A 31-year-old farmer based in Osun State, Samuel Oladotun who was recently abducted alongside his brother, by some gunmen near his farm in Ileogbo town, spoke about their harrowing experience inside the kidnappers’ den. The graduate of Animal Science, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, in this interview with BOLA BAMIGBOLA, narrates the pains, losses, the their travails. Excerpts:
What was your experience like in the den of your abductors?
It was not easy at all surviving in that place, but by the grace of God, we survived it all. We were abducted on Wednesday, January 11 and made to trek for about 45 minutes into the bush before we stopped briefly to rest. After resting for some minutes, we started our long trek again for about 2-3 hours before we again got to a place where we rested. It was after the third tranche of trek, that we finally got to the kidnappers’ camp. There, we were kept with no water and food.
We learnt another person was abducted along with you. Who was the person?
He is my younger brother, Tobi. When we were kidnapped, he was even fasting. When it got to a stage were we could no longer bear it, we asked our abductors, if we could get some water, but one of them viciously hit us with sticks for asking for water. But good enough, one of them understands fairly good English language. He was the one who took pity upon us and gave us some water to drink.
How were you abducted?
On the day we were kidnapped, I had concluded all the task I set out to do on the farm. As I was heading out of the area in my vehicle, I heard a loud bang, ostensibly from a gunshot. It roared from the back of my vehicle. Initially i thought it was from a hunter. I immediately parked to check what the problem was and just as I came down, three men emerged from the bush from the back and started shooting sporadically into the air. Before I realised what was happening, another set showed up in front of the vehicle. That was how were we were captured.
But it was insinuated that more people were abducted with you and Tobi, but they escaped. So, who are they and how did they escape?
Myself, Tobi and one of our staff were leaving the farm together that day, but that my staff said he wanted to go pick his motorcycle. That was his lucky break. He was the only one that escaped. He was not in the same vehicle with us.
At what point did the abductors demand for ransom?
They did, just the following morning, being a Thursday. I recall, we were given roasted cassava to eat in the morning, then around 6pm, we were also given roasted yam. On Friday, after calling our people to demand for ransom and the response they got was not favorable, they refused to give us food or water. Later that night, I asked for water and they gave us with garri. The kidnappers were seven in number and they kept the water we all drank in a 5-litre keg. It means that nine of us had to drink from that small volume of water.
We were not given food or water throughout Saturday. On Sunday when we could not cope again, we asked for water. At first, they didn’t answer us but later, they came with some water in a bottle of Predator container. We managed that till evening, when we were given some garri and pieces of bread.
We didn’t eat anything on Monday till evening when we were again given some garri. On the day we were released, being a Tuesday, they only gave us water.
The worst of this nasty experience was the cold inside their camp. It was terrible.
Can you describe the exact location your abductors’ camp is located, since you own a farm within the area?
I don’t know the exact location because they were moving from one place to the other. We were constanly on the move at night, but I know all their camps are still within the axis of Momu, Ileogbo, Ikoyi and the bush along Kuta to Ede road. We were just moving from one location to another and they hid us under tick shrubs.
With your fairly good disclosure of the likely areas these kidnappers camp, what do you advice our security operatives to do, to rid these areas of criminal elements?
If the police want to do their homework very well, it is not as if they can’t arrest these criminals. They (abductors) don’t operate on people’s farm. They stay in areas with thick bush which they use as shield.
While with your abductors, did you observe that people could be close by?
At the first place we were taken to, we heard voices. There was a day we heard a bike moving very close to the place. The last place we were taken to also, was very close to the main road because we heard engine sound of moving of vehicles.
How were your kidnappers getting food supply?
Some people were bringing food to them. Those bringing food and water work with the gang and they are
Fulani like those that abducted us. They were armed with cutlasses and thick sticks with which herders control cattle.
Did you interact with your abductors and what did you discuss with them?
Yes, I had conversation with the one who could speak English among them. But later, we didn’t see him among them again. I think he left shortly before ransom was to be paid by our people. Our interaction was usually whenever I wanted to make a request.
Do you suspect involvement of some indigenes in the activities of your abductors?
I am not really sure, but they may be involved. However, I know they have collaborators around that place who may be Fulani like them. When we were trekking into the deep forest, we did not sight cows, yet, we observed many of the Fulani living inside the forest.
What was your thought while shackled at the den?
As expected, I had many thoughts. At some point, Tobi even suggested that we try to escape, but there was no way we could escape from that place safely. They would have shot us. Four of them were armed with shopisticated weapons.
The only thing I was doing was prayer, because I could not even think straight. The prayer was on how the people at home would know that we were suffering and they would do all they could to get money to rescue us. We knew that without ransom, it was not possible for us to be released.
How did they release you?
On the day we were released, being Tuesday 17, January, that night, they first called me to inform me that our people that went to deliver ransom had been abducted too and they threatened to kill all of us if our families fail to meet their demand for money. I begged them to pity us. There was a particular one that understood Yoruba among them. He translated my message to others.
What was their response after hearing what you said?
They said they would release me and that I would go home to bring more money, but I told them I don’t know what was going on at home and that I might not be able to promise them that I would bring more money. They told me to go back to where we were kept. But around 8pm same day, they called us and I noticed that some of them were not present again. Only two of the kidnappers were with us. They asked us to follow them and we obeyed. When we got to a point, we saw a hunter coming towards our direction, they hid us in the bush. Later, they gave Tobi his clothes and asked us to start running. We ran and they ran after us. Later, we did not see them again. We trekked for almost four hours until we got to a village called Ikoyi.
Do you intend to return to your farm?
For now, I can’t go back to the farm. My plan is that maybe we will have another person who will be managing it. I will only monitor through phone.
I may consider going there once in a while, but going there on a daily basis for now is not in my plan.
How much was paid to secure your release?
The kidnappers collected a total sum of N10 million. The first amount paid was N6 million and they later collected another N4 million naira.
How can government and security agents prevent a repeat of this kind of incident?
If you are a youth in Nigeria trying to survive and things like this is happening, you will reconsider your continued stay in this country.
I asked myself a question during our stay there that how on earth do these people get weapons and they carry the weapons on motorcycles around our security operatives who pretend not to see them?
That is an indication that the country is not safe. When we got to the police station, one of the officers we met there lamented that the government was their problem, becaue there were things they needed, but were not given. I was told that my family was made to pay for bullets before Amotekun and hunters ventured into the bush to search for us.
We are not safe at all in this country. It is not about the police alone, but the government also. There are some policies that are not working again. For instance, Amotekun operatives and hunters can’t go into the bush whenever there is kidnapping without the permission of the police. But the police would also say they can’t go into the bush to rescue anyone abducted.
What this drama means is that the government does not care about the citizens. If you see these kidnappers, they don’t look like someone who could afford N50,000 personal money. From all indications, they were working for some people who are collecting the money.
Who could those people be?
It is difficult to say. But my conclusion as a victim is that some influential people may be involved. It is not as if security men can’t capture these criminals. They were using phone to communicate and I think they can be tracked, if our security operatives are serious about fighting criminality like professed.