Suspected Fulani herdsmen last week abducted six Abuja-bound passengers in Akunnu, in the Akoko North Local Government Area of Ondo State.
Punch Metro learnt that the victims had boarded a Sienna SUV at Jibowu, Yaba, Lagos State, around 9am last Tuesday.
The vehicle was said to have been intercepted by the gun-wielding hoodlums around 1pm.
Our correspondent learnt that the herdsmen led the passengers and driver into a forest, where they held them captive for five days.
Among the victims were officers of the Nigeria Customs Service and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.
A retiree and a female student were also said to have been taken captive by the gunmen, who reportedly threatened to kill anyone who refused to cooperate with them.
After rounds of beating with cutlasses and sticks, the hoodlums were said to have converted the phone lines of two of their victims to their operational lines through which they demanded N5m ransom from the families of the victims.
Our correspondent learnt that after they were paid N2.2m, the gunmen freed the captives on Saturday.
One of the victims, Segun Obisanya, who retired from the Federal Civil Service in June this year, said the hoodlums took advantage of the bad road to abduct them.
He said during the five days that they were in captivity, the herdsmen fed them with half-cooked yam stolen from other people’s farms.
Obisanya stated, “When we got to Akunnu, Ondo State, there were potholes on the road and the driver had to slow down. It was at that point that the herdsmen came out of the bush. They were 11 in number and were heavily armed. Two of them had cutlasses, while the others had guns. They blocked our vehicle from the front and the back and began shooting into the air.
“They led us into the bush. We were six in number, including a lady, who should be about 24 years old.
“We walked in the bush for over four hours, after which they asked us to wait. They said they were not armed robbers, but kidnappers and that each of our families must pay N5m. They said if our families did not pay, they would slaughter us.
Obisanya said the group was always on the move, adding that they slept whenever the sun set.
He noted that the bandits asked them to decide on whose relative would bring the ransom.
He narrated, “They beat us with cutlasses and sticks and said we should call our relatives for money. The lady among us suffered the most in their hands. Later, they asked us to decide and appoint somebody who had a trustworthy relative. They said the relative’s bank account would be used to collect all the ransom and the relative would bring the money to them.
“One person raised his hand and said he had an uncle in Edo State. So, our family members transferred money into the man’s uncle account. The person brought the money on Saturday morning. When the man brought the money, they asked him to stop at a particular junction. About three of them then went to collect the money.”
The captives were later released.
Obisanya insisted that the men were Fulani herdsmen because of the language they were conversing in.
He noted that throughout the time the captives were in the kidnappers’ den, the men stole tubers of yam from nearby farms to feed them.
The female victim, identified only as Temilade, could not speak to our correspondent when contacted because she was said to still be traumatised by her ordeal.
However, her uncle, who did not want to be identified, said Temilade had sent him a message to request money for the kidnappers.
“Uncle, please I am in the hands of kidnappers. They asked each of us to pay N5m, but anything you can raise will go a long way with what I have asked from other people. Sir, I will be dead by this time tomorrow because today is the second day,” the text message sent by Temilade to the relative obtained by our correspondent read.
Temilade’s uncle said some money had been sent by other relatives before she was released with the other victims on Saturday.
He stated, “They left the park at 9am and the incident happened around noon; it was in broad daylight. We initially thought the telephone number the kidnappers were using to negotiate with us belonged to them, not knowing that they converted two of the victims’ lines to their operational lines.
“They released them after getting a total of N2.2m. My niece was the only female in the group, which consisted of a customs officer and an NDLEA officer,” Temilade’s uncle added.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Femi Joseph, confirmed the incident.
“They (victims) have all been released. But we are still investigating the matter. That is all we can say for now. We don’t know those who did it, because none of them has been arrested,” Joseph told our correspondent.