By VIVIAN ONYEBUKWA
PRESIDENT of the United Church of Christ in Nigeria, Rev. Emmanuel Dziggau and another clergy identified as Rev Yakubu Dzarma have given an account on what happened to them after they were abducted along Kaduna-Abuja expressway by suspected herdsmen.
The clergymen were abducted on March 21 on the Kaduna- Abuja expressway where they had gone to clear a piece of land for the foundation of the church seminary and were released after 10 days in captivity.
The third clergy, Rev. Iliya Anto was not lucky as he was found dead in the bush. He was said to have died after he was left in the bush by the kidnappers when his health condition worsened.
The gang members identified as Kashimu Shehu, Aliyu Mato, Muhammadu Mamman, Hassan Bello, Bala Mohammed and Ishiaku Kabiru, were later rounded up by operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team, IRT, from their hideouts in Kaduna and Zaria areas of the North West State.
Two of the suspects, Kabiru and Bello were arrested at the naming organised by their gang leader, Shehu, at Gidan Kasimu, Mai-Yahsi Village, in Dutse- Wai Kubua Local Government area of Kaduna State while they provided information that led to the arrest of other members of the gang.
The gang was also alleged to have kidnapped a staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja and many others who are made to trek for hours into a deep forest off the Abuja-Kaduna road, to their camp close to Tapher village, Kaduna State.
What we saw
Shortly after they regained their freedom, the clergymen narrated to the police their ordeal in the hands of the gunmen who abducted them. According to Rev Dziggau, on March 21, 2016, he had gone with two other clergymen to supervise the church new site at NYC camp.
“We were about leaving around 4.30pm when two SUVs filled with armed men blocked us. They had many AK47 rifles and forced us to surrender everything we had. They moved us inside the bush; we trekked for more than one hour. One of us, Rev Anthony suddenly stopped, insisting that he cannot continue the journey. We knew he just had a surgery and had not fully recovered. The armed men beat the living hell out of him for daring to stop them.
“We pleaded with them that he was sick and they finally stopped. They used his phone to call the last number that he dialled told the person to come and pick him up. They left him there and we continued our journey inside the bush. We trekked for up to 24 hours before we got to their camp at Tapher Village. We were kept inside one of the huts there. There were so many heavily armed men with their various victims at different sections. Everyday, they kept shooting into the air to scare us. We were fed with small portion of cooked rice once a day. We were given five days to pay the ransom or they will kill us.
“We spent nine days before they collected N4million as ransom. The day we were released, they still had four women with them including a pregnant woman. I can recognise Kasimu who was in control throughout our stay there.”
Corroborating his story, Rev Yakubu Dzarma said that as soon as they surrounded them, he was forced to surrender all his valuables which include “N64, 000 cash, my Techno phone valued at N78,000 and my shoes valued at N20, 000. They ordered us into the bush and we started trekking. The next day, they used my cell phone to call my wife and gave her three numbers she should call. They gave us five days to pay the ransom or they will kill us but we stayed with them for nine days before a ransom of N4million was paid to them. By the time we regained our freedom, there were still four women in their custody. I can confidently identify Kasimu because he was popular and they call him Baba. ”
Yet another victim, Muhammed Dan Azumi said that his wife was left behind when his abductors realised that she was eight months pregnant. “I am a civil servant based in Abuja and a native of Nasarawa State. On April 14, 2016, around 5:30pm, I was with my wife and one other woman, Hajara and stopped to pray at a nearby mosque at Audu Jangwan, on Abuja-Kaduna expressway. When we were about leaving, some armed men surrounded us. They later released my wife when they discovered that she was pregnant. They forced me and Hajara inside the bush. They later took Hajara on a bike while I was forced to trek for more than 18 hours till we got to an uncompleted building which they used as their camp.
“I met Hajara in the camp and she told me that they had abused her severally. They requested that we should raise N10million or they will kill us. After some days of negotiation, it was reduced to N3million.
“After three days, my boss gave them N1million and they released us. They also collected N20, 000 that was with me and they inflicted a deep cut on my head. While we were there, they bragged that Kaduna State governor will be their next victim and if they get him, they will cut him into pieces.”
During their confession at the police station, one of the suspects, Aliyu Haruna, insisted that he was recruited by his friend Kasimu Shehu who advised him that it is more honorable to make money through kidnapping. “I am a Fulani by tribe, a native of Kaduna State, married to two wives and blessed with five children. After Alamajir school, I got a job as a security guard at a pure water company on Yakowa Way Kaduna State. I am also into land business with my friend Sani.
“Sometime last year, Kasimu who was our leader called six of us to join him in kidnapping business. The others are Bashiru, Yaki, Musa and Bello. We have one Ak47 rifle and it is with our gang leader Shehu. Ever since we started work, we have picked some people and the much that they gave me after each operation was N100, 000.
“On April 14, 2016, we learnt that one presidential villa staff normally came around our area, Audu Jagwan. Luckily, we were alerted that he was there to pray. Fortunately, we found him praying along the road and we ordered him to follow us at gun point into the bush. I don’t know the person who gave Shehu the information about the man but we got a ransom of N1million before the man was released. I got N200, 000 as my share and the only role played was to escort the man from the point where he was to the camp where he was kept.”
Another suspect, Hassan Bello said that most of the money they got from kidnapping was used to buy extra cows. “As a herdsman, your wealth is measured by the number of cows that we have. We hardly save money in the bank because no one will know that you are rich. I have about 10 cows and because I needed to increase my flock that was why I allowed Kasimu to convince me to join his gang.
“I joined them this year and the only kidnap that I joined them to do was when the man from Abuja was abducted. My duty was to bring cooked food to the camp every day. I was given N200, 000 as my share after the ransom was paid. I was arrested by some policemen from Abuja on April 24, 2016 at a naming organised by the leader of our gang Kasimu Shehu at Mai Yahsi village in Dutse-Wai Kubua local government area of Kaduna State.”
Not aware that police had enough evidence to nail him, Kasimu Shehu the alleged gang leader kept insisting that he is innocent. “I am Fulani by tribe and a native of Mai- Yahsi village in Dutse-Wai Kubua Local Government Area of Kaduna State. I attended an Almajiri School at Peleke- Tasher Tsamya village, Zaria, Kaduna State. I have over 40 cows which I am rearing at Audu Jangwan village on the Abuja-Kaduna road. I am not part of the kidnapping gang as my friends; Aliyu Haruna, Hassan Bello alleged.
I am not the leader of any gang. I am not among the gang that kidnap the pastors or a staff of the Presidency. I don’t have any Ak47 rifle as alleged but I have a locally made gun which I bought from one late old man who lived in Kauran Wali-Makarfi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. I am using the gun which I bought N600, 000 to protect my cows. I don’t have a license for the gun.
The locally made gun is with one Mathew for repairs at Tunga Sabo village, Rigina, Kaduna State”, he lamented. The Police Force Public Relations Officer, Olabisi Kolawole, who confirmed their arrest, said the suspected kidnappers, who have been terrorising Kaduna and Zaria towns of Kaduna State will soon be arraigned in court. “The IGP has commended the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and other Police operatives involved in the arrest of the suspects for their dedication and professionalism, while efforts are ongoing to apprehend the fleeing members of the gang.” The Sun