Two of the three female travelers who were seized by kidnappers from a ‘God is Good Motors’ commuter bus on the outskirts of Abuja on December 21 have regained their freedom, SaharaReporters has learnt.
The good news happened on Christmas Day, but it is unclear what happened to the third victim, who was a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
This website broke the story of the robbery of the bus and abduction of the three women, one of whom was Naomi Obot, who was in a God Is Good commuter bus.
Describing her ordeal exclusively to SaharaReporters, Ms. Obot said a heavily armed gang numbering about nine men intercepted the Abuja-bound bus. After they robbed all the occupants at gun point, the criminals randomly selected her, a frail elderly woman and the NYSC member, whom the gang members said “looked like they have wealthy relatives.”
They were marched on foot for over an hour deep into a forest where a makeshift camp of raffia mats and lanterns was guarded by other men who were armed with bayonet fitted rifles.
Upon their arrival at the camp, Ms. Obot said her captors repeatedly smashed her right ankle with the barrel of a gun to dislocate it, to make sure that she did not try to escape.
She recalled that in the first 24 hours in captivity, their abductors, who punched, slapped and threatened to shoot her and the other victims, spoke on mobile phones to members of her family demanding the sum of N5million for her release. They also demanded a ransom from the families of the other two female captives.
She said their captors wore masks and spoke English, pidgin and Hausa, but spoke mainly in Fulani, with their purported leader claiming to have been a trained soldier of the Nigerian Army.
Ms. Obot said the armed gang also kidnapped a retired Nigerian Army officer and a three months’ pregnant woman, who were brought into the makeshift camp the following night, December 22.
Narrating further, Ms. Obot stated that and she and other captives were given only a cup of dirty water and a piece of roasted yam once a day, at night. Their abductors continued to negotiate drop-off locations for their expected ransom money and for releasing the captives after collection.
Ms. Obot further told SaharaReporters that the female NYSC member who was abducted with her was taken away on December 23, as was the pregnant woman, who had begun bleeding profusely by her second day in captivity. She did not know whether they were released.
A very shaken Ms. Obot also recalled that her abductors intermittently beat and threatened to kill her as her family members maintained they had no ransom money and begged for her release.
On the night of her third day in captivity, Ms. Obot recalled over-hearing a heated argument between some of the members of the kidnap ring where the term “Calabar,” in reference to her, was mentioned, before two of the heavily armed men dragged her to a different area. One of the two men who claimed to be their Commander stated that her family was not cooperating concerning her ransom. She said she was told that she was bad luck and would lead to their capture, and as such that it was their decision to kill her that night.
She stated that while she prayed and begged the kidnappers to release all of them, the self-professed Commander of the gang slapped her very hard on the left ear, following which she fell to the ground, with a liquid oozing from her left ear.
According to Ms Obot, within moments of falling to the ground, three other heavily armed members of the gang came to that area and began a heated argument in Fulani language with the self-acclaimed commander and a second man with him. The three arriving men stayed with her while the first two left that area.
Shortly after the three men took over, she said they dragged her back to the elderly woman and the retired soldier and were told them to leave. They pointed at a direction and told them to run towards it and not look back if they wanted to live.
Ms. Obot, who is limping on her dislocated ankle, said she and the retired soldier held the frail elderly lady as they walked for a long time in the forest until they reached a main road. At about 3:00 am on Christmas morning, following several failed attempts at flagging down vehicles, a kind Nigerian who saw them tattered and disheveled gave them a ride to a nearby police check point between Kwali and Gwagwalada.
She said it was there they reported their experience to the policemen and she later re-established physical contact with her relatives who had since been in Abuja and were working with law enforcement in connection with her abduction.
After an immediate medical check-up, Ms. Obot was taken out of Abuja where she is receiving treatment and is surrounded by family members as she starts her journey of recovery from the excruciating trauma.
She expressed gratitude to God for the miraculous release but was profoundly thankful to SaharaReporters for breaking the news and to her family members who were steadfast in prayer and working with law enforcement, journalists and well-wishers who supported them with prayers.
She was also thankful to Samuel Ikon, a member of the House of Representatives from Akwa Ibom State, who read the original SaharaReporters story and issued an immediate press statement condemning the abduction and appealing for the release of all the captives. She noted that the legislator was a 1989 alumnus of the Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene, when her late father was the principal of the school.
She is convicted that the widespread interest the matter generated inflicted considerable pressure on her abductors feel pressure, and that the fear of imminent arrest caused them to panic and release herself and the other two captives without any ransom being paid.