Residents of Babban-Tunga, a community off Abuja/Kaduna highway in Niger State are still in shock following the abduction of the state Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Muhammed Sanni Idris.
Alhaji Idris who hails from Babban-Tunga was whisked away in the early hours of Monday, according to the Secretary to the Government of Niger State (SSG), Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane.
He was said to have been abducted from his residence in the community on Sunday night by gunmen said to number about 20, who whisked him away through a nearby bush.
When Daily Trust visited Babban-Tunga community on Monday morning, the mood of his immediate family members, as well as the community was that of grief.
A younger brother of the victim, Salisu Idris, while speaking to our reporter on the incident, said the kidnappers called him on phone twice around 10am on Monday, using the victim’s contact number, to confirm that he was in their custody.
“They said they would think about the ransom amount and call back when they are ready,” he said.
The commissioner’s first wife, while responding to an inquiry about the incident, said she was with him on Saturday before returning to Minna on Sunday evening. “He called me on phone around 11 pm to hear about my journey and bid me good night.
“Later around 12-midnight while I was already asleep, another call came in from the family home, informing me about the abduction, but not specifically detailing the victim. My children were the ones that first got wind of the incident, but decided not to inform me,” she said.
The commissioner’s first wife, who is based in Minna, said she had to return to Babban-Tunga on Monday morning following the incident.
She was about to return to Minna when she accepted to spare some time to speak with our reporter on the incident.
She said the commissioner’s second wife, who is based in the community, was with their husband in their residence when the attackers struck and whisked him away.
Effort to speak to the second wife was, however, not successful as she was preparing to join the other wife for the trip to Minna.
However, a family member who spoke to Daily Trust said the woman had to be taken to a clinic on Monday as a result of slaps she received from the attackers in the cause of their operation.
It was gathered that, after seizing a number of phones from the house, including that of the commissioner and his wife’s, they kept asking for more phones which she insisted there was none but they kept on slapping her, and later threatened to take her along, but that she pleaded with them that her newborn baby was ill.
“At that juncture, one of the kidnappers grabbed the baby by his hands and shook him continuously, saying ‘is this the baby that you say is not feeling well?” She said she was grief-stricken and almost passed out, as she couldn’t bear the unsettling situation.
“However, they later changed their mind as they would not want her to be a liability to them.”
Also speaking to our reporter, the vigilante commander of Tafa Local Government Area said he became aware of the gunmen’s arrival from the sporadic gunshots they fired as they fled with their victim.
“I came out immediately, but after realizing that they have overwhelmed the area and taken position at different angles, I withdrew and mobilized other vigilante members.
“I also informed the DPO in Tafa, DSS and the commanding officer of Zuma army barracks. And within few minutes about eight military vans arrived and we moved into the bush along with the police. Unfortunately, we could not locate them up till 6 am today when some of us decided to withdraw to re-strategize, while others were still in the bush trying to locate the kidnappers.”
The vigilante commander said that was the third time a kidnapping incident was taking place in the district of Iku, which Babban-Tunga town serves as headquarters.
“The first time, about four years ago, was at a nearby herder’s hamlet where four children were abducted. Then about three years ago, three vigilante members were abducted at their duty post within this community,” he said.
At the palace of the district head of the community which is located close to the commissioner’s family home, sympathisers were seen trooping in, among them the House of Representatives member from the area, Abubakar Lado. Security men including those in plainclothes were also seen stationed in the area.
N500m ransom demanded
Meanwhile, a government source said the abductors have demanded N500m million ransom for his release.
The source, who does not want to be mentioned, disclosed this to our correspondent in Minna.
It was also gathered that a security meeting was convened from Monday morning which was presided over by the Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Ahmed Ketso.
“The kidnappers are demanding for N500m ransom while a marathon security meeting presided over by the deputy governor has just ended at the government house but there are no details of the meeting yet,” he said.
The abduction of the commissioner is the second in the last five days as the Zone C chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was also kidnapped a few days ago without any information about his whereabouts as at press time.
Although the state police command said investigation into the incident was ongoing, while effort to rescue the victims and arrest the suspects in being intensified, nothing has been said about the politician’s abduction before the commissioner’s incident.
It would also be recalled that the 136 children of an Islamiyyah School in Tegina area of the state who were kidnapped three months ago are still in captivity despite payment of ransom by their parents.
The state government has said it is not ready to pay ransom for the release of those abducted but promised to engage the abductors in dialogue so that they lay down their arms and get something legitimate to do.
Daily Trust learnt that the commissioner usually visited his village every week to see his aged mother and monitor his farm in the area.
Another issue of concern raised by the source close to the commissioner was that informants working for the bandits may have been the ones that gave information about the commissioner’s movement.