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EXCLUSIVE: Former Hostages Narrate Harrowing 37 Days in Kidnappers Camp

Mr. Barry Adakole, recovering from his hostage ordeal in Gonin Gora.  Credit: Mike Odeh James.
Mr. Barry Adakole, recovering from his hostage ordeal in Gonin Gora. Credit: Mike Odeh James.

‘I have returned to freedom but have no future now’: Survivor

By Mike Odeh James and Luka Binnyat

(Kaduna) To paraphrase the Bible, no greater love hath any man in Nigeria, but that he is willing to deliver a kidnapper’s ransom for a close friend.

The ordeal of 56-year-old Ademola Tajudeen, and his close friend, fifty-something Barry Adakole, is a cipher of the trauma endured by tens of thousands of Nigerians caught in the hell of Nigeria’s kidnap pandemic.

Tajudeen, married with four children, became the contact point between kidnappers who invaded the comfortable home of his dear friend and neighbor, Barry Adakole. After Adakole’s wife and two sons were kidnapped from Gonin Gora on the night of Feb. 18, the kidnappers called the distraught husband and father after five days to demand a ransom.

But since Mr. Adekole couldn’t speak the Hausa language of the kidnappers, he called upon the help of his friend, Tajudeen, who lived nearby and had that ability. 

After selling his houses and cars and risking bankruptcy,  Adakole, along with Tajudeen delivered the required ransom  on March 1 at a remote forest  35 miles Northwest of Kaduna. There, another ordeal began.

“The terrorists demanded N8 million Naira (US$6,666 dollars) in exchange for the release of the Adakole’s,” Tajudeen told TruthNigeria. “ I accompanied my friend, Barry, to Giwa County, a three-hour journey by car through rocky and grassland terrain from Kaduna through Zaria into Giwa County under Kaduna state.

“We arrived in Galadimawa village in the afternoon and took a bike to Angwan Ayaba, where we met the terrorists and handed over the ransom,” he added.

“As we arrived at Zaria on our way back  and were about to link the Zaria-Kaduna expressway, Barry Adakole got a call.

“It was from the terrorists. They said that Barry’s wife and two sons had arrived at their camp. They said that they wanted to hand them over to us.  Though it was another dangerous trip, we didn’t mind as we sped back.

“This turned out to be a ruse. As soon as we reached the agreed spot. Armed bandits sprang up from surrounding bushes and ordered us out of the car.

“They told the driver to leave. Soon, some motorbikes were brought from the bush, and we were ordered to climb them.

“The armed men were 12 and heavily armed. They all spoke Fulfulde, the language  of the Fulani tribe.

“They headed  to Sabon Sara, a large village inter-spaced with other smaller hamlets in Giwa County.”

The two lifelong friends from Gonin Gora knew they were heading toward one of Nigeria’s infamous ungoverned spaces, an expanse of low forest Savannah ruled by blistering sun, jackals, scorpions, carpet vipers, lost boys and cold-hearted killers.

“The area is  a vast expanse of short trees and  grasses. It is not a forest because you can see very far,” Adakole said. “You can see many bandit camps among scattered villages. The kidnapper shelters are simple round huts made of straw and leaves. They also keep cattle and sheep which they have stolen from other places. We kept riding deep into the woods and seeing more camps. It took us about 45 minutes to reach our destination.

Dehumanizing Treatment

“We arrived at their camp in the evening, surrounded by many other camps. At our camp each hut can accommodate five persons if well squeezed into it. It was then that I found out that my wife and 12 -year-old son were not there. By God’s grace, they had been released. But my 15-year-old son was still with them.

“We were chained by our hands, legs and tied to one another with a motorcycle-wheel chain. They fastened the chains so tight that at the slightest movement it hurts badly. Four padlocks were used to lock them to our feet and hands.

“Every morning, the terrorists would bring us out of the hut and flog us with  canes made from animal skin. They would whip us and insult us and tell us how close we were to death if the ransom was not brought at the given deadline.

“In the afternoon and  evening, they would repeat the same rounds of flogging.

“They would tell us that the flogging was meant to urge our relatives to speed up the payment process so that we would be freed. They seemed desperate to leave also.

“Furthermore, we are only given a handful of half boiled rice and a few drops of water. At times, we didn’t get anything to eat at all.

 “And if we asked to defecate, we were allowed to defecate in our hut in a cellophane bag in their presence and then my son would go and throw it away.

“When it rained, we would be soaked to our bones, as we sat on the muddy ground.

“We would sleep in wet clothes that would dry again from our body heat.

Bandits Threaten To Kill Us

According to Adakole, the terrorists called the relatives of their captives and demanded 15 million naira each (US$15,500). They got angry that my wife was not forthcoming, so they brought the captives out of the hut, lined them up and pointed Ak 47 rifle behind their heads and while one of them filmed what would be our last minutes.

“They told us to kneel down, and then to say our last prayers.

 Their leader then appeared  quickly and stopped them. I don’t know if it was mere acting, but they really wanted to get the money and leave,” he said.

“After that ordeal, they refused to give us food nor allow us to defecate. They starved us for days

Narrowly survived four day’s bombardments

Both Tajudeen and Adakole revealed that their camp was bombarded several times by the Nigerian Military and that they were nearly killed.

“There was a time that our camp came under intense air bombardment for four consecutive days,” said Adakole.

“At those times, the terrorists would run away, leaving us at the mercy of the bomber jets,”  he added. “Fortunately we were not touched.  

“Once the bombing starts, the terrorists would either run and take cover far away from the huts or would hide among the hundreds of rustled cows. The jets don’t bomb the cattle, not knowing that the kidnappers were hiding among them. So the cows were actually a shield for them.

“After the bombing, they’d return looking very angry. Sometimes some of their crime partners had been killed. The terrorists were anxious to leave.

“There was this day that the bombing became severe, and we could see from the holes of our huts  jets flying very low over us and dropping bombs not far from our huts,” according to Tajudeen.

“I was very sure that that was the end of my life’s journey. We both said our last prayers and waited for the bomb to drop. There was no way we could run, because we were over chained. But after the jets left, I knew that it was pure Divine intervention. I had faith that we will leave that evil place alive somehow.

After 37 days in the den of the bandits, the $15,500 dollars was raised, and the hostages were freed.

Tajudeen tells TruthNigeria now that he feels despondent. “I  have returned to freedom but with no future as my family and I are squatting with my mother in-law — which is very undignifying. 

“I had to sell off everything that is an asset to me to raise money. I have also obtained a loan to add to that.

“The schools have resumed; my wife and the kids do not have the means of feeding much less of going to school .

“As you can see, I have acquired this stubborn cough, and my blood pressure is very high. 

“I can’t sleep at night. Each time I hear the sound of an aircraft my heart beats wildly thinking of the bombers.

“I can’t wish on my worst enemy what we went through.”

Mike Odeh James and Luka Binniyat are conflict reporters for TruthNigera.

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