MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
Few weeks after the decapitated body of a reporter with Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Tordue Salem, was discovered in a mortuary at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja following his mysterious disappearance after he closed from work, another journalist in Imo State, Prince Chibuzor Ndukwe, (55 years old) has escaped miraculously from his kidnappers’ den.
He was abducted from his residence, blindfolded and taken into a thick bush. Few days later after his abductors confirmed on phone, the payment of N10m for him to be killed; he succeeded in escaping from their grip. His narrow escape was as miraculous as it was bizarre.
Speaking with AtlanticNewsonline and other media other organisations at the weekend on his ordeal, he gave a vivid account of the incident.
According to him,
“My travail started with the destruction of my house in the village by some hoodlums who were guarded by some policemen. They came with sledgehammer and were busy destroying my house in broad daylight while armed policemen were there. Later, another group came and kidnapped one of my guards. They thought I was the one. Unfortunately, when they discovered that it was not me, they connived with their police collaborators, tagged him an IPOB member and threw him into the cell at the Anti-kidnapping Unit, Owerri. When we got information that my guard was in their cell, we moved in, pacified them with N300, 000 and he was released.”
“On the day of my abduction, I came back to my house and went inside to rest. I was lying down on the bed about 7:15pm when one motorcyclist rode inside my compound and when my wife asked what he was looking for, he said he came to drop something from my wife’s school for her.
“My wife wanted to know why he came at that time of the night but he assured that there was no cause for alarm and left. We did not know that he came to monitor us. Fifteen minutes after he left, some other men came in a red colour Toyota vehicle, drove inside my compound and one of them, armed with a dagger, proceeded straight to my bedroom.
“When they dragged me outside the parlor, I saw one of them pointing a gun on my wife’s head. As soon as we came out, he directed the gun at me and sternly warned that if I talk, he would kill me. They asked where did I keep the money? I said I did not have money in the house, as I was not used to keeping cash at home due to the insecurity in the country. I asked if I could bring my ATM, they consented and bring your ATM card, after which they demanded for my car key, telephone. I brought my two phones, they collected my two phones. They collected my wife’s phone, they asked me to lie down, but I asked them why would they want me to lie down, instead of telling me what they wanted particularly money.
“As I was asking them to allow me look for money and give them, and leave me alone, they said no, that I should go out. They led me and I followed them. They went to the car and asked me to go and open it. I opened the car, they asked if it was on security lock, I said no. they asked me to enter inside. I did and they collected the key from me, immediately inside the car, they used something and tied my eyes, pushed me down inside the car and asked me to lie down flat. I told them that my size could not allow me easily lie down. I requested if I could sit down since they have covered my eyes.
“Immediately, I made the request one of them used the butt of his gun and hit me by the side of my ear. I now forced myself, to lie down in the car. The other entered from one side while another took the other one that side. I was helmed in while another one now took the steering and started the car. Three of others now went to the other car, they had come. That was how they zoomed off to an unknown area.
“That was how these people took me away on that Friday night. They took me to one small old building on the road where we spent the night. When we were going, they were calling the people that sent them and I could overhear them saying “pay the money now. We are with this man, if you don’t do it, we will leave him oo. We don’t need to waste time with this man inside this motor, we want to complete the mission and go our way.”
According to Ndukwe, “It was like they had a little misunderstanding with the people that hired them. The people did not pay that money that Friday evening, so the following day, being Saturday, I was still in that small building, blindfolded. There were tiles there. I managed to know this because I raised the blindfold after they locked me inside and went outside the building. I saw the window, it was a burglary proof that they used in that room. When noticed they were coming, I closed the blindfold. I was there that Saturday. In the night, they came back again and picked me, took me to a bush.
“Inside the bush, they passed and crossed a tarred road. When they crossed that tarred road, they now went to an uncompleted building across the road. When we got into the building, they took me up, we climbed like two or three stairs. We climbed for a long time till we got to the place they kept me again.
“When I was inside the building, they left one of them to guide me with a gun. Meanwhile, they tied my legs and hands and gave me beating of my life and told me that I should forget this world, that my own was over.
“They were beating me with something like knife. They hit it on my head and cut a small part of my head, they did same on my legs. On my hand, there were bruises, as they cut my hand also and tied me with chain and other things. So, I was there till Sunday. It was like the money they were asking for, came on Sunday.
“How I knew was that on Saturday, they were quarreling with the people, they called him on phone. They did not know that when they were discussing, I was hearing them. They were telling the people, “you raise the money now, what is going on, what is happening, we will leave this man o”. They were speaking in Igbo.
“It was like the person replied them that they should exercise patience, that they would bring the money in cash that night and not transfer.
“In the morning on Sunday, their boss, who was constantly referred to, as Mopol, left. They left the one called ‘Agile’ to monitor and stay with me.
“There were churches in that same building they kept me. There were up to three or four churches downstairs. They were singing and praising. Even the one they called Agile who was guarding me pointed gun at me saying that if I made
the slightest noise to raise alarm, he will just kill me here. I stayed there till the church people ended their service and left.”
Narrating his ordeal further, Ndukwe said
“their boss came back around 3pm. I knew the time because they were openly talking about time. I gathered all information while they were communicating. They were freely behaving as if my fate was already concluded and nothing would make me to survive and tell any story. In fact, they had already condemned me and that must be why they were discussing not minding whether I heard or not. The other one now said they have brought the money. Ten million naira, that was what was given to them to kill me, boasting that this night, at least, we go go rest now, after tonight we go go relax.” I kept on asking myself the meaning of that.
“After that, they brought bread to me to eat, I said I did not want to eat. They brought water, I said I did not want to drink, they threatened that my refusal to eat would not save me. We stayed there till night. The other one was talking about time.
“Monday seemed to be the day earmarked to eliminate me. In the morning they walked me downstairs. We still crossed the tarred road again. I discovered that the building was near a tarred road and nobody knew that something terrible was happening in that building. This was because, as we walked down, we crossed the road. I noticed that there were voices of other people around. The one that took me down handed me over to another person. After crossing the road, another person took over. We started walking inside the bush. After sometime, he asked me to sit down, he called the other person and told him to “come now let’s go and waste this man and get away.”
“At this point, I was crying, pleading with them to spare my life because I have five small children to take care of. As we were walking inside the bush, we got to a certain point; they removed what they used in covering my eyes. I now saw the kind of hefty men that were holding me. The next thing they did was to show me a dead body around. They said, “Do you see that dead body, na so you go be very soon.” We passed that one, they showed me another one, we walked inside, they took me inside the bush.
“By then, they had removed the rope they put on my leg, leaving the one they put on my hands. When we got inside, I told them I wanted to urinate, they agreed.
” By some divine arrangement, while we were trekking, one of the abductors was in front, the second one was at my back. After I requested to urinate, the one at my back moved front. As he moved, he was following his colleague and they were walking slowly while waiting for me to finish urinating. When I was about finishing, the other one turned and asked if have not finished urinating. I said it remained small. He said okay and turned because I was watching them.
“As he moved, a voice came to me saying “Mr. man, can’t you run away now?’ It continued like a whisper saying: “ run away”. Immediately that message came to me, I turned round and picked race inside that bush. When they noticed it, they turned back and pursued me. And the place I entered was a thick forest, so I entered one small bush there and stayed quiet, they shot gun, but they didn’t get me, they flashed torch, they didn’t see me. Inside the bush, I used my teeth to untie the rope they tired on my hands.
“I started walking like an animal, creeping with my legs slowly into the bush. They were looking for me here and there. At this stage, they started quarrelling asking the one at my back why he left me to escape. While I was creeping away from them, crying in pains, they continued blaming each other.
“That was how I succeeded in giving them gap. Then, I got to one track road, I started walking fast heading to nowhere in particular. I walked till I got to another track road, the third track road where I saw light from a generator. When I saw the light, I was imagining where that place was. I decided to get closer to that place. I didn’t know that one of them was around that place but what saved me was that when I got to that place, I saw another track road that leads to that light that I was seeing. When I saw it, my mind told me to pick race and run. I moved fast.
“Unfortunately, the sound of my feet alerted them, they pursued me from there, I ran, but behold, there was a fenced compound. I jumped into that place. I continued running and one of them shouted on his colleagues warning that they should not follow me because vigilante men were around the place and that they could be wicked.
“If they had followed me, they would have caught up with me because when I ran into the compound, nobody came to my rescue because they were all asleep. There was also no vigilante there. I had to run into one man’s house and started knocking at his door, I pleaded with the man to help me but he refused. I started telling him that I am Prince Ndukwe Chibuzo, the son of a traditional ruler. I came from Ihitte- Uboma, I was kidnapped from my house. I began to explain to the man but I think the man was afraid, he did not open that door. I now said “ok forgive me, help me let me stay at the corner of your compound till in the morning so I can explain myself better.”
According to Ndukwe, the man did not say anything. “He left me. I stayed there. It was like the man used his phone and contacted the vigilante people. So, vigilante people came from nowhere to where I was and began to flash torch light. I wanted to run, they said “do not run, we are here for you.” When they flashed that light on me, I asked them “are you vigilante,” they said, “yes”. I said “God thank you” . They now took me to a better place. That was how I was saved. I cannot imagine my escape, up till now; I have never believed that I am out of these people’s hands.
“The vigilante people later told me that we were in Anyara in Isiala-Mbano, about seven kilometers to Owerri town.
Ndukwe said that later, the vigilante people gave him hot water to drink because he had not tasted anything for days. They called their President General and other notable persons in the community including the Chairman of the Local Government. They later invited policemen from Anti-Kidnapping unit in Owerri.
“We met them while we were on our way to Owerri. Initially, I was very skeptical to go with them because of the issue of trust we had earlier. However, after much persuasion including making a call to their Commissioner who assured me of my safety, I followed them. I later heard that a team of policemen from Inspector General of Police (IGP’s) Intelligence Response Unit also came to the place after getting information that I escaped and they frantically searched for me but the network was very poor and they missed where I was with the vigilante team.”
Meanwhile, it was gathered that after he was rescued, he made statement with IGP’s Intelligence Response Team in Owerri, IRT and they swiftly swung into action. Sources said days later, men of the IRT succeeded in arresting one of the key suspects in the kidnap saga. The suspect, according to reports, turned out to be one of the escapees from Owerii prisons during the end SARS protest.
Police sources said he played a prominent role in the kidnap of the journalist in connivance with other suspects still at large, said to be close relatives of the victim. It was also learned that the police team arrested a serving policeman suspected to be the supplier of arms to the kidnappers. It was learnt that he was later taken to the Commissioner of Police for interrogation after which he was dismissed from the police and handed over to the investigating unit. So far, it was further learned that the team waa closing in on other major suspects in the crime including those who allegedly paid N10m for the journalist to be killed.