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How we escaped kidnappers’ den – Kwara teenagers recount ordeal

Muhammed Jamiu, 12, and Mohammed Sambo, 15, two of the children of late Alfa Tunde Aribedesi—a trader and religious scholar, were kidnapped after their abductors…

Muhammed Jamiu, 12, and Mohammed Sambo, 15, two of the children of late Alfa Tunde Aribedesi—a trader and religious scholar, were kidnapped after their abductors shot and macheted their father in their presence during a midnight operation that left the family shattered. In this interview, they both share with Daily Trust Saturday their ordeal in the hands of their abductors for three days in a forest and how they managed to escape under dangerous circumstances while the kidnappers where waiting to receive the N10m ransom from their family.

Tell us what transpired that fateful night?

We were sleeping when suddenly the voices of our parents screaming ‘ole, ole’ (thief, thief) woke us up in our room. There was no light but we could see their figures from inside and we saw them pass through the window of our room which was not in good condition. I then hid behind one of the curtains with my elder brother Sambo and younger siblings. All this while, my parents were still shouting for help but their cries were drowned by the heavy rain with thunderstorms, so nobody could hear them.  

How was your father killed?

While they were trying to gain entrance, my father was trying to ensure the doors and windows were locked. It was while he was running back into the sitting room while coming from where he had gone to lock the backyard door that he tripped and fell, landing on his arm close to the dining room. That was where they met him and shot him before using a machete on him. They left him and went to our mother’s room but she had escaped and it was one of our neighbours that harboured her. 

How were you kidnapped?

The kidnappers had shattered the louvers while trying to gain entrance into the house. So, three of us ran and hid inside the toilet and they told us to open it but we said we can’t from the inside and they destroyed it. They entered our mother’s room and took away all her gold and other jewelleries together with my father’s phone which they were using to communicate with the family for our ransom.  

How did they move you into the forest after the kidnap?

We were made to trek from our house to the express road in the rain barefoot. When we got to the express, they looked for a very big nylon and used it to cover us and them if they heard the sound of an approaching vehicle. In the forest when it’s time to sleep at night, they will try to locate any available rock, maybe to save us from dangerous reptiles. During the day, we will return to the bush. That was the routine for us every day, trekking several hours hiding in the bush during the day and sleeping on top of the rock at night covering us with a big nylon. 

What did they discuss with you in the forest?

At one time when we got to the bottom of a tree, we rested a bit and they asked for my father’s phone number and I told them it was his phone that was with them. They now asked for my mother’s phone number and I gave it to them because I memorized them but it did not connect when they dialled it. I enquired how much they were asking for as ransom and they said N10m for both of us. But I pleaded with them to reduce it to N5m. Later, they started calling all the numbers on the phone after they failed to get my mum and they called someone who I pleaded with to speak with my dad because I thought he survived the attack. Later, I called my aunt’s husband, my father’s younger sister who is a soldier and other relatives on the phone who all said they were looking for money. But they threatened to kill us immediately if they failed to provide the money.

Where you tortured?

That day, we were spared and they left us to sleep. When it was night, they brought raw potatoes and gave us to eat. We initially rejected it but they hit us with sticks they were holding and sensing our refusal could lead to them beating us, we were left with no choice. In the morning they returned us under the tree and called our family that they are running out of patience over the money or they will kill us. 

Did they agree to your plea to reduce the ransom?

Yes, and when it was nightfall, they called our family to bring N5m from N7m after I pleaded, a pack of Maltina drink, N2,000 worth of Airtel airtime, two packets of cigarettes and three loaves of N500 bread. They ordered them to meet us at Shao Junction in Moro Local Government Area that night. When we trekked to the place that night, they hid us and warned that if they see anybody with the person bringing the money, they would kill us. Three of them went to collect the ransom. But somehow, the person bringing the money and their emissaries missed themselves. There were several calls exchanged during this period but they could not locate themselves.  

How did you escape?

The morning of that day, they called our family for the money and still they missed the bearer and this missing game of sort happened about five times while we were with them. It was while they were trying to locate the person that brought the money that they heard footsteps of some people in the bush where we were that they commanded us to lie down. It was during that process that we all lied down that the five of them slept off. It was unbelievable. At that point my elder brother Sambo said we should run. But while he got up, one of them woke up and asked where he was going to and he told him he wanted to go and use the bushes but surprisingly, he (kidnapper) slept off again, it was just Allah that was working. That was when I joined Sambo and we finally escaped. We ran into some people on our way and told them what happened and that we were kidnapped. One of them gave us N250 for transport. On our way, we met some mechanics who then deployed somebody to take us to the police station in Shao and then to G Division in Oloje, Ilorin.  

Can you describe the kidnappers? 

The five of them were all males and they were speaking Fulani but one of them spoke Yoruba. They kidnapped us Friday morning and we escaped on Sunday. They covered their faces initially but in the forest, they didn’t cover anything and we can recognize them now if we see them.

How did you survive for those three days?

They live by eating raw potato and cassava uprooted from people’s farms as we were going. But we only ate raw potatoes and rejected the raw cassava they gave us. They gave us any available water to drink. The first night, they finished the pack of cigarettes that was with them and didn’t get another one, which warranted them to demand for cigarettes from our family together with the ransom. 

What gave you the courage to escape when you knew you could be killed?

We were afraid to escape while they were sleeping, but what gave us the confidence was that we sighted a building afar and thought we could use that as a refuge and escape route before they came for us. They had only one dane gun, stick, cutlass and a torch light. 

What was the experience like for you?

Seeing how they killed our father was really sad. But it could have been worse, imagine if the two of us were later killed and yet they collected ransom. We thank Allah who facilitated our escape from their den without our family paying any ransom. If not that Allah stood by us, we will not be here talking to you today.

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