters that he was in the gang, led by one Apeaka, who was also paraded unconscious.
Looking remorseful, Atim had said that he agreed to the kidnapping idea because he was jobless and that the N20 million, the prime suspect demanded from the victim’s family was too good to be true because, in his entire life, he had never seen N500,000.
“I’m a trailer driver in Port Harcourt but returned to Benue, my home state, recently after my trailer was sold by the owner. I have been hanging around the Dangote Cement in Gboko in expectation of a job promised me before Apeaka arranged with me to come and pick papa (the victim) with a motorcycle. He told me that papa has lots of money and that his children are rich,” Atim had said.
His venture into crime had ended with life in imprisonment sentence.
Many people would be happy if their kidnappers were convicted. Pa Kyausu is more circumspect about it.
“I should be happy except that I don’t know if they are still planning to come and abduct me again.
“I have been abducted twice; the others were not arrested. The last time I was released only after a ransom was paid,” he said.
For now, he puts on a bold face, runs his household with a demand for accountability, but inside there is a constant fear that would not go away.