A leader of the Southern Conference of UMCN, Rev Philip Micah Dopah, said the kidnappers initially demanded the sum of N15 million, but after four days of negotiation, they accepted the N1 million offered to them. Dopah said a villager who tried to rescue the pastor from the hands of the kidnappers was shot dead.
“When Istifanus was captured by the hoodlums, the villagers were notified through phone calls and they gathered immediately. They tried to rescue the pastor but because the hoodlums had sophisticated weapons, they shut one of them who died instantly and that led to the withdrawal of others,” Rev. Dopah said.
Among the 32 members of the UMCN who have fallen victim to kidnappers is Rev. Nuhu Maikanti, a pastor of UMCN at Salama, Pampetel. Maikanti lives in Tau, Ardo-Kola Local Government Area, where he also works as a teacher at Government Day Secondary School (GDSS). He has been living in Tau since 2015 when he was transferred from Karin-Lamido to the area.
Penultimate Friday, he visited his sick daughter at Yaggai in Jalingo. On his way back to Tau, he boarded a motorcycle at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation Camp. But they had hardly arrived at their destination when they were attacked by kidnappers. Maikanti and the okada (motorcycle) man were shot several times, but the pastor prayed God to forgive their attacker.
“When I got to the okada park near the NYSC Camp, one of the okada boys knew me. He said, ‘Baba, let’s go.’ With rumours that the road is not good, I didn’t hesitate to join him, and off we went.
“As we approached Company (a construction site), two men were hiding under a shed, one carrying a gun, the other a stick. The gunman shot at us in the back when we had passed. We fell off. The motorcyclist, though also injured, ran away.
“I stood up and asked him why he shot at us, and he said he stopped us but we refused to stop. He lied. My question provoked him. He pulled the trigger and shot at me again. But I was not afraid. I said I would not die.
“After hearing the sound of the gun when he shot for the second time, I began to pray for him. I said God forgive him, for he knows not what he has done. Then I started singing a hymn: Pass Me Not Gentle Saviour… I looked at the time, it was 3.30 pm.”
“One of the okada men identified me. He pulled his shirt and tied me. He and his passenger put me in the middle. By the time we got to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Jalingo, I had run out of blood.”
When this reporter visited him at the FMC the following day, he could not speak. The bullets from the back had penetrated into his chest. Some bullets had also caught his laps. Other bullets pierced through the shoulder and tore the lower jaw of his mouth.
After an x-ray, dentists discovered he had lost two incisors and two premolars (bicuspids) in his oral cavity. A surgeon then removed the bullets from his chest and laps, described as Cartridge B12 by a soldier who examined the “entry and outlet of the bullets.”
The surgery took more than three hours. “He went to theatre at 2.am and came out at 5.13am,” his daughter, who looks after him in hospital, told our correspondent.
It was when The Nation visited him the second time at the FMC’s Surgical Ward on Wednesday that he spoke to our reporter. He had recovered tremendously. Some relatives, including his chief, the Galadima of Tau, HRH Muhammadu Abubakar, visited him on his sickbed.
When asked why he prayed for his attacker who wanted him dead, Pastor Maikanti said: “Prayer is the ultimate thing in life. Jesus admonishes us to pray for ourselves and even our enemies.”
‘My potbelly became flat after six days in kidnappers’ den’
The story of Emmanuel Ugwuoke is both heartbreaking and humorous. Ugwuoke, a businessman popularly known as De Lord, had at the close of business retired to his home behind Our Nation Bread in Magami, Jalingo.
At about 1 am, he heard people violently hitting at his door. When he opened the curtains of his window, he saw more than 30 men welding guns and machetes. The gunmen also saw him.
Ugwuoke climbed into the ceiling to hide, but his visitors, who removed the window and burglary bar, invaded his room and traced him to the ceiling with long torches. They saw him, dragged him down and started beating him.
He gave them the sum of N35,000 he had kept with his wife, but the kidnappers collected the money and still took him away. His children cried. His wife said she almost fainted. From 1.24 am, they trekked till day break.
De Lord was not the only one abducted in Magami on that ill-fated night. On their way, while crossing a river, he looked back and realised that two of his kinsmen, Ekene and Linus, were also with them on the “journey.” Their destination, De Lord said, was a mountainous place in the forest.
“I cannot locate the exact route. We were being controlled the way herdsmen control their cows. But I remember we went to a forested hillside,” he said.
In the hill, the abductees stayed till evening when they were brought down to a house overgrown with grass. In the morning, they trekked several kilometres to another location. Then they made another trip, this time to the main kidnappers’ den where they met other victims.
“There, I saw a woman backing her baby. I saw three boys of about 15 years old. There were many people of different tribes: women, men and children. It is like they had been there for days, weeks and even months.
“After they negotiated with my brother and accepted N2 million and N50,000, we started coming back. At first, they told my brother to pay N200 million. That was when I urinated in my trouser. In my life, I had never feared anybody or anything. But what I saw was terrible. I told my brother on the phone during the negotiation to sell all my property and pay them to free me, so I could return alive.
“On our way back, we crossed a river with water at waist level. There, they noticed I was tired so they gave me a walking stick that later injured my hand. From there, we climbed four motorbikes and rode another long distance.
“I spent six days with them. I couldn’t eat the food they brought. So, I became thirsty and my mouth was dry. I drank their water which was fetched from the stream. It was when they brought bread that I took it, eating little and reserving the rest.
“We bathed once when we all started smelling. We went to a stream and bathed without soap. Is that a bath?”
After spending six days in the kidnappers’ den, Ugwuoke returned home to discover that his potbelly had been replaced by an admirable flat stomach. The starvation and exercise shed the cholesterol in his body to give him a six pack. A six pack is a set of six mounds of muscles arranged in two columns of three, which are visible on a trim abdomen of a person with low body fat and high muscular definition.
De Lord said, when he regained freedom from his abductors, he discovered he had a well-developed abdominal muscles that he so much admired.
“If there is any other thing I want from God, it is a six pack. How I wish it remains on me forever. But how can that be when I have resumed drinking without exercise?” he asked.
Like De Lord, Danlami Yunana, a transport officer in Government House, was also sleeping when the kidnappers came and whisked him away. His sister, Blessing Samuel, said the kidnappers invaded their home at 1.45 am and shot into the air to scare neighbours before taking him away.
The kidnappers demanded N50 million ransom, but it was not certain how much his family paid before he was released.
‘You only think of death without grave when you are with kidnappers’
Kidnappers are like patient predators. They can trace their prey for days, weeks and even months. But they are merciless when they finally get their prey.
They had laid ambush in Mrs Mercy Gbashi’s groundnut farm for days before finally taking her and two of her sons to their den.
Mrs Gbashi, an ad hoc lecturer, also farms to complement the efforts of her husband. The kidnappers had strategised to abduct her in the farm. However, they waited for her for days in vain. When she surfaced on a Friday they asked her why she didn’t go to the farm the previous days.
Mrs Gbashi, who shared her “horrifying experience” with The Nation, after regaining freedom, said on that day, she drove her children in a Honda Civic. They arrived at the farm around 3.30 pm, parked their vehicle and proceeded to work on the farm.
Around 4.15 pm, they saw a Keke NAPEP (tricycle) parking. Then a car came to park behind it. Three men came out of the car. The keke and the car drove off.
“The three men were not carrying farm implements. I ought to have been suspicious, but it didn’t occur to me. I thought they were going to see their people at a Ruga farm situated after my farm, but we didn’t see them moving towards that direction. They had hidden in my farm but I didn’t know.
“I was spraying herbicides while my kids plucked groundnuts. At 5.30 pm, I was done with work. I fetched firewood and kept it in the boot of the car. The kid and I made to enter the car. In the process of opening the door, I saw four men approaching us. They wore jackets with hood covering the rifles that hung under their shoulders. They were well barbed and shaved that you would not suspect them.
“Before I could open the car door, they stopped me. They asked for my husband. I lied that he was going in the other direction. Two of them went to the direction looking for him. They didn’t see him. They then went to my kids who were harvesting groundnuts and asked of my husband. They said their father did not follow them to the farm.
“They picked the children and returned to me. I pleaded with them to free the kid who is not my biological child. I was carrying two phones—an Android and a simple phone—with N1000 in my hand bag. They took the Android phone and gave to the boy and handed him the N1000, saying he should transport himself home and tell the family that their mother and her two kids were with them.
“Then they took me and two of my kids aged 13 and 16 years, to a nearby maize farm. People were passing by but I was afraid to shout since they were carrying guns.”
At 7 pm, Mercy, her two kids and abductors left the farm. As they were going, some villagers attempted to rescue them, but the kidnappers’ gunfire dispersed them.
“They turned and asked me, ‘Can you see the power of God? No one without good weapons can dare us.’
“We trekked for about two hours. We met their boss, who asked us to kneel down. We obeyed. They shot in the air, and after a similar response, two of their members came with two motorcycles (Jenchen brand).
“We rode on the motorbikes to a place that had four round huts. In the morning, we were moved to the mountain. At the mountain, they would climb the tree tops, while we would be under with some of them.”
Mrs Gbashi and her two children spent five days with the kidnappers. They were freed after her husband paid a ransom of N4 million. She said she was traumatised but was now recovering.
She said she suspected their leader might have known her.
“Their leader came and spoke to me through the window, while we were in those round huts. They did not allow me to see him. He might have known me. He said, ‘Madam, why are you suffering these children? You don’t want to talk to your husband to bring us money for the kids to go home and rest. God will punish you for what you are doing.’
“When you are with kidnappers, you don’t think of any other thing, not even your family. You only think of how you are going to die without being buried,” she said.
Her husband, Dooga Gbashi, a former House of Assembly member, recalled that he and his son drove a long distance to deliver the ransom.
He said: “The kidnappers told me to start coming around 6 pm. We got there at night. When we brought out the money, they asked my son to stand on the money. He did. They asked me too to do so, apparently to check whether we parceled explosives in the money. Then, they asked me to open the money. They confirmed it was N4 million. They said anything less, they would have blown off my head.
“After collecting the money, they told me that where my people were kept was very far. They would return with them in three hours. We returned to the car, waiting.
“After about three hours, they returned with my wife and the two children. When I saw my wife, I shed tears of joy. Then I asked the kidnappers how we could return home safely, considering that it was night and we were strangers there. They said we should go without fears, as they were masters of the road and the area. It was around 1am that we got home. It was a terrible experience,” Gbashi said.