But for providence, a woman living in Ijeshatedo area of Surulere, Lagos, would have long become another victim of kidnappers.
She and others that were abducted recently could have joined the growing number of missing persons whose relatives have been fighting to locate their whereabouts. The woman’s miraculous escape from the net of a gang of ritual killers secretly operating in the area signals a fresh wakeup call for the residents to be extra vigilant. Her story suggests that, these days, some people that one might come across might be harbingers of evil.
It was a few days to Christmas, and everyone was getting set for the Yuletide, the correspondent was told. People were desperate to make extra cash to enjoy a fulfilling season’s celebration. Some were unaware that evil might lie ahead.
Mrs. Joy (not real name) was one of those looking forward to a splendid season, which for her nearly never was.
Joy is a petty trader in an undisclosed part of Lagos and has been working to earn a living over the past few years. To augment her family income, she always prepared pap for sale, an item she always left with her friend, Mrs. Onuma (not real name) who had a shop on Agbebi Street around Ijeshatedo Market. Her friend sold the pap for her and kept the proceeds for her to pick up anytime she returned. Mrs. Onuma had been helping Joy to sell her products for a long time. Both women had grown so close that Joy always dropped her stuff in a bucket that she always left in corner in front of Mrs. Onuma’s shop. The latter would always pick up whatever her friend had kept for to sell. During the early-morning rush, the wraps of pap always sold out. As usual, Mrs. Onuma always kept the proceeds for her friend. This understanding had lasted for a long time.
But on that particular day, the unexpected happened. Joy had dropped her bucket of pap as usually. It was a little past the sixth hour. Then she headed out hurriedly, apparently to start other activities of the day.
The spot was the popular Ijesha Road/Market Street/Agbebi Street junction. It is the spot where most vehicles from Okota come into Surulere. Even those going to other parts of the mainland or simply to Lagos Island use it. Passengers and commercial buses going to Mushin, Lawanson and as far as CMS Bus Stop on Lagos Island converged on the spot. It is a very busy place, even at odd hours. And there is always the presence of a team of traffic wardens ensuring that there is sanity there because of the incessant gridlock that characterises the spot.
That was where Joy had an encounter that nearly ended her life. Her friend, Mrs. Onuma tells the story: “When Joy got there that day, she said a young man quickly approached her, pleading to be directed to where he could see a bank and withdraw money from an ATM.
“Joy rightly suspected that there must be something about that kind of request about that time in the morning. She found the whole thing absurd, so she waved him off and asked him to look elsewhere.
“Just then, the young man dug into his pocket and whipped out a piece of cloth that looked like a face towel. With it, he swiped the air around her and that was all Joy could consciously remember.”
Mrs. Onuma recalled that from there, the young man herded her like a sheep to a waiting car parked nearby. Then, he collected her cell phone. It was like she was hypnotised or charmed. She lost a good deal of her mind.
“Inside the taxi, three people, excluding the driver, were already seated, waiting. When the young man arrived with Joy, he opened the door and pushed her into the back seat, shut the door and the driver drove off.
“As the car sped along the paved Ijesha Road, Joy said she knew that the people were up to some real mischief. But she found no energy to challenge them. She could not even raise her voice to ask them where she was being taken to. She recalled that it was at that point that she remembered that she could pray. So she began to pray. She said the rest of the abductees were early-morning risers on their way to work,” Mrs. Onuma said.
The farther the car went, the more Joy lost consciousness. But she kept muttering some prayers and her abductors heard her. That alone unsettled them. Then, on and on the car went without any of the abductees knowing or asking where they were being taken to. They did not know which direction or how far they had travelled. According to Mrs. Onuma, the victims partially began to come to their senses when the car hit the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
After some time, the abductors and their victims reached Okokomaiko, Ojo Local Government Area, a long way from from Ijesha. That was where the divine happened, thus introducing a dramatic twist to the abduction plot. At that the point, the abductees, who were perhaps a short distance away from the slaughter slab without knowing it, breathed the air of freedom.
She said, “Joy said while she was praying in a muffled voice, their abductors felt confused. They were asking the one who shepherded her in why he brought this type of person. They kept blaming him for bringing no other person than a woman who would not allow them have peace with her prayers. They were debating whether to drop her off and continue with the rest of the people. They kept debating on the issue until they reached Okokomaiko. She said one of the men was eager to have Joy dropped off, but another one was hesitant, while the one who netted her was indifferent.”
When the party arrived at Okokomaiko, it was still morning. The correspondent was told that the driver pulled over at a lonely spot. Then a man suspected to be the master of the gang lumbered out. On approach, he began to inspect the victims still in the car. That was where the story changed.
“The man bent over and peered into the car. Focusing on Joy, he asked them why they brought her. The boys pointed at the fellow who shepherded her into the car.
“At that point, the man burst out scolding them. ‘Have I not warned you never to pick up people like this and you will not listen?’ he said. ‘For bringing her here, your mission is already unaccomplished. I’m sorry you may have to let her, nay all of them go because her presence here has already ruined you efforts; you don’t know that.’
“Joy said that it was then they were commanded to alight from the car and start running without looking back. She said she started running with the rest of the abductees until she reached the nearby bus stop. She said she didn’t know how the rest of her colleagues fared.
“It was already past noon when she arrived at Ijesha, not knowing exactly what hit her. It was much later that she gained strength and told the story of her miraculous escape from the hands of evil people,” she said.