The young man, Francis Odo, speaks up about his encounter with some kidnappers in the community.
Francis Odo, an 18-year-old native of Eha-Amufu community in Enugu State, tells RAPHAEL EDE about his encounter with kidnappers in the community.
Can you share the story of how you were kidnapped with us?
It happened around 7pm on Wednesday, June 9. I was on a motorcycle with two other guys coming home to Agu-Amaede from the camp in Eha-Amufu. We were stopped by four men, flashing their torches in our faces. As we made to run back, three other men with guns surfaced behind us, pointing the guns at us. They rounded us up and led us into a nearby bush, where five other men were keeping watch over two victims, earlier kidnapped.
On getting there, they ordered us to lie down and then began to beat us. They searched through our pockets and took all our money and phones. About 15 minutes later, they brought a lady and an old man to join us.
What happened next?
Shortly after, we started hearing heavy gunshots near the roads. About five minutes after the gun battle, the others (kidnappers) rushed to the place we were kept and informed their colleagues that they were attacked by forest guards. So, they decided to take us away from that location. They kept making phone calls as they were marching us away. I heard them saying that they killed three forest guards in the encounter. They asked us for the location of the police station and the forest guards’ office in the area. We told them that there was no police station in the vicinity; that the nearest police station was in Ikem town.
As they marched us through the bush path, they kept beating us heavily. We walked for about seven hours before they decided to rest around 1am at the railway. It was at that point that they gave us our phones to start making calls. They said they would collect N10m ransom on the old man.
The lady with us also called her relations but I don’t know how much they asked them to bring. It was there that they shared all the money they collected from us and some of them moved towards other directions, leaving us with about six others to continue our journey.
How will you describe the kidnappers?
As we were moving, they kept telling us that they were Boko Haram members and that they were the ones who attacked a village called Egedegede in Ebonyi State where they killed many people. They said they would keep kidnapping our people and collecting money until our people stop talking about Biafra, and that anyone whose people failed to pay would be killed.
They also said we should call Nnamdi Kanu so that we would regain our freedom. They said Nnamdi Kanu had been deceiving us to agitate for Biafra and asking that Fulani people should go from the East. They said once they see Nnamdi Kanu, Igbo problems would be over.
Did you tell them anything after they said that?
We told them we didn’t know Nnamdi Kanu, not to talk of having his phone number, and that he was not from our village. That response got us some heavy beating.
How many of you were in their captivity then?
We were six in number. We were kidnapped on Wednesday and they took us to a community in Benue State. On Thursday by 4 am, they brought us back to the railway where they shared money the previous day. It was there that I called my elder brother and told him that I had been kidnapped. They spoke with my brother and told him to bring N5m.
They also told us to call our state governor to come and pay for our freedom. They asked us the name of our local government chairman, but we said we didn’t know.
They also told us to mention the rich people in Agu-Amede. They insisted that we should lead them to any rich man’s house on that second night so that they would take the person and release us. We told them that our people are all farmers.
They started making jest of us by asking us to dance to their tribal music. They would untie one person and ask him to dance while a song played on their phones. We all danced because they beat anyone who refused to dance; they would beat the person like a thief. The following day, I contacted a Catholic priest in our parish and together with people from our village, they made contributions to get us out of the kidnappers’ den.