There is always a day to remember in the life of every human being. A day set aside as the “most remarkable.” It could be wedding, child’s arrival, job, or death of a loved one.
However, for some Abuja residents, the saddest day of their lives was the day they became victims of kidnapping and “one-chance.” For Joan Nnenna Iwuchukwu, Uchenna Amuka, Dorcas Jonah and Jude, their traumatic experiences in the custody of these beasts were ones they never wish even their enemies.
Their captors operators were not only armed to the teeth with guns, knives and other dangerous weapons, but were also ready to ruthlessly apply them at the slightest provocation from their victims. The incidence has taken over the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, with the activities more pronounced and dangerous along Airport Road, Kubwa Road, Lokogoma and Gwarimpa.
I was thrown out of moving car –Iwuchukwu
Iwuchukwu, a journalist, narrated her ordeal in the hands of one-chance operators: “Sometime, perhaps, September 16 last year, I had joined a colleague heading to Kubwa Road from the Abuja National Stadium. He dropped me off at Gwarimpa under Bridge.
“A car pulled besides us, shouting Dutse. I boarded with one other lady. Some boys wanted to join us but the driver told them that he would not get to their bus stop. It would have been enough signals to suspect them but I was in a hurry to get home.
“Few minutes’ drive, the driver opened his door, claiming his tyre was going down. I equally opened my side, suspecting something fishy but we continued. As we approached Galadima, they diverted to lonely road and the man in front immediately pulled gun and knife, threatening us to cooperate or risk our lives.
“He ordered us to surrender our bags to them. We obeyed and he ordered us to jump out of the moving car. I did, fell down and was lucky that there was on approaching vehicle otherwise I would have been crushed to death.
“I had money in that bag, ATM cards, laptop, medicated glass, ID card and handsets. The operation did not last for even up to 20 minutes because they were robbing us as the car was moving.”
Asked how she found her way home, she explained: “For minutes, we tried to stop passing vehicles. But the more we tried, the more we failed because they apparently mistook us for robbers. The lonely road complicated our problem.
“It was a vigilante member that finally intervened and took us to Federal Medical Centre, Gwarimpa, due to the injuries we sustained. But the hospital authority wanted to know who would pick the bill.
“I was lucky to have my younger brother’s number off hand. I told him to inform my parish priest who came with him to the hospital to pick the bills and we left the hospital after treatment. Funny enough, the vigilante showed interest in the other lady and took her away with him.
“Up till now, I have not overcome the trauma and I now screen every vehicle I want to board. I equally resolved not to go out late at night and if I must do, I have to make arrangement for somebody to take me home. It was an experience I don’t want even my enemy to go through.”
They blindfolded me
Amuka, a resident of Madalla, said he remembers Sunday, January 21, 2018, more than the date he wedded: “It was on Sunday January 21, 2018 at Dutse Express bus stop around 8pm. I was waiting to board a vehicle back to Madalla where I live.
“A car with three occupants pulled up and the moment I entered, they left the express and joined the service lane. Before I could come to terms on what was happening, they showed me gun, knives, blindfolded me with their jacket, ordered me to give them my ATM card and immediately searched me.
“They removed every dime with me and I was lucky I was not with my wallet where I mostly keep my ATM cards. They drove me round and round until they were satisfied that there was nothing they could get from me again and finally dropped me off at Galadima.
“I was luckier than my friend who was a victim a week before me. They kept him in their custody for several days and ensured that they withdrew everything in his account before releasing him. They kept him long because of the daily withdrawal limit.”
A journalist, who introduced himself as Jude for security reasons, told Daily Sun: “I became a victim on September 15, 2018. I had left office around 10.45pm after producing my page. I was waiting for a vehicle at Maitaima with many other passengers when one with three occupants pulled up. I told them that I was going to Mararaba and they told me to enter.
“They sped off and after two poles, the vehicle slowed down and made a sharp U-turn. My attempt to protest was met with threats and beatings, warning me to cooperate with them or risk my death. The one close to me immediately pointed a pistol on my stomach. They searched me and removed everything with me, raining more punches on my face and head while the vehicle was on high speed.
“I almost attempted suicide holding the gun in my confused state thinking that if it went off, it would be on the roof of the car. But, they overpowered me and finally collected my wallet containing ATM cards of my two bank accounts. They demanded for my PIN number, used their POS to confirm the code I gave to them and finally dropped me off on top of dark Dutse Bridge that late.
“I was confused because of the beating they gave to me. Unfortunately, they took my handset, laptop and every other belonging, but left my small techno phone. I was stranded because there was no vehicle passing there. I was fortunate that the only vehicle, which passed stopped to pick me up after narrating my ordeal to him.
“He frightened me more, telling me that they killed one woman a week before for struggling with them. I pleaded that he took me to my office because I was not with a dime again. The operation happened within 30 minutes or more.
“My greatest undoing was that it was too late to block my account immediately alert started coming from both accounts on that small phone. It later stopped but I did not reason that they got to the withdrawal limit. It started coming again after 12 midnight.
“They exhausted the two accounts amounting to over N700,000. By the time I got to the bank in the morning, what was left in the two accounts was N30,000 and N10,000. I had to block both of them.
“I went to Asokoro Police to report the incident and was told that they have previously made some arrests. They told me that they operate with fake NYSC uniform, pregnant and breast-feeding women used in deceiving unsuspecting victims. They told me that they sell the stolen phones to as far as Kano and Lagos.
“I still feel the pains of losing my over N700,000 within 24 hours. To tell you how sophisticated they are, they used both ATM and POS to withdraw the money. I faced a helpless situation when the bank and police told me that it was not all ATMs that have camera. They have devised so many fraudulent means to defraud us. As it is now, police could not help me out.”
My fear of being raped
Although they took over N250,000 and other valuables from another journalist victim resident at Kuje Area Council, Durcas Jonah, her biggest joy was that the situation did not degenerate to raping him:
“Precisely, Tuesday August 21, 2018, a colleague had dropped me off at Lugbe Berger bus-stop on the Airport Road after leaving my office few minutes after seven. I waited for a while to get vehicle heading to Kuje.
“Suddenly, the driver of a car I saw packed since I arrived beckoned at me to join them to Kuje. I did not just obey my instinct perhaps because I had stayed too long. There were four occupants, two boys and a lady at the back and another who sat with the driver in front. They zoomed off immediately I entered, joined the speed lane and that was all I could remember as they started hitting me on the head.
“They called us stupid girls and accused us of killing their boss. They pretended to be police officers claiming to be arresting us. The two boys collected my handbag and handed it over to the man seated in front. One of them pinned me down and unfortunately for me, the ATM cards for my three bank accounts were inside my bag.
“They collected my gold wristwatch and two midget recorders. I was holding my phone but I had to drop it on the floor of the car when the beating and hitting became too much. They requested for it, saw the alerts, which really implicated me. They dropped off the other lady perhaps because she claimed she did not have any account or perhaps she was part of them.
“I pleaded with them to drop me since they have collected everything from me, but they said that they needed to confirm if the PIN number I gave them was correct. We crossed about two police checkpoints but they beat them to it, telling them that they were coming back.
“The next thing I heard other vehicles calling Pappe passengers. Each time I tried to raise my head, the rain of beating would start again. They finally stopped and the one in front went down with an instruction to call them if my PIN number was wrong. They warned me to cooperate or they will kill me as they have killed others. He later returned, handing me back my bag and telling me that he withdrew N150,000 from the first account and N40,000 from my second bank account.
“He told me it was nice doing business with you, lying that he left something for me and that he has returned my ATM cards. I was happy that he left something. They continued another movement until they finally ordered me to drop at a dark place in Zone 6. Before dropping me, they gave me N500, taunting that it would take me to any part of Abuja I was going to.
“I walked from there to Berger Junction where I boarded a vehicle to Lugbe again. I faced the trauma of boarding another vehicle because I was not sure if they were other one-chance operators. I did not have a phone to contact anybody. I finally ended up at the same bus stop in Lugbe again but was lucky to take a genuine passenger vehicle.
“Before I got home, it was after 11pm. I was so tired and traumatised until in the morning when my husband asked me if I actually checked to confirm that my ATMs were there as the robbers claimed. When I checked I discovered that the one I still have some amount was not there.
“I rushed to the bank to block the account after 7am but I was told that they withdrew another N70,000 after 12 midnight, empting my account. They ended up withdrawing over N250,000.
“My captors were relatively young boys. They mocked me that I did not pray very well that day. They said that since I am a working class I would get alert at the end of the month, claiming that they were University of Abuja students struggling to survive and take care of their families.
“While in their custody, I prayed God to help me come out alive and unhunt. I also prayed that none of them touched me especially when I heard them threaten the other lady. Yes I lost so much amount of money, but my greatest joy was that they did not wound or rape me.
“Barely few weeks after my incident, my cousin became a victim. He was stabbed deeply on the neck and three other places while struggling to collect the knife from one of them that sat in front.
“I had earlier called my husband when I left office but he was surprised that it took me too long to return home. He told me that he called over 100 times without anybody picking the calls.”