John Adams, Minna
Armed bandits suspected to be kidnappers have hijacked a 32-seater coaster bus belonging to the Niger State Transport Authority (NSTA), kidnapping no fewer than 23 of the passengers.
The Katsina bound bus was said to have been hijacked on Tuesday in Funtua, a border town between Niger and Katsina state. Although details on the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping of the victims are still very unclear, an eyewitness told our correspondent that the vehicle stopped along the road for some of the commuters to ease themselves unknown to them that some kidnapers were lurking around the area.
“Immediately the vehicle stopped, the kidnappers came out from the bush and asked all of us to come down, they selected those they wanted and led us into the bush”, he said.
However, another account of the incident by a staff of the transport authority, though not part of the passengers, revealed that the driver of the bus took a route not approved by the management of the transport company for the journey.
He said, “at a point, the driver complained about shortage of fuel and parked by the road, even when he had full tank before leaving Minna. He later picked up a jerry can and went in search of fuel, it was in the process that the kidnappers emerged from the bush. As soon as he left, gunmen appeared from the bush and kidnapped the passengers”, adding that “out of the 35 passengers, 12, mostly children were released while 23 others were forced into the bush”.
It was gathered that the gunmen collected the cell phones of the travelers and asked for a ransom, totaling N40m. However, two of the passengers were released on Thursday evening after their families paid unspecified amount as ransom.
All efforts to get reactions from the General Manager of the Transport Authority, Alhaji Yakubu Salau proved abortive as he refused to pick calls to his telephone lines. Police Public Relations Officer in the state, ASP Wasiu Abiodun said he could not comment because “the incident happened outside our jurisdiction”.