Security operatives wished us luck as we went to pay ransom – Families of ABU 9
Following the release of the nine students of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria who were abducted six days ago along the Kaduna-Abuja highway, the families have recounted some of the challenges they encountered before their wards regained their freedom.
According to a report by Daily Trust, the bandits had demanded a cumulative ransom of N270 million, asking each parent to provide N30 million for the students’ freedom. However, after days of negotiations with relatives, it was gathered that the kidnappers settled for unequal amounts from various families.
Families of the kidnapped students were reportedly asked to converge around a forest in Chikun Local Government Area where they will be given directions into the forest.
One of the relatives, who conveyed N500,000 to secure his sister’s release said:
“It was as if we were given the same time to bring the ransom. About 12 people were released on Saturday night among them the nine students; eight females and a male. Each family went with their ransom separately in a bag and we were all directed by the kidnappers.”
Another family source who delivered N800,000 for the release of his niece said each family was given a particular amount to deliver with the least being N500,000. He said;
“If you are travelling to Abuja from Kaduna, immediately after the NYSC camp, there is a solar light at a small village called Dutse. By the side, there is a tarred road that goes into Gwagwada but before we got to Gwagwada, there is a road that will lead you to Maro village. It was on our way to Maro that we were diverted into the forest. We are in serious trouble in this country because this thing happened just close to the NYSC camp.”
Recounting how security operatives allegedly wished them luck, he added;
“We met with security agents who were patrolling the area while on our way and they asked us where we were going to because it was late at night. We told them we were on our way to pay ransom for the release of our relatives and the security agents wished us good luck.
“We drove for about 30 minutes inside the bush and then we saw some people on motorcycles and we were asked to hop on. We rode on the motorcycles for another 30 minutes deep into the forest.”
Upon getting into the forest, the man whose niece was kidnapped said armed men surrounded them and asked them to raise their hands.
“We did as ordered because they were well-armed and so they searched our body and when they didn’t find anything, they collected the money and counted them all to be sure they were complete before they released the victims.
“We were asked to form a queue and one by one, we were attended to. If your money is complete, you will be asked to provide the name of the person you were paying for and the person will be called out then you will stand aside and the next person on the queue will be attended to.”
The source also told the publication that some of the kidnappers tried to have small talk with them, as one of them told them he was an ex-security agent who quit and joined the group. Others claimed to be from the Niger Republic and Cameroon. He also revealed that the students and three others were released around 10 pm on Saturday but by the time they got to Abuja Junction, it was about 2am on Sunday.
Some of the students told Daily Trust that their abductors beat them over their parents’ failure to raise the ransom requested. One student said the ransom was paid to secure the release of eight students while the ninth was released out of sympathy.
One of the students said;
“The abductors were unable to reach her relatives and they threatened to kill her but at the last minute, when we were about to leave, out of sympathy, she was asked to join us.
“They beat us and threatened us, but not as much as they beat the men in our midst. We slept in the open, on the grass and the kidnappers provided food and asked the females to cook meals. Sometimes we ate rice and yam and other times, we ate kwado-made from garri and kulikuli. The water was dirty but we had no option but to drink it.”
Another student who said she contracted malaria, revealed that the forest was cold with a lot of mosquitoes and most of them shivered during the night.
“They didn’t separate us. We were kept together with others. Some people were released on Friday but the nine of us were set free on Saturday together with three others. This is an experience I will never forget and I pray no one experiences it because it was terrible.”
The student also revealed that because they were all dirty and unkempt, the kidnappers gifted them N30, 000 to buy soap to wash their cloth.
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