Niger passengers’ ordeals with Bandits: We slept side by side with cows, drank contaminated water - SALIENT TIMES ONLINE


Monday, 22 February 2021

Niger passengers’ ordeals with Bandits: We slept side by side with cows, drank contaminated water

By Our Correspondent


Barely 24 hours after their release, some of the 53 passengers abducted by bandits in Niger state, have shared their gory experiences of inhumanity while in captivity.

The victims, who breathed the air of freedom late Sunday, said they slept side by side with cows rustled by the bandits in the forest.

Those who spoke with Our Correspondent at NSDC Hotel where they were being rehabilitated and monitored by health experts, explained that they were subjected to harassment, indignation, threat to lives and having to cohabit, trek and sleep with over 2,000 cows.

Looking very exhausted, Abdulkareem Abubakar, one of the freed passengers narrated his ordeal in the hands of the bandits.

“The Fulani bandits were having about 2,000 cows. As we were moving deeper into the forest, they continued to rustle other cows they came across. We were staying and sleeping with the cows. If I sleep here, cow will sleep next to me,” Abubakar said.

The passenger said the bandits gave him the beating of his life because he told them he had no money when they demanded for N10m ransom and later reduced it to N5m.

“The bandits at the scene of the attack collected all our money and phones; they carried the bag of rice in the bus. That was what they cooked for us and they gave us food once a day. At a point, they demanded for 10million or N5million from each person, we said we did not have the money. This angered them and they started beating us until they got in contact with one Sani, who was pleading with them not to kill us,” he further recalled.

Abubakar further said in the course of negotiation, the bandits told Sani to bring N50million ransom if he wanted us alive, adding that “they however  agreed on a certain amount of money after Sani said he did not have N50million. They gave him two days to bring the money or they would kill us, but Sani pleaded for them to spare our lives.”
Continuing, he said the negotiation went on for another day before Sani told them to give him 10hours, adding that when the time came, they called Sani to meet them up at a particular place.

He said: “When the time reached, they told us that we were going to a place and took us through a long distance journey. Then, they told us to go front and that we will meet soldiers who will take us home. We met police from Niger state headquarters after trekking distance. They picked us from a place under Kagara, near Madaka village and brought us to Minna.”

Also narrating her ordeal, Bunmi  Oyerinde, a widow and caterer  who lost her husband a year ago,  said she was returning  from Kontagora where she was hired  to cook for an event before the unfortunate incident.

She said the victims were seriously starved and drank water from the same river used by the cows.

 “On the first day, we slept under the mango tree separated from the men. The cold in the area is like ice block. None of us was able to sleep till daybreak. When the day broke, they heard sound of plane and they asked us to run, then they took us to another bush which they cleared for us to sit. They asked us to lie down and we were hungry. They went to the river which their cows also drink from to fetch water and they gave 10 of us to share one Ragolis bottle. After sharing the water, if anyone stood up, they would put the gun on the person’s head and threaten to kill him or her. We begged them to allow us call our relatives because they seized our phones,” she said.

Still narrating her experience, Oyerinde said she begged the bandits who showed no human sympathy to allow her contact her children, but they refused until one Sani came to rescue them.

 “Our children were crying and hungry. Some among us have high blood pressure. We did not know from where they brought spaghetti, they cooked it without salt and oil. They ask us to go and pluck leaves from defecation area with which to spice our food.  There was no water to drink after eating.

 “We were kept with the animals and we moved everywhere with them till we were released.”

In yet another experience, Ibrahim Usman Jamade, a civil servant and teacher, said he was coming from Rijau on that fateful day from a friend’s wedding.

 He said: “We went on barefoot into the forest, if you observed my walking; my legs are still in pains. They treated us so bad. There was harassment and lots of threats to our lives. When they abducted us, we trekked for distance and they allowed us to rest for one hour before they directed us to stand up and continue the journey deeper into the forest. When they realised the cows were slow, they asked us to go ahead of the cows. They asked us for money and that was why they kept threatening us that if we didn’t pay up, they were going to kill us or this and that.”

B/Haram slaughters 5 IDPs

Meanwhile, about five Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were reportedly slaughtered Sunday in Damboa local government area of Borno state, it was gathered.

The tragic incident came some 24 hours after the Chief of Army Staff, Maj Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, gave a marching order to the troops to reclaim some communities under the control of the insurgents in the state.

The IDPs reportedly went in search of firewood outside the Damboa town Sunday morning when the incident happened.

A member of the local vigilance group, Abu Damboa, who disclosed this, said the IDPs were declared missing when they didn’t return.

He said his colleagues and him then embarked on a search-and-rescue operation.

“We got the report that some IDPs were missing. So, we swung into action but later found five of them beheaded two kilometers away from the scene where they were falling trees.

“It was disheartening to see fellow human beings slaughtered like animals, they were all displaced persons, “Abu said.

Humanitarian sources said the incident happened on Sunday afternoon, adding that the victims had been buried according to Islamic rites.

“Information received was that eight IDPs who went in search of firewood outside Damboa town some 6-8kms were abducted.

“Five dead bodies out of the eight missing IDPs were recovered this morning,” a humanitarian source revealed.

FG promises peace soon

But in a message of hope, Senate President Ahmad Lawan has  assured that in the next two months, Nigeria would achieve a more secure and peaceful environment.

He gave the reassurance Monday while speaking to State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa Abuja.

Speaking on the plan to restore peace and security in the shortest possible time, the Senate President said government was doing everything possible to secure all parts of the country and ensure peace returns before the rainy season sets in so that farmers and others can go about their normal lives in a secure environment.

He said the National Assembly would complement efforts to upgrade the Armed Forces by helping with the appropriation for the required equipment.

Lawan said: “I’ve come to meet with Mr. President, to discuss the issue of security of our nation, and in fact, there is nothing more important today or more topical, than the security of Nigeria.

“We had a very extensive discussion on the security of all parts of Nigeria and how we should go about improving the situation; we all have roles to play. Nobody would like to see the kind of things that we experience in various parts of the country in the form of insecurity.

“As political leaders, we have responsibilities to our people and we cannot shy away from that, we have to get our people secured, we have to secure the environment for them to earn their means of livelihood, we’ll like to see our farmers go back to farms before the rainy season starts.

“This means we have to secure the rural parts of Nigeria as well as the urban centres because we need businesses to flourish.

“So I believe that between now and probably the next two months, there will be a lot of activities to ensure that we recover and secure the environments for our people to lead a very normal life.

“We also believe that the government is headed in the right direction. You’ll recall that the National Economic Council approved of taking some funds from the Excess Crude Accounts with a view to giving more resources to our Armed Forces.

“This is a commendable effort and we are ready to help with appropriation to ensure that we acquire those security weapons for the armed forces of this country to end this insecurity in the northeast, in the northwest, in the southeast/South-south and southwest as well.

“We believe that this is also going to help empower and build the capacity of other security agencies like the police because the police need to be there.”