We saw many dead bodies: Gory tale of kidnap victim from Edo forest where villains are rewarded for killing policemen
Sporadic gunshots from some armed men rented the air on December 20, 2020, at Ehor, on the Benin /Auchi expressway, Edo State.
The time was 7.45 pm.
The deafening sounds of gunshots rattled travelers who were in their respective vehicles. This was followed by the screeching of tires as motorists plying the route attempted to hurriedly make u-turns to avoid being victims.
Unfortunately, one among the vehicles, a Siena bus was intercepted and every one of its passengers – three men and three women – dispossessed of money and valuables.
But that wasn’t all.
The armed men ordered the fear-stricken passengers to alight from the vehicle, get on a line, and marched them into the bush. At that time, it dawned on all that they weren’t just robbers, but also kidnappers.
One kidnap too many
That wasn’t the primary time such an event would be experienced along that route. In fact, it’s become a daily occurrence. Information at Crime Guard’s disposal has it that these kidnappers operate a minimum of twice each day. there have been times, victims were hit with stray bullets during the indiscriminate shooting to force motorists to prevent, and their bodies were abandoned.
At other times, abducted victims were either shot dead or they died out of shock or hunger, within the kidnapper’s den.
These daredevils haven’t any fear for security agents, as they need on some occasions, shot police escorts dead and their boss’ whisked into the forest and killed or released after a ransom was paid.
Journey into the forest
A pregnant woman was among the passengers within the Sienna bus that were attacked on December 20, 2020.
Narrating their journey to the kidnapper’s den, one among the abducted passengers, ThankGod Okuk, revealed that their abductors were herdsmen, several of whom sounded educated.
He said: “ I traveled to Abuja for marriage on Thursday, December 17, 2020. By Sunday morning, being December 20th, I boarded Big Joe transport to Benin city. On reaching Ekpoma, the driving force told us he won’t be getting to Benin because it had been already past 7 pm. a number of us took our belongings from the vehicle and boarded a Sienna bus to Benin.
After Ehor, we were attacked by a gang of Fulani herdsmen who shot sporadically into the air.
“As they marched us into the bush, the leader of the gang asked who was the busman, immediately the driving force identified himself, he was beaten thoroughly before he was let loose, while the remainder folks were ordered to maneuver on while they continued shooting.
“A pregnant woman among us fell, as she couldn’t move anymore. a number of the abductors tried to revive her and within the process, one among us escaped into the bush. Our abductors were so angry that they abandoned the pregnant woman and ordered us to maneuver on.
“ We trekked for 3 hours, crossed a river, and ascended a hill which took us about twenty minutes to climb. We descended into a dish than a thick forest. We spent three days in the forest without food.
“I observed that the abductors had a symbol of communication and direction inside the forest. a number of the trees had rags tied to them, with a symbol. once we approached any of the trees, they might point their torchlight to ascertain the direction the rag faced and followed it accordingly.
Also, once they heard any noise inside the forest, they might ask us to prevent it while they made a sound like that of a herdsman to his cow. If there was an equivalent response, it meant it had been their colleagues but if no response, they might start shooting into the bush before commanding us to maneuver on.
Dead bodies within the bush
“There were many dead bodies inside the forest, with their hands tied to their back. We trekked for an additional two hours before we need to their camp located within the heart of the forest.
On arrival, there was jubilation. there have been dead bodies everywhere. one among the abductors came and began tying our hands to our back but never spoke any word to us until subsequent day, when the leader of the gang who was mentioned as Alhaji, came to us.
He made some calls to their boss before commanding his boys to beat us.
We were beaten like animals without mercy. Thereafter, we were instructed to call our families for negotiation. Anyone whose family didn’t provide a positive account of the payment of ransom would tend another round of beating, with some gunshots fired into the air to place fear in our minds.
Hausa dialect saved me
“When it had been my turn, the negotiator picked me up and commenced to flog me. I begged him within the Hausa dialect to be gentle with me. I used to be shocked when he stopped and their boss ordered him to separate me from others. He asked if I used to be from the North since I used to be bearded. I said no, but that I used to be born within the North. They removed the veil from my eyes and asked me to take a seat on the bottom while others laid on their stomachs.
I immediately called my elder brother. I used to be scared he wouldn’t respond well, as that might amount to my being beaten. But he did and requested the kidnapper to permit him to talk with me first, to make sure I used to be alive. Thereafter, he begged the negotiator to think about him, saying that things were hard”.
Tramadol mixed in water was food
Okuk said they weren’t given food to eat but water mixed with hard drugs.
He said: “ Once each day, the abductors would fetch water from the river and add a tablet of tramadol inside the cup, allowing it to dissolve before giving us to drink. I had no choice but to drink it because I wanted to remain alive. They told us it might give us strength and help us endure pains and hunger which if we didn’t take it, we might die of hunger like others.
“We excreted and urinated on our bodies throughout the times we spent within the forest. They brought in passengers twice each day, both women and youngsters. Sometimes once they encountered any police escort, they might kill him and make a way together with his gun and cap. Whenever this happened, the person who fired the shot that killed the policeman would be promoted…
Division of labor
There were 10 kidnappers with us. Among them was an armorer who serviced their guns. that they had different types of guns including SMG and bags of bullets. The guns utilized in the morning weren’t used again until two days after.
They didn’t eat real food. they might pour gari ( cassava flour ) into the oil with onions and Maggi and eat. They didn’t rape their female victims, they only beat them, sometimes, to death.
“Gun bullets don’t penetrate them. Before going out for any operation, they might try the bullets on themselves by shooting randomly after which the leader would bring out a white rag, spread it on the ground et al. would surround the rag, chant some incantations before going for an operation.
“They finally agreed to simply accept N250,000 from each folk. But the agreement was that the 2 other families should hand theirs to my elder brother to bring back the designated place within the forest. But the oldsters of the fourth person abandoned him. To some extent, they couldn’t be reached on the phone. He was nearly beaten to death. I had to beg them to also release him alongside us since his family had rejected him. Most of them agreed to release him to us”.
Message to security agents
“On the night four folks were to be released, the leader of the gang said I should tell the Police they were out for them, that they planned to kill all policemen that might cross their path which they intended to require over Edo state. I told him I might personally deliver the message to the Commissioner of Police, Edo State”.
They visited to collect the ransom earlier before we were released and told my brother to attend for us. They came with loaves of bread and bottles of water which were among what my brother brought. They gave us a loaf of bread and a bottle of water each.
But we were too tired to eat because our stomach was locked. We only took water.
Two of the abductors marched us through the forest. We trekked for about two hours inside the forest before arriving at Obagie/Ehor expressway. They left us but told us to steer into the community and narrate our ordeal to anyone we met. They said we might meet my brother there.
On reaching the community, we met some youths outside and narrated our ordeal to them. They took us to their leader who provided an area for the 2 girls to sleep, while the fourth man and that I slept outside the hut. I used to be taken to a Police checkpoint where my brother, who was persisted his way back from the designated point of ransom payment, was”.
Ailing pregnant woman
Few days after their release, the pregnant woman who was abandoned within the bush by the abductors, reportedly contacted Okuk. She explained that she got his number from one of the women that were released.
Crime Guard gathered that she was rescued by members of a vigilante group that night and brought to the Ehor Police Division from where she was taken care of before continuing her journey to Benin City, the Edo capital.
Though the Edo State Police Command has killed some kidnap suspects during a crossfire, with many arrested kidnapping within the state, especially along the Benin- Auchi expressway, has remained unabated.