· Army personnel behind my abduction, alleges Ekiti victim
Gboyega Akinsanmi and Victor Olakitan in Ado-Ekiti
Lokoja-Abuja expressway, a highway that connects the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to the South, has turned an arc of evil where kidnappers are operating daily without let or hindrance, kidnap victims have alleged.
The victims, who had paid different amounts of ransom before their release, have also alleged complicity between the criminal groups kidnapping travellers along the highway and some bad eggs in the police.
They recounted their ordeal in the hands of kidnappers in separate sessions with THISDAY yesterday, describing the expressway as one of the danger zones nationwide while lamenting the failure of the security agencies to ensure the security of lives and property along the corridor.
Like Kaduna-Abuja highway, Lokoja-Abuja expressway has, in the recent years, been infamous for the activities of criminal elements, abducting unsuspecting commuters and motorists for ransoms.
Despite the increasing rate of kidnapping along the expressway, security agencies, especially operatives of the Nigeria Police Force and the Department of State Services (DSS), have not been able to guarantee public safety and order along the Lokoja-Okene wing of the Lokoja-Abuja expressway.
Speaking privately with THISDAY on Friday, one of the kidnap victims claimed that his relatives and in-laws had to cough out a ransom of N2.5 million before his captors eventually released him from captivity.
He narrated how he was abducted “along the Lokoja-Okene expressway just before Christmas. I was surprised to know that it was the police officers that first contacted my family. They first demanded N10 million, which my people could not afford during economic hardship.
“After going back and forth, my captors eventually agreed to N2.5 million. One of them rode to a popular Total Filling Station in Okene to collect the ransom. He collected and counted the money in the filling stations before he left. Nobody challenged him while counting the money.”
Likewise, an entrepreneur, whose manager was kidnapped along the Lokoja-Abuja expressway, alleged the complicity of the security personnel in the incident, citing frustration she suffered in the hands of the security agencies.
She claimed that she reported the incident at the Okene Police Division and the Department of State Services (DSS) almost immediately after the incident occurred, but claimed that they could not resolve the crime.
When the security agencies were not forthcoming, the entrepreneur, currently running a trading service firm in Abuja, lamented that she was compelled “to negotiate with the captors of my manager before they finally released.”
She disclosed that the kidnappers “demanded N20 million, which we could not source. We pleaded with them. They first collected N2.75 million. But after they collected the money, they refused to release my manager.
“They demanded for additional money. After pleading and pleading with them, we paid over N5 million before they finally released my manager. All through the period of negotiation, we did not hear from the police and DSS. But immediately after we paid the money, they started calling us.”
In another disturbing case, an Edo indigene also told THISDAY anonymously how he raised N500,000 from colleagues, friends and relations to secure the release of his blood brothers from the captivity of kidnappers.
He claimed that his brother was travelling home from Kano just before December when gunmen shot at the tyres of the commercial vehicle he boarded some kilometres away from Okene.
He said it was difficult “to meet the demand of the kidnappers when they contacted me. I pleaded with them that I could not afford what they demanded. I think they did their own background checks and discovered that we could not pay a ransom of N5 million. They accepted N500,000.
“This incident happened some weeks ago. I did not want to talk about it because it is very disturbing and traumatising. But I have handed them over to God. I strongly believe that God will judge them,” he said.
In Ekiti, a kidnap victim disclosed that he had verifiable evidence that those who abducted him at a time were officers of the Nigerian Army.
The man, who was kidnapped in 2020 alongside another victim in an Ekiti town, said the kidnappers confirmed to him that they were real soldiers.
The victim alleged that four men in military uniform abducted him while traveling “to a neighbouring state. Unfortunately, one of the occupants of his SUV Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep was shot dead during the operation.”
Speaking with THISDAY yesterday, the victim claimed that he spent seven days in the captivity of kidnappers alongside another victim.
Recounting how he paid over N10 million to regain his freedom, the victim alleged that the security men were compromising the safety of the citizens.
He alleged: “Yes, I have verifiable evidence that those who kidnapped me were soldiers. They even confessed to me themselves, which gave a frightening picture that our security is grossly compromised.
“Those who kidnapped me and my cousin wore army uniforms during the operation. But I quite appreciated the fact that anyone could hide under the decoy of police, army and other security agencies’ covers to commit crime.
“But as someone who is familiar with security for the past 40 years, I suspected that they were real soldiers when they started making calls to their superiors in office and discussed issues regarding their operations with them.
“After four days in the captivity, I discovered that all the four kidnappers were carrying the same model of rifles. At this point, they had become friendly with me and they discussed issues with me freely.
“I did not know what actually spurred me to asking them about the capacity of the rifles they paraded. One of them then told me that the rifles they carried were too sophisticated and that they could not be purchased in the black market.
“He told me that it was only the Nigerian Army that was licensed to import such rifles. At this point I started linking up this revelation with several calls they had made about legal operations they had earlier carried out.
“One of them even said they were soldiers and told me how they were being mistreated by the government in terms of welfare. With these, I have no iota of doubt that they were real soldiers,” the victim noted.
When asked to advise the federal government on how to stem the gale of kidnapping nationwide, he urged the military and police authorities “to look inwards; sanitise the security sector at large and get rid of compromised officers.”