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My abductors spoke Chadian and Nigerien Fulfulde – Released victim

Recently, a kidnapped Kano businessman was released after negotiation. In this interview with Daily Trust, the man, who does not want his name in print,…

Recently, a kidnapped Kano businessman was released after negotiation. In this interview with Daily Trust, the man, who does not want his name in print, spoke on what transpired in his abductors’ den whom he identified as Chadian and Nigerien based on the Fulfulde accent in their discussions with their local collaborators.

Can you briefly give us an insight into what transpired on the day you were kidnapped?

That fateful Tuesday, around 2.30 am, I heard gunshots. So, I got up to find out where it was coming from.

My younger brother called me on the phone asking if it was at my house, but I told him it wasn’t. Not knowing that it was close to the house.

I have sight problem – I can’t see well. I performed ablution and observed some prayers.

The shooting increased. I later found out it was as a result of the exchange of fire between the gunmen and the police.

Then there was silence for like 20 minutes, and I thought they had left. Then suddenly I heard them climbing the roof of the mosque beside my house.

I dressed up and came to the door. By then they succeeded in crossing into the house. They broke the entrance door and my window and went upstairs where I was sleeping.

They asked me to open the door or they would break it down. I opened it for them. They asked if I had a huge amount of money with me, but I told them no. so, they said they would abduct me.

They said since I was a businessman, I must have money. I told them I didn’t because I was not the one running it.

When they eventually brought you out of your house, what happened?

When we came out, there were still gunshots. I saw others probably abducted as well.

They asked us to lie down. Three of them went to exchange gunfire with the police. They succeeded in burning one police vehicle saying they were obstructing their business.

From there, they asked us to keep trekking for like one kilometre. I didn’t know where we were going.

They took us to a farm and kept me there. Before getting there they parked their motorcycles and we proceeded.

After travelling on the main road for a very long time, we got to a house with a gate. They took me to a house along with three people to sleep there.

I could hear the sound of cars passing behind the house and animals crying.

How many were you in the house?

I was the only person who slept in the room they kept me. They said there was another room with other people, but I suspect I was the only one in the house.

When you reached the house, did they give you food?

They woke me up in the morning, around 7:00 am, and asked me to start the negotiation for ransom.

I asked them to give me water to rinse my mouth but they refused. I said I would pray, still, they said no.

I saw one of them praying, then asked them why they wouldn’t allow me to pray and they said, the person was free, and I was not.

They refused to give me water to perform ablution or pray, insisting that I used sand (tayammum) instead.

We continued like that until around 2 pm, then they gave me water to rinse my mouth.

They later gave me bread. They called the phone in my home town. They told me that the town was now full of journalists and security people making unnecessary noise.

So, they were informed of whatever was going on in the town.

They threatened to take me to a forest in Niger Republic if I refused to pay the ransom.

The following day, they gave me my phone and asked me to call my relatives to give them a huge sum of money.

They promised to kill me, sell me to other more deadly kidnappers or give me to those who would sodomise me.

We started the negotiation for ransom the following day – Thursday. Then they didn’t even have airtime to call my relatives; they had to wait for money which they later used in buying spaghetti to cook for us and recharge cards to call them.

While in their custody, did they beat you?

No, they didn’t beat me. Only that when we started negotiating the ransom amount and I refused to accept their offer, they told me that they would leave me with the youths among them to torture me.

They said I should pay N100 million, which I told them I never had.

Then one of them, called Commander Falalu, tied my left hand with a rope because I already had dislocation on the right one when we fell on the motorcycle they took me.

As a result of tying the hand, my fingers got swollen. I felt seriously tortured and asked them to untie me, that I would add one million to the earlier amount but they refused.

Then I added two, three, yet they refused, till we got to the price convenient for them and they kept contacting my relatives.

The leaders then left the house, leaving me and two of their informants who were part of those that abducted me.

They were Nigerians, I even recognised their accent from the kind of Fulfulde they spoke; they were not even far from our town. I know the Fulani of Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Nigeria.

Those that captured you, which Fulfulde dialects were they speaking?

There were Nigerians among them, then there were foreigners. It is the foreigners that asked the local Fulani to kidnap wealthy individuals for them, then they settle them. I understand Fulfulde and the different dialects.

What vehicles did they use in carrying you after the kidnap?

They were all on motorcycles, but we also trekked some kilometres.

Can you specify the number of vehicles?

Well, you know I have told you earlier that I have sight problem. However, I could remember seeing like 5-6 motorcycles.

How were you released?

When they finally agreed on the negotiated price, they told me “Old man, you are going home today. Your people are trying to send the money.”

Around Zuhr (noon prayer), they threatened me and asked those guarding me to tighten security.

When I heard that, I was thinking maybe it was the ransom that they were still not satisfied with or they were afraid of being tracked.

They set up their guns. After sunset prayer, they allowed me to pray Maghrib and Isha’i prayers and told me that we were about to leave, but warned me that if I attempted to shout for help while passing through any village, they would kill me.

“Remember that no village can overpower us. We have shown you our guns,” I told them I wouldn’t shout.

They then gave me another shirt because the one I had been wearing since they kidnapped me was dirty and stained with blood as a result of the injury I had when we fell from the motorcycle.

They gave me one Ankara shirt to wear instead.

Where did they drop you?

When we left the place after Isha’i prayer, we travelled for like 15-20 minutes in the forest, then we reached one tarred road and followed it to a village then they were called by their colleagues who confirmed that the ransom had been paid.

They even organised a phone conference call, speaking with those collecting the ransom, my relatives and I.

Then they asked where I should be dropped.

They said I should be taken to a village called Kirya in Babura Local Government in Jigawa State.

They then diverted from the tarred road to another road in the forest. I didn’t have any idea where we were.

We fell again with the motorcycle before they finally decided to just drop me somewhere in the forest.

I also told them to just drop me there but they asked me to shut up. They dropped me by the roadside and rode off.

I stood there for about 30 minutes, as all the motorcycle riders I tried to stop refused to carry me.

One of them whom I stopped several times after coming back like three times to meet me there finally agreed to take me to the town where I explained what happened to me.

So how would you describe the whole scenario?

I take it as destiny and I thank God for my safe return. I appreciate all the prayers of the people in my hometown and even the entire Nigerians for their prayer for me, and to the police for the role they played in it.

I appreciate the media also for the coverage and for people to keep praying for me.

Those that kidnapped you, were they youths or elderly people?

Two of them were youths of between 20-22 years, while the rest were elderly people from Chad and Niger Republic. The elderly ones knew how to shoot very well, they knew how to operate guns well.

How many were you on the motorcycle when they took you?

There were two motorcycles each carrying one passenger, with me in between them, each carrying gun.

They showed me the guns they had.

They said the ordinary ones were the ones the Nigeria police had, while the sophisticated ones were the ones used in war. They [said they] could hit [their target from a distance of] 1.5 – 2 kilometres.