‘My ordeal in the hands of kidnappers’
Church worker recalls his nightmare in the den of hoodlums
MR. MARK Asu -Obi, a knight of Saint Mulumba and Justice of Peace, is the director of projects of the Justice Development Peace/Caritas advocate of the Catholic Diocese of Kano.
When he and his wife, Lady Lesley set out from Abuja on Saturday, June 27, 2015 to attend the wedding ceremony of a friend’s daughter in Enugu, he least expected to run into the hands of men of the underworld along Lokoja -Ajaokuta Road at about 9.45 am that fateful day.
Though his wife was let go by the hoodlums, whose primary target was one of the expatriates working on the Lokoja -Okene-Ajaokuta axis, they took captive Asu -Obi and a fellow Nigerian from the South -East geo -political zone. After going through hell for four days in captivity, they were released after their relatives came to the rescue by paying ransom running into millions of naira.
Still writhing in pains on his hospital bed at the Garki Hospital in Abuja, Asu -Obi whose project works include relief material distribution, peace building, youth and women empowerment and gender promotion particularly in the north west geo-political axis of the country relates his ordeal, in company of his wife: “My ordeal in the hands of armed robbers started on Saturday, June 27 when I embarked on a journey to Enugu from Abuja.
I left my house in company of my driver and wife to attend the wedding ceremony of one of my friend’s daughter, Mr Greg Odida and we drove out of the outskirts of Abuja at 7:00 am. At about 9.30 am, we were in Lokoja and then my driver who knew the road diverted towards where we can link towards our destination.” “The incident happened along Lokoja and Ajaokuta road, shortly after Salem University.
So as we were progressing, we heard gunshots around a rocky area, it was a bushy path. When we heard the gunshots, my wife said this is gunshot sound; we saw some vehicles in front of us turning and I immediately asked my driver to turn.
So my driver now turned the car to return back to Lokoja. So in the process of turning, other cars, about 15 cars, were also struggling to turn. So in the process of turning to hit the road back to Lokoja, unfortunately, we didn’t know they had their other men stationed in army camouflage.” “They now ran to where my car was waiting to turn.
They ordered my driver to stop and when the driver stopped, my wife said ‘let’s run to the bush.’ I saw them extorting money from people, shooting and killing other people, so I did not come out of my car, but my wife came out because she was sitting in the owner’s seat.
She came out, lied down and then one of them came to my driver and asked my driver for the keys. The car keys was with me, so I removed the car keys, gave it to him and sat back inside the car because I was scared that any attempt to run, they would just kill me.
I thought they needed money, I told them whatever they need they should take. But the kidnappers said I should remain in the car.” He continued: They came with another man and forced him into my car and the man entered. Four of them, all decked in army camouflage entered my car and drove off with the two of us in the middle.”
“They drove through the major highway and shooting as they were driving. About 15 kilometers off the scene, they took a right turn and drove into a bush path. While we were driving into the bush, they asked me and the other man to close our eyes and they asked if I had any money on me. I removed all the money in my pocket and gave it to them.”
“I had a wallet, too; they said I should bring it so I gave it to them. They checked the wallet, which contained only identification card and ATM card. They gave me back my wallet and then asked me whether I have children, I said yes.
They asked how many, I told them three. They said I should call my children and tell them bye-bye, that they were going to kill me. We drove up to a stage where they pulled the car off the road, parked and asked if there was still other money hidden in the car.”
Visibly traumatized Asu-Obi said they opened all the compartments of his car to remove any money they could find there. “We trekked for about 20 kilometers till we stopped.
Their leader now told us that they were not armed robbers, that they were kidnappers and they just wanted money. They said that we should not be angry, that we were unlucky to have been caught, that their target was one white man, but when the man escaped they could go away without carrying people like us.’ “So they asked me what I do for a living and I told them that I am church worker into humanitarian services.”
Asu-Obi said the kidnappers insisted they wanted money, that he should arrange how to get $50,000 for them, which he claimed he did not have. They then asked for the contacts of his family members.
“I told them my father is an old man in the village, he doesn’t have money. So they collected contacts of my friends in Abuja, Kano, Calabar and Lagos. They started dealing with my contacts independently, asking for the ransom.”
“On Sunday night when they noticed that money was not forthcoming, they got the contact of my childhood friend and business associate in Lagos. That one gave them money but how they were managing to collect the money I do not know. When they negotiate, they tell the person how to bring the money.”
“That was how they got the first set of money. My friends in Calabar also sent some money to them. They always ask the contact to bring money and they would go there with guns to collect the money. Then they collected my wristwatch, gadgets and my wedding ring.
As we were moving in the bush, wherever their is a stagnant pond, they would tell us to go and bathe while somebody is standing there with an AK 47, watching us. They would clean a rocky place and tell us to sleep there.” Asu-Obi said they finally established contact with his younger brother in Abuja who brought money to them.
“When they collected the last money, they now ordered the two people guarding us close to the roadside. The Igbo man’s money was brought before my own. They said they would not release him until they’ve finished with me. After they’ve collected all the money, they now kept the loot in a sack and said I should bless it for them.
They knelt down and said I should lay my hands on their heads and bless them so that they would spend the money wisely and I prayed for them. Asu-Obi said: “I remain very grateful to God Almighty, brothers and relatives for their support and all those praying for my survival because right there in the bush they showed me several parts of dead bodies in their hideout, when they thought I was joking with them.
They told me they’ve killed a lot of people, even after collecting ransom. I feel strongly this was a test of faith. I am forever grateful to God since it is difficult for kidnappers to spare one’s life when money is not forthcoming. They even returned my car, wristwatch and wedding ring to me and even told me to forgive them.”
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