My name is ThankGod Okuk, I left for Abuja on Thursday, 17th December, 2020, in order to attend a friend’s wedding on Friday and Saturday.
On Sunday, December 20th, I boarded Big Joe bus to Benin City, getting to Ekpoma, the driver told us that he won’t be going to Benin because it was already past 7pm, so some of us took our belongings and took a Sienna bus going to Benin, after Ehor we were attacked by a gang of Fulani herdsmen who shot sporadically into the air, after taking all our money and phones from us, the leader of the team then asked us to match into the bush, it was at this time that I knew that it was not just robbery but kidnapping.
After few minuite into the bush, the leader of the gang asked who was the driver of the vehicle, the driver identified himself, he was given a thorough beating after which he was allowed to go.
In the process of matching us into the bush with gunshots, one of us who is a pregnant woman fell down and could not move anymore, while they were trying to revive her, one other man escaped into the bush, this made the kidnappers very angry so they left the pregnant woman to die while we were matched into the forest.
We trekked for about three hours into the bush, crossed a river and ascended the hills which was about twenty minutes to climb and after which we descended into the ditch and then the thick forest.
I observed that the kidnappers had a sign of communication and direction inside the forest. I discovered that some rags were tied on some trees in the forest with a sign, once we approach the tree, they will point the torch to identify the point that the rag turn to, this happens to be the way and so we moved on and on using same strategy to find the way.
In another instance, once they heard any noise inside the forest we will be asked to stop while the kidnappers make a sound like that of a herdman to cows, if there is a similar response it means that it is their colleagues but if no response then they will start shooting into the bush before commanding us to move on.
There were lots of dead bodies inside the forest with their hands tied to their back. We trekked for another two hours before getting to their camp which is located inside the heart of the forest.
On our arrival, there was jubilation, the place was filled with dead bodies and then one of them came and started tieing our hands to our back but they never spoke any word to us until the morning.
On Monday morning the leader of the gang who was being referred to as Alhaji came to us after he had made some calls to their boss and then commanded that we be beaten. We were beaten like animals without mercy.After the beating, we were then asked to call our families for negotiation, anyone whose family did not give positive answer to the ransome will be beaten seriously after series of gunshots in the air to put fear in their minds.
When it was my turn, the negotiator picked me up and began flogging me, then I began to beg him in Hausa language, I was shocked that he stopped and their boss then asked him to remove me among the others, then he asked me if I was from the north since I was bearded but I told him no but that I was born in the north, because of that, the kidnapper loose the blindfold that was on my eyes and asked me to sit in the ground while others lay on their stomach.
I then called my elder brother, at first I was scared that my brother will not respond positively and fear of being beaten again, but my brother in his wisdom even though fear could be felt in his voice, he told the kidnappers that firstly he has to talk to me and I was given the phone to speak to him, then he told the negotiator that things are hard but he was going to get them the money and that they should call him back by midday same day.
This conversation made them happy and I wasn’t beaten anymore but the others were seriously dealt with. They had series of negotiation with my brother who was always giving them hope. Finally, the ransome was settled and yet to be paid.
I was in the kidnappers den for four days without food nor water, once in a day the kidnappers fetch river water then add tramadol inside the cup and give us to drink or else we will die of hunger, we poo and urinate on our body in the days we spent there. They kidnap passengers twice daily, both women and children, sometimes when the encounter any police escort, they kill the police and make away with his gun and cap and whenever this happens, the person that shot the policeman will be promoted.
Within the den of the kidnappers there is an amourer who services their guns.They have bags of bullets, different types of guns including two SMGs. Arms and ammunitions litter the ground as they always change guns in each operation, which means that the guns used in the morning won’t be used in the evening till two days time because their funder from the look of things is highly placed. They don’t eat real food, what they eat is garri soaked in oil with onions and Maggi. They don’t rape their victims but beat their victims to death.
Guns don’t penetrate them there in the forest. Before going out for any operation, they shot at each other randomly after which the leader brings out a white rag, spread it on the floor and all others will surround the rag and chant their incantations before leaving.
After my elder brother paid the ransome for four of us that night, the leader of the team sent me a message to the Nigerian Police, he asked me to tell the police that they have come for the police and that they will kill all policemen that come their way because they have taken over Edo State and will soon start a war that will lead to the taking over of the whole state. I promised him I will personally deliver the message to the Commissioner of Police, Edo State. Four of them walked us into the bush until we got to a village, then they told us to walk into the village and from there find our way since my brother was already waiting to receive us.
Finally it was freedom at last.
PLEASE DONT EVEN ENCOURAGE YOUR ENEMIES TO TRAVEL OUT OF BENIN NOT TO TALK OF YOUR FRIENDS.
Thanks for the love and care shown to me during my abduction in the kidnappers’ den.