Bayelsa-based journalist,Osahon, reveals his terrible kidnap experience
Julius Osahon, a Bayelsa-based freelance journalist was recently kidnapped by some hoodlums, but has regained his freedom.
Below is his explanation of what happened when he spoke with a correspondent:
I must say that I had no premonition that such could happen to me. But when the kidnap happened, it all looked like something I had dreamt about before, especially the shooting and killing of the driver. It felt like it was happening in a movie. Actually on that day, I was supposed to leave Bayelsa for Delta State by 3pm but I shifted it to 4pm. On my way to the park, I saw a bus belonging to Sunny Ero Motors, which took me to the park where I boarded the bus going to Warri. So, I got my ticket but it took a while for the bus to fill up. For the first time, I didn’t write my name in the manifest because I got my ticket from the first park where I boarded the bus. But some things happened, like people coming into the bus and alighting because of one reason or another. I kept faith in God, believing that I would get to my destination without any hiccup. We left Yenagoa around 5pm and I expected I should be at my destination by 7pm. I was also sure of arriving at my destination safely; there had been no kidnapping on that route for a while. I am surprised to have been kidnapped.
When asked if leaving late contributed to his kidnap, he said:
I don’t think so. We were kidnapped around 6pm when the day was still bright. I was thinking we should arrive in Ughelli soon but we were attacked and kidnapped five minutes’ drive to Ughelli. When we were leaving the park, there was another bus loading after the one I boarded and going towards the same direction we were going. It was a random thing and we were unfortunate to be there at that time.
There were almost 15 police checkpoints that we passed before we were kidnapped. The last one we passed was just one or two minutes before we were abducted. I have learnt my lessons, the moment it is after 4pm, I will never leave for a trip again, no matter how short.
When asked to explain how the kidnap took place, he said:
I was making a call to my sister to wish her a happy birthday but her phone was not reachable as we passed a village called Uwelli. So I called my sister’s friend so she could let her know I was going to stay with her till the following day before travelling further. It was at this point that I started hearing gunshots. It was like I was in a trance. All I noticed was that we all lay down in the bus trying to avoid being hit by bullets. It was a war situation. Two other passengers were lying on me. The first thing I saw was a man shooting in the air. He then pointed the gun at the driver and shot him dead. The driver’s blood started flowing to where I was and even stained my phone. But my phone was still on and I was sure that my sister’s friend heard all the commotion that took place. The kidnappers just came out from the bush and hell was let loose.
On the number of them taken into the bush, he said:
They took about seven or eight of us from the bus. Two boys, who sat at the back, escaped, I suppose, through the window. They also kidnapped people from two Sienna buses that were behind us, one from Port Harcourt and another had a man and his wife. Initially they separated us. Immediately, they took our wallets, phones (which they switched off) and other personal effects. They couldn’t switch off my phone and they put it in airplane mode. They took us through a bush path and I was the one who carried all the things they took from us, which was added burden. After about 10 minutes walk into the bush, I heard police siren and gunshots and we diverted into a thick forest that was waterlogged and they told us to lie face down. They instructed that nobody should talk. After about an hour of lying face down in the water and they were sure the police had gone, they told us to stand up, by which time, it was dark and it was difficult to see who was beside you.
We started walking, not knowing where we were going. I had lost my leather slippers during the initial commotion and I was walking barefoot. It was horrible because we didn’t know what we were stepping on. They used the torchlight from a small phone to find their way and ours was to follow them. They didn’t care about any discomfort any of us was going through. If you were not keeping with the pace, they hit you with the butt of the gun or beat you with a stick. When you also tried to break a small tree branch impeding you, they will think you intended to use it as a weapon and they would beat you. So, I had no choice but to move on no matter what was impeding me. I sustained several cuts on my arms. After several hours, we got to a spot where we were again told to lie face down.
They called us one after the other, asking us where we worked and other personal questions. It was like profiling us to see what they could get as ransom. They then separated us because they felt that there were some people they would not get money from even if they threatened to kill them. Those ones were thoroughly beaten and there were some female students who were released the next day.
The people who kidnapped us were southerners but they handed us us to Fulani or Hausa-Fulani (men) in the bush, who made sure we did not escape while the negotiation was on. It was obvious that the Fulani knew the forest so well.
On how the news the kidnap got to town, he said:
A lady who sat beside me in the bus was one of the persons released the next day and she was the one who broke the news at the Nigeria Union of Journalists’ secretariat in Yenagoa. She lives in my area and she is an up-and-coming artist. I had even done stories about her. It was when I got out that I was told they were released 3am the following day and they got to a farm settlement after running for hours. The farmers called their parents to come pick them in the morning. After the news was broken, stories were done about the incident, with special focus on me. It was when I got released that I knew all that my colleagues did.