A Nigerian, ThankGod Okuk, has narrated his harrowing experience in the hands of suspected herdsmen, who abducted them around Benin, Edo State.
ThankGod spent at least four days in the kidnappers’ den before his elder brother, Dickson, paid his ransom.
Before those days were up, his kidnappers had forced him and other victims to drink tramadol in place of food and watched them defecate and urinate on their bodies.
ThankGod revealed that his abduction occurred while returning from Abuja, where he had gone to attend a friend’s wedding.
He explained that on December 20, he boarded a Big Joe bus to Benin City and on getting to Ekpoma, the bus driver told all passengers that he wouldn’t go to Benin because it was already past 7pm.
Due to the driver’s announcement, some of the passengers, including ThankGod, grabbed their luggage and entered a Sienna car, heading to Benin.
But moments after passing Ehor area, the car was attacked by suspected herdsmen, who shot sporadically.
ThankGod recounted: “After taking our money and phones from us, the leader asked us to march into the bush.
“It was then I knew it was kidnapping, not robbery.
“Some minutes after we walked into the bush, the leader asked for the driver of the car.
“The driver identified himself.
“He was given a thorough beating and then allowed to go.
“In the process of marching us into the bush with gunshots, a pregnant woman fell down and couldn’t move.
“While they were trying to revive her, another passenger escaped into the bush.
“This made the kidnappers angry.
“They left the woman to die and continued to march us into the forest.”
ThankGod remembered that they trekked for three hours in the bush, crossing a river, before ascending a hill, which took about 20 minutes to climb.
They then descended into a ditch and then a thick forest.
He observed that the kidnappers had a sign of communication and direction in the forest.
He noticed rags were tied to some trees in the forest with a sign.
He said: “Once we approach the tree, the kidnappers would flash the torch to identify the point that the rag turns to.
“This happens to be the way.
“So we moved on, using same strategy to find the way.
“In another instance, once any noise was heard in the forest, the kidnappers would ask us to stop and then make a sound like that of a herdsman to cows.
“If there was a similar response, it means it is their colleagues.
“But if there was no response, they would start shooting into the bush before moving on.
“There were lots of dead bodies in the forest with their hands tied behind.
“We trekked for another two hours before getting to their camp, which is located in the heart of the forest.”
He stated that upon their arrival at the camp, there was jubilation.
He also noticed that the camp was filled with dead bodies.
One of the kidnappers then tied the hands of ThankGod and other victims to their backs.
ThankGod added: On Monday morning, their leader, Alhaji, came to us after he called their boss.
“He then commanded that we should be beaten.
“We were beaten like animals.”
After beating the victims mercilessly, they were then ordered to call their family members for ransom negotiation.
Victims, whose family members didn’t give positive responses, were beaten amidst gun fires.
ThankGod said: “When it was my turn, the negotiator picked me up and began flogging me.
“I began to beg him in Hausa Language.
“I was shocked that he stopped.
“Alhaji instructed him to separate me from others.
“He asked me if I was from the north since I was bearded, I said no, that I was born in the north.
“The kidnapper removed my blindfold and asked me to sit on the ground while others laid on their stomachs.
“I then called my elder brother.
“At first I was scared my brother wouldn’t respond positively, and I feared being beaten again.
“Fortunately, my brother in his wisdom even though fear could be heard in his voice, told the kidnappers that he first wanted to speak with me.
“I was given the phone and we spoke.
“He then told the negotiator that things were tough, but he would get them the money.
“He asked them to call him back midday of that day.”
Due to the positive discussion with ThankGod’s brother, the kidnappers stopped tormenting him, but faced other victims, beating them black and blue.
After series of negotiations, ThankGod’s brother and the kidnappers settled on an amount.
He said: “I was in the kidnappers’ den for four days without food and water.
“Once in a day, the kidnappers would fetch river water, add tramadol inside a cup, so that we wouldn’t die of hunger and made us to drink.
“We defecated and urinated on our bodies in those days.
“They kidnapped passengers twice daily, both women and children, and sometimes when they encountered police escorts, they kill the policemen and make away with their guns.
“Whoever kills a policeman is usually promoted.”
ThankGod recalled that within the den, there was an armourer.
He keeps the arms and ammunition.
ThankGod said that guns, which were used in morning operations, wouldn’t be used until two days later.
He said: “They don’t eat real food.
“What ate garri soaked in oil with onions and maggi.
“They didn’t rape their victims but often beat them to death.
“Bullets do not penetrate their bodies.
“Before going out for operation, they would shoot one another randomly, after which the leader brings out a white rag, spreads it on the floor and all others would surround the rag and make incantations before heading out.”
More shocking to ThankGod was the kidnappers’ message to the Nigeria Police.
His words: “After my elder brother paid the ransom for four of us, the leader asked me to tell the police that they had come for the police and would kill all policemen they come across.
“According to them, they had taken over Edo State and would soon start a war.
“I promised him I would personally deliver the message to the Edo State Commissioner of Police.
“Four of them walked us out of the bush until we got to a village.
“It was from there we found our way, to where my brother was already waiting to receive us.”