“My kidnappers had three laptops and a tracking device they used inside the forest. They knew when they had intruders and could see the people through the laptop. They also saw a friend of mine who went to the police station in Benin to report and they called, warned him that they will kill me if he ever tried that again.”
Those were the words of a Lagos teacher who was kidnapped on May 24 .
The victim, who narrated how the kidnappers killed one of the victims whose family could not raise the ransom, said he was yet to overcome the horror of the five days he spent in their custody.
Narrating how the gunmen picked him, the teacher said he had left Lagos that fateful day en route Benin to attend a social event of a family friend, adding that they got to Okada around 7pm and it was raining.
He said the gunmen mounted a roadblock as though they were policemen and wore police raincoats.
The teacher said: “It happened between Okoada and Olariwa. We were climbing the hill and almost five to six vehicles were going together. Suddenly, the kidnappers blocked the road like police. They were wearing police raincoats.
“Suddenly, we heard gunshots towards the checkpoint and at the back. We stopped and attempted a U-turn but before we could do it, two guys blocked us and said, ‘don’t go, don’t go’.
“The vehicle in front of us narrowly reversed but they caught him. The other one escaped, the one behind me did not escape. At that time, I thought they were armed robbers. One of the guys met me and demanded for my money and phone, which I gave him.
“They asked where I work and I told them I am a civil servant, precisely a teacher. Then, they intercepted a commercial bus (belonging to a popular operator), brought down all the passengers and collected their money too.
“They asked us to come down from the vehicle. I was with my brother in the car and another person. They collected my car key. They asked where I came from and I told them Ekiti State.
“We laid down until one of the bus passengers and I were asked to go to another corner while the others were ordered to enter their bus and ‘fly away’. They threw my car key to my brother. Since they didn’t know how to drive, they left the vehicle there.
“The kidnappers asked me and the other man to follow them into the bush. As we were moving, one of them was searching our phones. Unfortunately for me, my salary alert came in. They searched the other man’s phone and his account balance was not up to N75, 000. They asked him where he worked and he said he was a teacher in Warri.
“They used something to hit his back twice, that he was a poor man and that they are kidnappers but he should get lost. The men now told me that I had been kidnapped and we continued to move. We had trekked about two kilometres into the bush when they released the other man.”
Continuing, the man said the kidnappers hit his waist with the butt of an AK47 rifle, adding that he was showed how serious they were the following morning when they killed a victim who was tied to a tree.
The teacher said he was asked to contact five members of his family who would not endanger his life; otherwise, he would be killed like the other victim.
“We trekked several kilometres into the forest. On getting to the bush, they already had someone in their custody, a fair complexion man. The next morning, the man wanted to escape; they just killed him. That was when I knew I was in the land of death and only God could save me.
“The first day I did not eat anything. They had a small pot with which they cooked concoction rice. They offered me food, I refused to eat and I told them I am hypertensive and asthmatic. All the while, I was laid down on the bush with my eyes covered with handkerchief. There was no house/hut. It was under the tree.
“They were four and I think they are from Edo State. They asked my family to bring N10 million. God saved my life. The guy who stayed with me was using cutlass and stick to hit me on my head and my back. The first day, it was their AK47 they used to hit my waist. They said if my people do not comply, they will waste me like they did to the other man.
“One strange thing is that there were people there farming, but they were not aware of what was happening. In the day time, the kidnappers pretended like they were coming from the farm. They usually moved in and out and we did not stay in a particular location. We kept walking inside the forest. In a day, we stayed in up to three or four locations.
“The second day, they went out and bought rice wrapped in leaves with meat for me. They also bought water in sachet on Sunday. They didn’t go outside the forest on Monday but cooked there.
“There was a night some herders almost saw them inside the bush.
“One of the herders was flashing torchlight on them but they stood still like trees until the man flashing the torchlight moved away. We didn’t leave that location until around 2am when the herders had left.
“All through, they used my phone to communicate with my family, except on the last day when the ransom was being brought that they used another number.
“They gave my family a number to call when they got to Ore and warned that the money should not get to Benin, or else they would not collect it.
“After collecting the money, they told my family to go around University of Benin (UNIBEN) and wait. They didn’t release me until they counted the money and saw it was complete.
“The man that led them is between 50-60 years. He would be a retired policeman or a security agent. He is the one who used the laptop to monitor.
“I have a friend in Benin who went to the police station after he learnt of my kidnap. The gang leader called me, after they opened my eyes. He showed me the guy and asked who he was. I said, ‘he is my friend’.
“I was shown the guy on the computer; that was when I was frightened. So, they called the number, the location was shown. They called my friend and warned him. I begged them that he was not my family, that he was my friend and that they could see that none of my family members went to the police station.
“That was because when they heard anything police, their anger increased. It is a video and call recording.
“On Sunday, policemen were around that particular axis and he was seeing them. So, anytime they saw policemen, it meant danger for me. They were seeing people through the laptop. They showed me. They knew where there was network in the bush.
“There was a device they had that showed them where to pass. There is no way I can identify or know the place. If there was any intruder around, they would know. So, they would open their laptop to check.
“He (gang leader) told my family that he was a computer guru and that they were not from Nigeria. But his language didn’t depict it. He sounded like an Edo person. He said he came to Nigeria and he didn’t have anything to do and he wanted to go back; so, he needed a flight ticket.
“There were two elders and two boys the man was training. One of the boys had a pistol; the other used a cutlass and stick. But the man had an AK47 and magazine. He tied them together.
“In the night he dropped the magazine and went out to look for food. I was released 5:30pm on Tuesday.
“I thank God for my safe return. My family paid them N2 million cash. They counted the money and opened my eyes, saying that I was lucky. They returned my phone. The way they were doing it was obvious they knew the area very well.
“The police have to do something. The kidnappers warned me that I shouldn’t pass that road after 6pm,”he said.
But security experts said it was impossible for the kidnappers to have such tracking devices, insisting that “they are only sold to government.”
A senior police officer, who spoke to our correspondent on the issue, said the kidnappers might have used psychology on the victim and possibly leveraged on insider information from the police station the men’s friend went to.
The officer said: “Yes devices like that exist but I can tell you that it is impossible for the kidnappers to have it. They are not sold to individual or companies. They are sold to government. There is no agency in Nigeria today that can buy it.
“Besides, it is not something that can be moved around or installed in a laptop. They are usually giant equipment that are stationary.
“I think it is possible that the kidnappers have conspirators in the police or like the victim said, one of them is a serving or retired policeman who has worked in a unit where they do tracking.
“If that is the case, it is possible he would have sent the number of the person to the security contact and requested for location, which will be easily given to him.
“I would have said they used pure psychology on the victim if he did not claim to have seen the video. Maybe, they made a video call without his knowing. But to say they have video tracking device installed in their laptops that they carry about? That is impossible.”
Asked if there is a possibility the syndicate could have hacked into such a device, another source claimed it was impossible because “Nigeria presently doesn’t even have such a device. For Nigeria to have one, all the telecommunication companies will be brought on-board. All the security services will also be onboard,” he said.
- The Nation