• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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My 140 days in kidnappers’ captivity in Zamfara, by NYSC member

NYSC-Kits

In the evening of August 17, 2023, 12 Akwa Ibom persons were abducted along Sokoto-Zamfara expressway as they travelled to Sokoto. Eleven of them were young men and women reporting for their NYSC camp for the mandatory one-year service, while one was the driver of the Akwa Ibom Transport company-branded bus in which they were travelling. Months passed, and one by one, the captives were released as the abductors received huge sums of ransoms from the families of the abductees.

By the middle of June, 11 abductees have been released. I have followed this story with the keenness of a brain surgeon. On November 27, I wrote a piece titled, ‘’100 days in captivity: the story of the abducted corps members’’. I followed it up with another one on December 23.

Read also: Kidnapped NYSC members yet to be freed after four days in captivity

I asked the authorities, including the NYSC management, to do all in their power to get them out. I argued that the government of Akwa Ibom State had a moral responsibility to intervene and facilitate their release since they were only going to serve their motherland. I also made efforts to reach the NYSC DG and hear from him on what the agency has been doing.

Last week, I met with one of the abducted girls. It was facilitated by one of her professors. Outwardly, she looks like any other young Akwa Ibom lady, but inside, she carries a scar, an emotional wound. She sobbed intermittently as she recalled the traumatic experience in vivid details. For obvious reasons, I will conceal her identity. Her story:

‘’I graduated in business administration in 2021 and was called up in 2023 for the NYSC scheme. I was posted to Sokoto State and I really looked forward to serving the country. I love the NYSC scheme; the khaki trousers and white vest; the parades; the drills; the opportunity to travel to other parts of the country, meet other Nigerians and see the vastness of the country and all that. We boarded the bus at the AKTC terminus in Uyo in the morning of August 16. We were all would-be corps members; some of us were heading to Abuja and Kano, but 11 of us were going to Sokoto. We arrived Abuja in the evening and spent the night at the AKTC terminus there. Early the following morning, August 17, we set off to Kano where some people disembarked; and eleven of us proceeded to Sokoto.

Read also: Kidnapping: NYSC’s unsavoury advice on ransom payment

‘’Around 7.40 pm, on the Sokoto-Zamfara expressway, we ran into a roadblock mounted by kidnappers, on both sides of the expressway. They fired sporadically into the air and ordered all 12 of us (11 would-be corps members and the driver) out of the vehicle. As we were being marched into the bush, three of us escaped, leaving nine of us (four men and five women) with the captors. We walked all night in the bush till we got to their camp where there was a hut, but we slept in the open, on the ground, in the bush, in the rain and sunshine, day and night. I was released on December 7, after spending three months and two weeks with the kidnappers in captivity. I turned 27 in captivity on Friday, December 1. It was the worst experience of my life. We were beaten every day, mostly in the mornings, with iron rod; fed once in two or three days with rice which we cooked without ingredients – just white rice no salt; no pepper; nothing. We slept on the bare ground in the bush, in the same clothes that we had on when we were captured. We had our baths once in two or three weeks in a stream about a kilometer away. A lot of us fell sick and nearly died. I was very sick too.

On December 7, I was released with another girl – two of us. They led us back to the expressway. I was very sick and could barely walk. On the road, NYSC officials and military personnel were waiting for us. They came in armoured military vehicles, picked us and took us to a hospital in a nearby town where we spent two days before we were taken to a military hospital in Kaduna where we spent about three weeks.

I enrolled in the NYSC scheme after I left the hospital and I am now serving at (name withheld). I understand that the bus driver was released early this year.

My father is late, but my mother is alive, dealing in petty business. My elder brother raised money, sold things and borrowed money to pay for the ransom. He travelled to Zamfara twice, bringing the money to designated point along the expressway for the abductors. We were released randomly as the kidnappers did not even identify the abductee on whose behalf ransoms were paid.

I thank God for keeping us alive and rescuing us from captivity. I still suffer from trauma. I feel unsafe and I’m always afraid, anxious and apprehensive. I salute the NGOs, activists and journalists like you who worked for our release. I have not been contacted by any official of Akwa Ibom State government, but I am grateful to the management of the NYSC for doing all they could to rescue us. I pray for the remaining person in captivity’’.