…We slept in the open, beaten by the sun and rain …They gave us raw rice to cook with only water and salt …They constantly fired shots to intimidate us …We lost all hope of returning home alive By Bashir Bello
Their harrowing experience in the hands of armed bandits for 55 days is better imagined. Deep inside the forest where the bandits’ camp was located, the abducted women and children were kept in the open, beaten by the rain and the sun and fed with a half ration of barely cooked corn gruel.•Murja Isa with her one day old baby girl after released from their kidnappers captivity
The trauma they went through in captivity was written all over them as they looked emaciated and worn out. Before the governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari negotiated their release with the bandits who abducted them, they had lost all hope of returning home alive.
One of the women, Murja Isa, who gave birth in the forest hours before they were released, captured their nasty experience.
The bandits threatened to kill us
She said “We never believed we would regain freedom or return home alive as our abductors were always in a nasty mood, threatening to shoot us since our relatives could not afford to pay ransom to secure our release. We were kept in a camp which initially had 150 captives but gradually reduced to only the 13 of us who were the last to be released.
Three arrested for ritual money making in Katsina(Opens in a new browser tab)
“They fired shots into the air constantly within close proximity to us to scare and intimidate us. We were ill treated by the bandits who fed us twice daily with only a half ration of barely cooked corn gruel”.
Murja was among the last batch of 15 kidnapped victims who were released from their captivity in a camp hidden in the expansive Dansadau Forest in Zamfara State. The forest, which traverses many states in the North West, is also known as Rugu Forest in Katsina State and Kuyenbana Forest in Kaduna State.
The victims included a day old baby girl, another toddler (one year old baby) and 13 women who were mostly teenagers from Mallamawa village in Jibia Local government area of Katsina State.
Abducted with my children
Their sad tale was not different from that of the initial set of 30 kidnap victims, comprising 12 children and 18 women who were set free earlier after spending 55 days in captivity.
One of the victims, Zinatu Sani from Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina state who narrated her ordeal, recalled that she was picked from her matrimonial home with two of her children. She said after they were kidnapped, their abductors demanded N20 million ransom to secure their release which was later reduced to six million naira but their families could not afford it.
According to her; “for 55 days that we spent in captivity, we slept in the open where sun and rain beat us every day. The bandits used to give us raw rice to cook with only water and salt”.
Swap agreement with bandits
Recall that Governor Masari had initiated a peace dialogue initiative with the bandits who had been terrorising communities in the state and visited their hideouts in the eight frontline local government areas sharing border with the dreaded Rugu forest. Under the initiative, an agreement was reached whereby the arrested bandits who were in custody of security agencies would be released in exchange for the kidnapped women and children.
Obaseki suspends council chairman over corruption allegation(Opens in a new browser tab)
With the release of the last batch of 15 victims, the number of kidnap victims who were freed under the agreement reached in the peace dialogue initiative was put at over 70 while the arrested bandits who have been released so far was put at 15.
Meanwhile, receiving the freed captives, elated Governor Masari disclosed that the 13 women and the two infants from Mallamawa village in Jibia LGA were the last set of victims from Katsina State known to be in captivity anywhere. He said now that all the kidnap victims from the state had been released, the next phase of sustaining the peace dialogue initiative in the state was the surrender of arms and ammunitions by the bandits, which will be followed by their rehabilitation and integration.
The last phase, the Governor added, would involve further provision of amenities like schools, clinics, roads, water points for human and animal use as well as re-demarcation of cattle routes which were taken over by farmers and converted into farm land.
Masari said there would also be regular engagements between officials of Katsina and Zamfara states with their counterparts in Maradi Region of the neighbouring Niger Republic.
The victims were later given relief materials and undertook medical check-up before reuniting with their families.