Exclusive: How I spent 11 harrowing days in the custody of blood sucking Fulani Herdsmen -Victim Recalls Chilling Experience 

By Abai Francis & Enaibo Asiayei 

Friday, March 9th, 2018, is a date that is etched in the memory of Odigie Frank, an indigene of Edo State, who works with United Parcel Services (UPS) Courier in Warri, Delta State. 

In this exclusive chat with GbaramatuVoice Newspaper, he revealed shocking details of how some gun totting and menacing Fulani herdsmen from Niger Republic kidnapped him and some others and how he managed to survive eleven days of harrowing experience in the hands of his abductors. 

The genesis of my abduction

Early this year on Friday, March 9th, 2018, we were having official assignment in Ibadan. So, I left that morning and boarded a vehicle at Uwasota Park close to Ugbowo, going to Ibadan. While we were going, towards the evening, immediately after Ore I saw the vehicle ahead of us suddenly twist on the tiled road. It was an express road. Then I saw two young men with guns shooting at random and before I knew it, the vehicle behind us, an 18 seater bus somersaulted at my right hand side. And then I saw a young man coming out from the bush wearing mask and carry an AK47, and went straight to the vehicle that somersaulted and shot at the driver that was trying to come out of the vehicle. He also shot the driver of the vehicle behind us who was trying to maneuver, who died on the steering wheel.

I and other victims, abducted

Then, the same man walked to my vehicle, opened the door and called at me. When I came down he said, “Money,” and I quickly pulled out the money I was going with for the assignment. He said “Lay on the tiled road.” As I was about to, he said I should stand up and stand behind him, so I did. Then I saw that they paraded three people and added them to me making us four, and then they added three more people making us seven. When the guy with the gun saw people running to the opposite direction, he sprayed them with his gun, and I know that a lot of people sustained serious injuries. Then he asked all of us to enter into the bush and that was how we began the journey. 

Threat to our lives

As at that time my shoes were in the vehicle so I was walking bare footed. When they saw that the day was getting dark, they asked us to lie down with our faces on the ground; that was when I knew that they were eight in number. They were all with sophisticated arms and they told us that they are from Niger Republic and this is their work; to kill and kidnap and that they are going to kill everybody. So we started pleading with them. To worsen the whole case, it was only two of them that could speak English. And whenever they want to communicate, they do it in such a way that we don’t even understand what they are saying. 

Request for ransom

That night they told us that they were going to kill us and that the only way out for us is to bail ourselves with fifty million (N50m) each. Few of us said we have people to call. Not too long they went to an old man  and asked him if he has anybody to call. But the man told them that he is a retiree and he only went to Benin to collect his pension money and that was the money he gave them in the vehicle a while ago, and that he has nobody to call. Then they raised the man up, brought out their dagger and then stabbed his belly and started cutting him. The man was screaming but we could not give him any assistance and that was how he died.

Bargain for freedom

Then they asked the remaining six of us to stand up and we were taken deep into the forest that night. And then they asked us to lie down facing the ground again, and when we wanted to urinate we had to raise our hands for them to attend to us. When we stood up to urinate, they put the gun on our heads. The next morning they beat the hell out of us. I was even thinking I would lose my right hand but God was so faithful. After the beating, they gave us phone to call the person who will bail us and that they only give us from now till Monday, and that if they do not see the N50m they will kill everybody. They gave me my phone. I called one of my colleagues to tell him about their request and they collected the phone to talk with them. While we were there, in the afternoon I don’t know what happened, but one of them just came down, put a gun on one of us and scattered his head. Then they reminded us that if we don’t pay on Monday, they will kill everybody. And they were telling us that when they kill, they cut off the person’s manhood and head to sell for N10m. Then on that Saturday night they told us that they were going to reduce the N50m to N10m each, and that was when I told them that I am a student and that I am not working. While I was saying that, they rough handled me again.

Unending killings

Then, came Sunday; they ensure that they beat us every morning as part of their routine. But our fear was that they should not kill us because the beating was even normal. On Monday, they came and asked us for the money. We told them that they are putting it together. Then they asked us to confirm how much they have put together and as at that time, mine was about half a million while others were a million plus. When they heard the amount that we were calling they got angry, and then one of us told them that they should relax a little longer that they will get their money. They said they had no time to waste and they stabbed that man’s stomach and he died. All these while, we were moving from one forest to another. 

All hope was lost

On Tuesday, they came to me and told me that they were going to kill me. I told them that my people were putting money together, and they said because I earlier said I am a student they will consider collecting N5m for my release and that anything less than that will lead to my death; that if they don’t see the money tomorrow (Wednesday) they would kill me. While I was there I was just praying for God to allow me to make Heaven. I wasn’t even praying to come back because all hope was lost entirely. Because where we were, I can’t even hear the sound of a vehicle; we hear only the sounds of birds as it is a very deep forest; we were all there. So that very day, they told me they want to kill me. They came that very evening. I was seeing them but they were not seeing me because we were all facing down, but I was using sense to look at them. Because if they tell you that they are to kill you, you must agree. But this time they didn’t ask me to get up and the guy brought out a dagger. They wanted to pin my belly to the ground and I shifted. And he said, “You shift abi?” That was how they dragged my head and the blood splash on the guy’s body and the guy asked, “You stain my body?” And then I use my left hand to hold the place they cut and shouted Jesus with the last strength I had. Right there they don’t ask you if you want to drink water, let only to eat. The guy was just looking at his shirt and was concentrating on it. He was just looking at it and they were speaking their language. They didn’t make any move. They were just there. The blood was much and I was putting on Man-U shirt; so I pulled the shirt and tie my head and when it was soaked, I then put the singlet on top. At midnight when it was cold, I would wear the shirt again. They did not talk to me till on Wednesday. On Thursday, that was when they came up again saying, “Oya, make call if the money is ready.” 

Our ordeal continues

For me, it was N1m from N5m; the rest people were N5m. I called my wife and asked if she has put things together and she said they have but the money is not up to N5m but that she will still put more effort. On Thursday at about after 4pm in the evening when the sun was about going down, they asked us to get up and we got up from where we were and started trekking without food and water. We were trekking all these at about 4pm that evening till 3am on Friday morning. It was when we wanted to climb the hill we were falling down as we had no strength. One of the men that were with us was asking them to shot him because the pain was actually too much. If we are going in the forest, three will be at the front while five will be at our back and we will be at the center with gun pointed at us. If you look back they will beat you; if you fall they matched you. We were just going. When we got to a place they asked us to lay down flat; it was where we were actually exhausted. You will be seeing smoke coming out of your body. Then I saw my hand was bringing out smoke and I was shaking. The stress was beyond what I could bear. It was then I was saying “God.” I was even saying they should do their worst because the pain was much; it was then they use the gun to hit my leg. One of them called me, the same person who wanted to kill me before; he said “Do you have money?” I said, “Yes, I have.” He said, “No problem,” that he would beg ‘Oga’. So on Friday, when they asked us to lay down flat, I was waiting for him to come and meet me and say ‘Okay come and pay’ but I waited till about evening. 

Demand for ransom delivery

So that evening on Friday, I was saying “God, so today will be the last day for us on this earth?” I was saying, “God let your will be done,” and before I knew it he came and touched my leg. Because I was the tallest among them, he said, “Dogo, stand up.” I couldn’t even get up because I was actually weak. And one said. “Get up! Get up!” and I got up. When you get up, you don’t face them but back them, though they put on masks. So they said. “Okay, where is your money?” As at this time when they asked, it was about after 5pm. I said, “Well, my money will be either in Warri or Benin,” because at that point I don’t even know the person who is with my money. He said, “Okay” and that they will give the person 30minutess for that money to be at Ore. If that money doesn’t arrive at Ore they will kill me. Then I said, “Okay.” They opened their purse. If you see the SIM cards these people hold. They brought out my phone and gave it to me and I called my wife and asked where she was and she said the money is at Omotosho, and I said “Thank God.” So I told them. He then said I will give them her number so they can call her to tell her were to drop the money. That I should tell her to come to Ore main town and I said okay. So I told her I’m giving her number to them; she should not be afraid but I didn’t let them know that she was my wife. I told them she is my sister. So they took the phone and pocket it again. At about 8.00pm they came and said I should call her to confirm if she is at Ore and I did. She told me she is at a filling station, that the filling station has closed for the day and I then told her not to be afraid that they were sending someone to her, although I was entertaining fear while I was there thinking she might even give the money to the wrong person. I just believed God. 

Separated from the others

At that moment, before I knew it one person carried my leg and separated me from the rest. If they separate you like that, in the next five minutes you are gone. As soon as they separate me, they point a gun on my head and another at my buttocks. Within me I was thinking they want to collect my money and kill me at the same time. I was just worried. And then I was given four conditions on the reasons why they want to kill me. They said (1) as their person is going to collect the money if he is attacked by the police force, they will kill me. (2) If I put tracker in the money, they will kill me. (3) If the money is mutilated they will kill me; and (4) if the money is fake, they will kill me. So while the person is on his way the gun was pointed at me. I’m sure in my mind that the money is not fake but I was afraid in the mutilation, because bank sometimes mix it up like that, but I believed God. 

Ransom paid

It was not up to twenty minutes when they press me to the ground and started speaking their language. Then they ask me to stand up. They said my money has been counted and it’s complete though I don’t know how much. So I ask if I can be going and they said no, that it’s past 8pm already, I can’t go. It was then the kidnappers told me that we were in Ijebu-Ode forest and that we are no longer in Ore or Omotosho. So I told them not to worry that I can find my way. They should just show me an exit. They then slapped me and beat me up. They asked if I will be the one to decide for them. So they asked me to face the wall again and pointed the gun at me. They collected the money on Friday and said they will let me go on Saturday. 

Waiting for freedom

Saturday I was waiting for them to come and that was the day they gave me water in a milk container; that was the day I tasted water. Saturday night they still did not let us go. I don’t know the time they came and woke everybody up. I thought they wanted to kill us. Then they said they will let me go, that they have collected my money but the others will not go because their money is not complete. So they said they will let us go on Monday when the others would pay their money the same way I paid my money. Their networking is so strong that those with us in the forest are different from those collecting the money. And the ones counting the money were also different. That is how they operate. That Monday, when the other had paid their money at night, they took us and said we are moving close to the road now. It was when we got to the Ijebu-Ode pipeline that the boss among them told us that we are in Ijebu-Ode. So we should follow the pipeline and go straight. 

Freed at last

While we were going we were afraid they will shoot us, but they did not. The shoe I was putting on was for one of the persons they have killed; the shoe was heavy on me and I didn’t have strength, so it was difficult for me to move fast. So I pulled off the shoe. While we were going, I looked back and didn’t see them. Then I realized they have really freed us and everywhere was dark. Then we saw a search light. They then fired at us and ordered us to stop. We didn’t bother to move so they came close to us and said that they are vigilante and accused us that we went to vandalize their pipeline. It was then we showed them the mark on one of the person they almost cut off his neck and the mark on me too. So when they saw the wounds they consoled us as we narrated what happened to us. They were so surprised that we had such a horrible experience and they didn’t know. We tried describing the place for them. They ask us to sit down and then stopped motorcycle for us. They asked us our destination and I said they should take us to where we can see people. They dropped us at Ore toll gate at about 10pm on the 20th of March. When I saw the people there I know that God had saved us. 

Fulani herdsmen

I was kidnapped on the 9th of March, 2018 and all these while we were in the forest. When we were in the forest where they said they wanted to kill me, we saw many skulls, dead bodies that they had killed. Some of them had no head and some no hand. One of them told us that very soon we will be like them. But we didn’t stop there; we just pass every night, no stopping to stay in one place at night. They then told us that they are Fulani, not Nigerians. They can’t speak English. That they are Fulani herdsmen from Niger Republic. 

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