Eruwa, an agrarian community in Ibarapa East Local Government Area of Oyo State was recently thrown into panic as a businesswoman was kidnapped on her way from market. AKINWALE ABOLUWADE reports her ordeal in the hands of her Fulani captors few hours after she regained freedom .
Her experience in captivity was like a rancorous journey to hell. Foluke Akinrinde was held hostage in the forest by her captors for 27 long hours under a tensed condition. She described her plight as awful and unforgiving. The 35-year-old businesswoman said that each hour in the noose of the men of the underworld were like one year of languishing in hell.
Since she regained her freedom after her household parted with N2.5 million ransom, she has been reliving her trauma. She relays her experience to friends and family members who visited her home to congratulate her on Wednesday few hours after returning to her family.
“I was released by the Fulani men who intercepted my vehicle and held me hostage around 7pm on Tuesday. They released me after collecting N2.5 million ransom from my family. Before then, they warned that they would kill me if my people tried to involve the police.
“I was kidnapped by four armed bandits near Temidire village, on July 1, while returning from the market. I was not the only person in the vehicle; there were four other women with me with one of them carrying Samuel, my seven-month-old baby. I was the one driving and the vehicle, a Toyota bus, belongs to me. I use it to ply my trade.
“They intercepted the vehicle. One of them, armed with a gun, first emerged from the bush and waved us down with a threat to kill us if I tried to escape. I attempted to outsmart him by putting the vehicle on reverse but I realised that his gang members were already behind the vehicle ready to shoot. Within minutes, the one who stopped me scrambled for the steering with fierce threats.
After collecting money, our telephone sets and other valuables, they set the other women free and dragged me into the bush. They kept beating me as we went into the bush. Although I did not sustain physically bruises, I was seriously battered.
“We were attacked around 4:00pm and were in the bush close to Eruwa until they later whisked me away into the forest somewhere in Ogun State on motorcycle. They made a telephone call to the motorcyclists, around 1:00am and they arrived shortly after the call. I think that they decided to take me farther away when they sensed that some people were combing the bush for me. At that point, we were hearing gunshots from a far distance.
It was so dark so I could not see clearly; I don’t know the route that they took me through. They later put calls through to my husband demanding for a ransom of N25 million. After hours of bargaining, they agreed to take N2.5 million cash. They insisted that only one person should bring the money. One of them left to collect the ransom but they left a strong warning to my people that they would kill me if their man eventually gets killed in the process.
“I was weak and at some point I lost hope of returning to my family alive because the men were so cruel and desperate. I was the only one that they held hostage at the time. Happily, they set me free immediately they got a signal from their man that the ransom money had been paid. I walked through the forest until I got to my people at 7:00pm on Tuesday.”
Sunday Akinrinde, her husband, who expressed joy over his wife’s return, described the experience as traumatic. According to him, the news of his wife’s abduction was a rude shock. Mr Sunday said that the news of her kidnap was broken to the family through Adenike Adewusi, her friend who was carrying the baby in the vehicle on their way before the incident.
He said: “We reported the matter to the police immediately the news got to us. Some policemen followed us to the scene. We were able to recover the vehicle. They combed the bush with local security but they only saw traces of where they passed.” He explained that at a certain place, they saw traces of motorcycles but they eventually lost the trail.
Sunday, a farmer and tractor operator based in Eruwa, said: “At night, they asked my wife to talk to me. She said that they were asking for sum of N25 million. They later took the phone from her and talked to me. They communicated sparsely in Yoruba Language. They asked me to produce the ransom immediately or risk my wife’s life. When I noticed that they might kill the woman, I pleaded that they should take N2 million from us but they were angry and started cursing us. Each time after calling they would switch off the phone.
“They handed down a serious warning that we should not involve the police or else they would kill my wife. At a point, they agreed to take N2.5 million.” He said that they raised the money through family members and friends adding that they also borrowed money from different sources.
Foluke’s elder brother, Prince Bolatito Akeem popularly called Kuye, expressed joy over the release of his younger sister but said he suspected that her abduction must have been instigated by someone who is close to the family.
According to him, it was suspicious that of all the passengers in the vehicle, she was the only person that was held hostage by the kidnappers. Kuye said: “We are happy and relieved about my sister’s return home. I was told that her friend who was carrying the baby for her in the bus pleaded that they should release her because of her baby but they refused.
“We were all rattled. We started consulting people on what to do to secure her release. The police and the local police were proactive. They searched the whole place for her and her abductors but they were not lucky.
“Her friend said that she ran with the baby to call for help at Sunmibare, a nearby village but she said that the men of the village were not around at the time to help hunt them down. Considering the fact that my sister was the only person who was taken away, I suspect that the attackers acted on information supplied by an insider. But we thank God that she is back home unhurt.”
Foluke’s mother was full of praise on hearing that her daughter had been released. She hurried down to her house to confirm the news amid tears of joy. The old woman thanked God as her daughter relayed her experience in the hands of the daredevils to her. The septuagenarian, who was an emotional wreck on hearing the news of her daughter’s kidnap on Monday evening, had said amid tears: “I don’t even care who they are. All I want is to have my daughter back alive. I don’t know those who kidnapped her; I have committed them to the hand of God.”
She described the period of waiting for her daughter’s return as “most trying and fearful moments.” She said that the horrific experience was better imagined. She was also worried about the fate of her grandson who was said to have cried throughout the night when his mother was not around to feed him. “It is an awful experience for a newborn baby to be stripped of his mother’s warmth and milk,” she explained.
According to the family, the vehicle which was intercepted by the robbers was still at the police station at the time of filing this report. Foluke said that although her husband had gone to report his wife’s release at the Eruwa Police Station, the vehicle was not released to him.
“They said that my wife must show up at the station to write her statement and secure the release of the bus since she is the owner,” Mr Sunday said.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Oyo State Command, Mr Olugbenga Fadeyi (SP), who confirmed the kidnap story, said the police would not renege in its efforts to ensure adequate security of lives and properties of citizens.