One of the correspondents of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) assigned to cover the Presidential Villa in Abuja has narrated how he was abducted by gunmen.
The correspondent had mistakenly boarded a wrong vehicle at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, on the way home after an assignment.
The fear-stricken Reporter, who is yet to recover from the trauma and has become generally afraid of everyone around her, tells his story below:
On the said day, I covered an assignment at the Presidential Villa. After the assignment, I filed my story and decided to go home. One of the Directors in the Villa offered to give the cameraman and I a ride to the Federal Secretariat where we could board commercial vehicles.
I live in the suburbs and had to get to the Finance junction to board a vehicle to Dantata bridge and thereon to my place. Time was 4.45 p.m. I was careful not to join the wrong vehicle in view of the many stories about the activities of kidnappers and “one chance” operators in Abuja.
So, I refused to board the first vehicle that stopped because it was totally new and its owner couldn’t have been so poor to begin to use it as a cab. I didn’t trust it. I boarded the second that came because the driver looked like a regular civil servant forced by the economic situation to pick passengers to augment his income. The passenger beside him looked like a banker that had just closed from work because he was well dressed, looked calm and wore an expensive perfume.
I told them I was going to Dantata bridge along Lugbe route. There was only one person at the back. He wore a black vest atop a military camouflage. He was just playing with his phone. When we moved from the Finance junction, we stopped at the Bolingo junction, near NAN headquarters, where there were many others waiting for vehicles to go to Lugbe.
A lady peeped and said she was going to Lugbe. The driver told her to pay N400, she offered to pay N200. But when they were discussing, the man seated beside me shouted on the driver and threatened to leave if the vehicle did not move. He ordered the lady to close the door. The driver quickly moved and started speeding.
At this point, I was uncomfortable. I became afraid and told them I wanted to go down; I told them I had forgotten something and wanted to go back to pick it. That was when they swung into action. The front seat passenger quickly adjusted his seat and pressed it down to block me from attempting to go out while the man beside me brought out his gun, pinned it on my forehead and ordered me to close my eyes. He pressed me down to his laps and ordered me to cooperate with them otherwise they would kill me. They blindfolded me and said they would waste me if I didn’t behave well. They asked me where I live and I told them. They warned me against lying to them.
At that time, I just started praying inside me. My body was shaking. I was dazed and confused. I started begging them not to harm me. They ransacked my bag and took everything. They took N375,000 a colleague gave me to help buy a gadget. They took my wristwatch and GTB ATM card.
They also took my laptop, phones, 200 dollars, headphones, power bank, the Villa tag, NAN Identity Card, some other monies and valuables. They said they had been trailing me from the Villa and were aware that I was from the particular assignment. I told them I am just one of the reporters deployed by NAN to cover the Villa. They said I should call my family to bring N13 million while I should bring N5 million.
I was so confused. So scared. I told them I am just a poor reporter and had nothing and no one. They scrolled through my phones and said I should call my contacts to bring money. I told them I only visit those people to pray for them.
They asked if I am ready to change my faith. I told them I would not. They said even at gun point? I said yes. They asked me what bloody civilians knew about security to even organise any seminar about it. They told me they were not “one chance” operators. They said they were soldiers with the two in front already dismissed from the service while the one beside me was still in service and currently in Abuja.
Those dismissed said they were kicked out in Sokoto and had come to Abuja for the Army General that sacked them, but did not meet him in his house. At that point, the journalist in me was curious to know why they were dismissed, but I couldn’t have asked them that ‘crazy’ question. They said they were forced into criminality because of the situation in the country and that Nigeria had turned them into criminals.
They tied my legs and said they would take me to Sokoto; they were discussing among themselves whether to throw me out of the speeding vehicle. They said they picked me because they thought I had money. And added that they wouldn’t have picked me if they knew I had nothing. I told them there was no money where I work. They showed me an Indian ring they could press on me and I would lose my memory Inside, I kept praying, while begging them not to harm me.
They collected the PIN of the GTB ATM card and withdrew everything. They took money that evening and continued in the morning of the next day as I was too traumatised to get GTB to block the account.
They took a total of N505,000 from the account. I was just sweating. And sucked up. I was just praying. One said they should waste me, one said I should be allowed to go. They kept moving round and round. Deep down in me, I believed that by God’s grace, they would not kill me.
After going to the ATM where they took the money, they said they would not kill me because of two reasons – my confidence in God and the fact that I did not betray or deny Him even at gunpoint, and the fact that I pray for people.
They kept moving and eventually dropped me somewhere. I think it was past 8.50 p.m. or so. I still don’t know which part of Abuja that is. After I left the vehicle, the driver, who appeared to be their commander, called me and gave me my Villa tag. And the Techno phone. I tried to use it to call my boss in the office, but the phone was not working. I don’t know what they did to it. It appeared to have been deactivated.
It was after I was able to get some people to reset it that I was able to put calls through. I still feel so scared. I still feel so afraid of everyone and everything. But I thank God that they did not kill me. I find it difficult to trust anything and anyone around me. Sometimes, I feel like taking to my heels to no where in particular. It was a traumatic experience. I try not to bring back the hard memories but they keep returning. It was a bad experience, really. But, I thank God that they did not kill me. (NAN)