Editor's note: In this article, some names and locations have been obscured for the safety of everyone involved. Also, editing has been kept to a minimum so that the language divide would not inadvertently dilute the story.
This is the true account of a Nigerian man who was kidnapped and held for ransom by Boko Haram terrorists.
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This is the account of the kidnapping ordeal that occurred to me. On the night of Monday, 6th of January 2020 I had just retired to bed, around 11:30 p.m. Suddenly I heard my mother screaming at the top of her lungs and calling out my name.
In an effort to see what was wrong, I picked up a broom, ready to go to her defense. I believed that perhaps it was some local miscreant who had had a little too much to drink and was harassing her in the living room. Both of my parents are advanced in age so I knew that they probably wouldn't be able to overcome the assailant alone. So I went to help.
Upon entering the sitting room, I noticed there were a lot of people in it. Other than my family members, there were six masked men armed with AK 47s. By this time my parents had already been rudely awakened by being struck with rifle butts. My mother was still screaming at top of her lungs. The broom was knocked out of my hand and, at that point, every one came out the parlor to go outside. This included the dependents that lived with us. The men demanded that the gate be opened and I get the key to do that. This means that they entered our compound by scaling the fence.
Entering my apartment, the first key I located was the key to my office, so I had to return it and get the right key. By the time we got to the gate one of the armed men had broken the padlock. We have two dogs, but at that moment, strangely, neither of them were barking.
At this point the men told me to lie down, and that I was going to leave with them. In response, believing that they were robbers, I told them that they could have the key to the truck I use for water delivery. They were not interested in it and said we should start moving. When we got out of the gate, one of them asked if I had any cash. I told them there was a little I had in the room that I was saving for vehicle particulars. So I went back inside to get the money which was about N10,000 [$27].
After delivering the cash to them, we all moved toward the North of our town located in Billiri Local Government. We walked for about 20 minutes, heading behind town where there is a bypass. Anytime a car approached the road we had to lie down. We crossed the road and moved into the bush behind the neighboring town, Tal for about 10 minutes.
The whole time I was barefoot because there was not enough time to pick up shoes. I was informed we were moving to their car. When we got to their muster point I was told to sit down and was informed to remove any thorns in my feet. At this juncture they told me they were kidnappers, showed me their guns and told me if I didn't cooperate they would not hesitate to shoot me. Here, I was able to count them properly. The assailants were all Fulani and speaking Fulfulde (native Fulani language). They were eight in number, six armed with AK-47s.
Three motorcycles approached us and on each of them three of us were mounted. I was put in the middle of one and blind folded. At this point I was instructed to keep my head down and not look up or speak. After riding for an hour and a half we stopped. It seemed they took a break for a smoke and share the proceeds of the N10,000 I gave them earlier. One of them brought my cousins phone they pilfered because my mother kept on calling. It was a Microsoft Lumia and they could not turn it off. So I turned off the phone and we continued with our journey. There I thought, "How could a bunch of illiterate men who can't turn off a smart phone manage to get automatic weapons?"
By the time we got off the motorcycles it was around 3:00 a.m. From their gestures I realized they were choosing where to take me. After their deliberation they split up and they gave me a wrapper to cover my head. We then left the motorcycles behind and I was assigned to walk with 3 of them for about another hour in the bush. We came to the base of a hill and stopped. Here they told me to sit down and I was threatened again not to make a peep of sound. One of them went up the hill, I suppose he went to prepare a place for rest. They took the wrapper that was given to me previously and folded it into a blind fold and tied it around my eyes and ears tightly. We walked up the hill with sharp stones and shrubs. At the pinnacle of the hill, we came to a halt, then I was directed to kneel down and enter a little hut, the type that Fulani communities (ruga) have. I was instructed not otherwise they'd slaughter me.
The hut could fit four of us at maximum. There was a mat in it but I was not allowed to lie on the mat so I lay on the ground on the far right hand corner. That first night I couldn't sleep and was awake for most of the next day. Previously they mentioned that I could call my people but they noted it was too soon. I had to urinate in that room, everything in that room. On the first day the only time I was allowed to come out of the hut was in the evening of the around 7:00 p.m. to speak to my father, a reverend. They had taken all the phones in the house and left only one phone with my dad so as to communicate with him. The whole time I was blindfolded. That evening I was removed from the hut and taken to the other side of the hill we stayed on. Before departure to the other side of the hill I was struck several times by three of them to lose my sense of direction. The blind fold was removed and turned back into a wrapper again, so I covered my head with it. They gave me one of dad's phones that I could call him with. They asked me where my phone was. I told them, "In the rush I left mine at home."
So they told me to dial my number. As I did my name Abdul appeared. When they saw my name "Abdul" they were amused and were repeating "servant of God, servant of God." Unknown to them Abdul -Masih means servant of the coming Messiah. When we were through with the call I was blindfolded again and led back to the hut.
During the day I was not allowed to move or make a sound. They demanded amounts of money I have not seen in one place in my life before. Sums of N100,000,000 [$274,000] or N50,000,000 [$137,000]. They told me we have 7 cars in our compound and asked where the rest of the cars were. I assured them that we only had 4 cars and only two were operational. They didn't want to believe me. It was obvious that they had informants, which they later confirmed.
From their discussions with dad they wanted N15,000,000 [$41,000] as ransom for my life. Dad was willing to give them N2,000,000 [$5,500] off the bat. They said, "How much is N2,000,000 [$5,500] and what can we buy with that?" And insisted on N10, 000, 000 [$21,500]. And if it was not delivered by the next day I'd be killed. They even cocked their guns during the call to instill fear. Dad told them that the money was in the bank and he needed time to raise the rest of the money they demanded. Meanwhile, I was threatened in different ways. One of them said, "It's been a month since I've killed somebody," implying that he's eager to kill again, another one said, "If we kill him too close to our camp he will smell, so we'll take him into the bush and get rid of him there or drop his corpse close to where they picked me up".
Around 7:00 p.m. the third night I was led to the side of the hill again. On that side the stones are large, hollow and flat, not short and sharp. Since my capture I was observed by and kept with two Fulani men at all times. Those two checked my blindfold every 30 minutes or so and kicked me immediately after checking. There was another one who supervised those two.
Every evening their leader would show up to be updated from those three on their progress. By the third night I was able to hear the name of their leader or coordinator so to speak. His name was Shehu. He received a call on speaker long enough for me to hear someone call him by that name. Shehu went on to tell me that evening that if Dad didn't pay up they'll kill me and that killing is not a problem for him because he'd been doing it for the past 30 years. He went on to tell me that he had a job in Adamawa State and I was the one delaying his departure. On these evening outings they would clean their guns, unload and reload the ammunition in their AK-47s. From their discussion in Hausa I was able to pick up that they'll use the money to buy more motorcycles and give each other sums between N100,000 - N150,000 [$275-$410].
The third day was quiet. Since the beginning the Fulani communicated in their native dialect only. The only time they spoke Hausa was when they were communicating with my loved ones or another captives loved ones. There was another person who was captive but he was not in my camp. They had only amassed N950,000 [$2600] as at that time and were not ready to give him up yet. They usually fed me with one bun and one can of soda but this day there was no feeding.
On the fourth night, Thursday, around 9:00 p.m. I was removed from the hut. For the first time they allowed me to wear shoes because we were leaving, I guessed. When they were speaking to themselves one of them asked for money to fuel motorcycles in Hausa. The response he received was, "I don't even have N5." After being extracted from the hut we walked down the hill for about 500 meters. When we got to a harvested Guinea corn farm in front of a termite hill they removed my blindfold. Immediately the world started to spin and I got dizzy. Simultaneously, they gave me the phone to locate a number to contact my father and I was barely able to accomplish this, due to dizziness and fatigue. From this point I could not see any hill in the distance, so we were quite far away from their camp.
We met up with the three motorcycles from the first day and we rode out in the moonlight. When we reached a particular farm, maybe a kilometer from the road, they turned off their headlights and stopped. On our way back one of the Fulani men told me we can see them in the market places and not realize it's them. Also they have their informants all over town. The one overseeing the two that were constantly with me actually tried to befriend me and collect my phone number to communicate with me, which I declined. They asked where my wife and children were I replied in Kaduna because they had gone to be with her family for Christmas and New Year.
After stopping in the farm I was left with Shehu while five others went to rendezvous with my relatives who came with the ransom money. By this point they had agreed to collect N5,000,000 [$13,700] because ,according to them, they had respect for my father, if not it would have been more.
This is where it got interesting, because Shehu asked me where I was going from here. I replied, "Plateau State." He asked me whether or not I had heard about Boko Haram. Everything became cold for me at that point but I had to answer his question. I said, "yes." He told me they were a faction of Boko Haram and that their new mandate is to kidnap people and get ransoms from them. He also told me that they have a network through the bush from Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe, Bauchi, and Plateau. In these areas they move through the bush and kidnap anyone they want. He went on to say that it was the Nigerian government that gave them the weapons that I saw them with, and where else would they have gotten weapons? I don't know why he disclosed this info to me, or whether it's true or just meant to instill fear. It should be noted here that not long after I was released the CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) chairman of Adamawa was captured and assassinated. Previously Shehu mentioned he had a job in Adamawa State. Was Shehu one of the men responsible for the murder of Rev Lawan Andimi?
Before long the scouts that went to get my relatives had returned. The trade was made a few meters from where Shehu was. As I let, Shehu said, "till we meet again." That made me feel even worse. They led me toward two individuals and asked if I knew them. I recognized two of my distant cousins and told them, yes. We were asked to empty the content of the sack to make sure that there was no bomb in it. Then my relatives counted the money in bundles to make sure it was complete and put it back into the bag. From there they allowed me to walk away with my relatives who had to park their motorcycle about another 500 meters away from the exchange point. From there we went back home from the south in Tudu Kwaya. We got back home Thursday January 9th at around 11:30 p.m. to meet a reception of friends and family.
After resting at home, stories of other kidnappings in the area started to emerge. One particular story that caught my attention was from a man in Ayaba. He was abducted once, and a year later he was taken for a second time. They even told him they forgot his diabetes medicine. After the second incident they told him they'd come to visit, but when they did he should not disclose their identity. Lo and behold they did come and visit him at home. It was not until after the Fulani left that he told people around that these were the people that abducted him.
I learned that I was not safe and had to leave the area immediately. We left Billiri LGA on the 12th of January 2020. Since then my family and I have been waiting on the Lord for a place to start our lives again. I'm currently seeing a therapist to overcome the trauma of the experience.
Please join us in praying the good Lord will show us the next step for our lives.