Our ordeal inside bandits’ camp, by freed passengers

The Nation

By Justina Asishana, Minna

Some of the abducted passengers of a bus, who regained freedom at the weekend, on Monday relived their ordeal in the hands of the bandits.

Fifty three passengers of a Niger State Mass Transit bus, who were kidnapped on the highway on February 14, were released one week after.

They were taken to the Government House in Minna, the Niger State capital, about 11pm on Sunday.

Among them were 19 members of a family, children and the aged.

One of them, Hajiya Jumai Isa, said: “It was a terrible experience but we thank God that we are safe now. They threatened us, they beat the men, they really beat the hell out of them. They told us they didn’t want anything from us but money. They said they wanted money, that we should give them money, that our people should bring money so that they would free us and that if not, they would kill us.”

She added that the bandits brandished sophisticated weapons that she had only seen in movies. “Their weapons, I have never seen the type before in real life. They have rockets, guns, AK 47, and other weapons. The bandits were more than 1,000 in that bush.’

She expressed appreciation to God and the government for bringing her back safely, “I feel happy being reunited with my family. I thank God I am still alive because I lost hope, I didn’t think I would come back again.”

Mohammed Ndagi, who was returning from his friend’s wedding in Rijau at the time he was abducted, said bandits were shooting sporadically and a bullet almost took off his head.

‘One of the bullets brushed my head. When I saw blood, I thought I wouldn’t survive. But even with the wound, they forced me to move with them into the bush. We walked for about 24 hours. We walked all through the night. They gave us simple food, served on our palm. We drank the water that cows drink.”

He added: “We slept on bare floor. They did not tie our hands or tie us at all. They kept guns to our heads and beat us all the time. They beat us with stick. As they beat us, they kept saying, we need money or you will die here”.

He said they were moved from one place to the other adding that on the day they were released, the bandits escorted them to where those who picked them were waiting to prevent their being re-kidnapped.

“On the day they released us, they asked us to forgive them for what they did to us and we said we had forgiven them.

“They escorted us because they said if they left us to go on our own, some of their partners might re-kidnap us.”

Hamza Buhari described his experience as “hectic that I don’t wish for my enemy. They took us inside the bush. We walked for 24 hours. They moved us from one point to another. They conveyed the elderly on motorcycles. They beat us every day. They gave us rice on our hands. The experience was very bad”.

Alhaji Isah Abdukadir, who had 19 members of his family expressed gratitude to God and the government for ensuring their release.

Abdukadir who was close to tears, said the past week was traumatic for his family.

One of the family members who gave her name as Ameer said her mother, grandmother, uncle and sister were among those released.

Majority of the freed abductees had difficulty walking having been made to trek long distance in the bush.

Some of them were supported into the conference hall of the Government House.

Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello, who received them, said the released victims were malnourished and unwell adding that the medical team would attend to them.

He said no ransom was paid adding that the government employees used dialogue to secure their release.

Governor Sani-Bello said pupils of Government Science College Kagara, abducted by bandits on Wednesday, were still in captivity.

“We still have the students of Kagara in the hands of the bandits and everything is being done to secure their release soonest,” the governor explained.

Bello said the state went through one week of negotiation and dialogue to ensure the release of the passengers.

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