A Legal Office Administrator at the Legal Office Department of The Gospel Faith Mission International (GOFAMINT), Mr Akintade Victor Adetoro, has recounted his experience in the hands of Fulani kidnappers on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, saying he was just saved by providence.
Mr Adetoro was one of the commuters on Lagos-Ibadan highway who were lucky to escape being kidnapped by AK-47 rifle-wielding Fulani herdsmen who blocked the road on the fateful day.
Others were not so lucky, as they were abducted and made to trek in the forest from Tuesday evening till Wednesday morning, after which the abductors demanded N20 million as ransom for their release.
It will be recalled that the Fulani herdsmen had blocked the highway at about 5:30 p.m., and fired sporadic shots to halt commuters or injure those who tried to escape.
At the end of the brazen attack at day time, an expatriate from India, a commercial driver, passengers and other commuters were kidnapped, while others escaped by the whiskers, with bullets hitting some directly or their cars.
Narrating his experience, Mr Adetoro said he was on his way to Ibadan, Oyo State, in his white Toyota Corolla, with registration number Lagos AAA 914 EV, when he had an encounter with the kidnappers.
According to him, “on Tuesday, February 16, I was going to Ibadan, to handle an assignment slated for Wednesday, February 17.
“I gave two people a free ride from Redemption Camp. I also was led to minister to one of them, after the other one dropped at Ogere.
“We passed by Ajebo Community and was approaching Ogunmakin, at Alapako point, when the person whom I earlier picked alerted me of gunshots.
“I heard of something like pebbles hitting my car, but I had wound up my side glass, so I didn’t hear the gunshots.
“The passenger with me called my attention to the Fulani gunmen ahead of us. At that time, I had gone past other road users, so I was one-on-one with the Fulanis.
“They were still shooting, and it was like a movie to me. I felt I could just maneuver and turn back, but the moment I tried to, the car collided with the culvert, and the highway divider, unknown to me that I had been hit by bullets. It sent me back to my right hand side which forced the vehicle to face the bush.
“I was just shouting the name of Jesus, but the car didn’t stop until 15 to 20 seconds after.
“I was thinking I was dead, until I saw that I was conscious and could move my body. The car’s engine was still running, but I undid the strap of my seat belt and ran out of the car.
“I made for the bush because the gunshots wouldn’t stop. They were still shooting. At that time, I didn’t know other vehicles were involved, I was just running for my safety. I was wearing a white shirt, but I tore it off so that they would not notice me easily.
“I got to a pathway wide enough to accommodate a vehicle, so I had a feeling a village would not be too far from there. I followed the path, running and gasping for breath.
“Luckily, I saw two huts ahead and moved there. I met an aged woman with her two grandchildren and narrated my ordeal to them, and they were kind enough to offer me shelter, telling me to hide inside because the sound of gunshots was still coming through the place.
“I was afraid the kidnappers were after me and I was thinking of not causing trouble for my helpers, but the aged woman assured me that I was safe there.
“After a while, two men carrying locally-made guns came on a motorcycle. Again, I was afraid because I could see them from inside. But they said that they were local hunters and were aware of what was happening, so they came to rescue victims and scare those people away.
“I came out of the hut and told them I was one of the victims. I informed them of my car that I left in the bush, and asked for whatever help they could render.
“Assuring me of safety in the hut, the local hunters left their bikes and went to comb the forest to see if they could find the herdsmen.
“After a while, they came back and took me from the hut to the police station.
“We tried if we could trace my car but it wasn’t there again. Luckily, we saw a police officer and I narrated my ordeal to him. He told me my vehicle had been towed to the station. On getting to the station, I was able to assess the damage done to the vehicle.
“All I can say is to appreciate God that I was able to escape by His grace. Whatever was behind my escape was just God. It was after two days that I got to know that the car ran into a ditch after being shot at. The towing vehicle driver said it took assistance from two other towing vans to pull out the car from the ditch.”
Mr Adetoro said that he was still on treatment, as a result of body laceration he got while running in the bush, and and ankle sprain he could barely walk with.
A second victim, Akeem Ajibola, a commercial driver, who was actually kidnapped, spent four days with the kidnappers and almost killed, said he still experiences nightmare on his abduction by the Fulani herdsmen.
Used to Lagos-Ibadan highway, a route he plies on a daily basis, Ajibola works for the owner of a Toyota Corolla, with registration number LSD 308 GP, on a daily payment of wages.
As usual, on Tuesday, February 16, he loaded passengers in the morning from Ibadan, Oyo State, to Oshodi in Lagos State. In the afternoon, it was his turn to pick passengers to Ibadan City, and he did, thinking of how to deliver the proceeds of about N8,000 to the car owner, and N3,000 as his daily payment.
Ajibola’s thoughts also strayed to the warm embrace he would enjoy from his wife, in spite of the heat in the dry season.
As he cruised on the highway, playing soft music to keep awake and alert, little did he know of the danger looming ahead.
He got to Alapako axis on the road, when he noticed a blockade ahead.
According to Ajibola, “on February 16, I was coming from Lagos to Ibadan with four passengers in the car I was driving.
“As we got close to Alapako area on the highway, we noticed that there was a blockade. As I was about to make a u-turn, we just saw Fulani men behind us, wielding AK-47 rifles. They started shooting sporadically, so I stopped.
“They took the five of us in the car I drove, but later released an elderly man among us, remaining four of us with them.
“As we stayed in the bush not far from where we were picked, they identified themselves to us as kidnappers, saying that the money and phones they took from us had no significance, compared to what we needed to pay as ransom for our release. They told us to call our family members to get N20 million.
“We passed through a river and walked from Tuesday evening till the following morning.
“They used my phone to call my family but I pleaded with them that I was just surviving daily with N3,000 for the upkeep of my family. I told them my family could not get such money. My wife also pleaded with them, but they became infuriated and threatened to kill me.
“They stopped using my phone and started using that of another victim to call his family. We kept pleading.
“We were not fed for four days we were with them. We were so happy the only time they gave us little water to drink.
“They released others when their families paid some amount I didn’t know of. I was the last person with them.
“My wife sought for help all around and was able to gather N200,000. But they rejected the amount and said they would kill me. I believe it was the prayers of people back home and the spirit of my dead mother that spared my life.
“The Fulanis tied me to a tree and started beating me until I became unconscious.
“I didn’t know when they took me to a roadside and laid me there after midnight on February 20, until I was discovered by a Good Samaritan who was driving past. He was the one who told me we were close to Ijebu Ode.
“I was taken to Ibadan Toll Gate, from where I was taken to a hospital at Challenge area. I could hardly talk and was so weak. I’m just getting better.”
Also, a driver to an expatriate from India, Mr Isiaka Akinwoye, narrated how he was able to escape from being kidnapped at Alapako axis by Fulani herdsmen, who abducted his boss and other commuters.
Mr Akinwoye told Thenewsbearer that he was on his way from Lagos State to Osogbo, Osun State, enroute Ibadan, Oyo State, when he noticed vehicles parked ahead of him.
As he was trying to grasp what was happening, Mr Akinwoye said that he saw six Fulani men in front of him, with each of them carrying AK-47 rifle.
After noticing about three cars and occupants held captive by the gunmen, the driver instinctively abandoned the navy blue Toyota Highlander with registration number Lagos MUS 328 FY he was driving, and made a dive for the ditch with some occupants of the other vehicles.
However, they saw other gunmen hiding in the bush and shooting at those attempting to escape
“Quickly, we made a U-turn and ran towards another direction until we got to a place in the bush.
“It was when I returned that I noticed my boss had been kidnapped. I met police there; they tried their best, but they were few in number.
“There were bullet holes in the car I drove, from the kidnappers’ gunshots. It was God that saved me.
“I was with the police until I learnt that my boss had been released in the early hours of Saturday, February 20,” Akinwoye said.
Airing his views on the security challenges of the nation, Mr Adetoro described open grazing as “barbaric in this century.” According to him, “it is unfortunate that the presidency is shielding them, which is obvious. We don’t have to be sentimental about it. Is it that they have not caught one?
“Government should clear the highways a kilometre inwards, so that commuters can see a clear area from afar. This alone will make it difficult for the herdsmen to do anything day or night.”
Another survivor, Mr Isiaka Akinwoye, whose boss, an Indian, was abducted on the fateful day while he was able to escape with few others, had said that the spot at Alapako Community was frequently used to kidnap commuters because it is bushy and leads into a deep forest.
He however said that he noticed that the police had added more patrol teams to the axis, while he could see some patrol vans positioned at strategic points after the nightmarish experience he had.
Speaking on the incident, when contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in Ogun State, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, said that the state command had increased police presence since February 16.
This, he said, aided the foiling of an attempt made by the criminals after that of February 16.
“They (kidnappers) made an attempt on Wednesday, February 24, but it was foiled. The police seriously engaged them in gun battle and they escaped with gunshot injuries,” the PPRO said.
He added: “Before the February 16 incident, we have had teams patrolling the highway, but the criminals would decide to strike after noticing that the patrol vans moved to other directions.
“We have serious security teams. We have about four tactical teams placed on the road now. We have Safer Highway and Federal Highway patrol teams and a team of Anti-Kidnapping Unit. They are working in conjunction with Owide-Egba Area Command’s team.
“We are also tried to mobilise local hunters, So Safe Corps and vigilante groups. They are working hand-in-hand with the police.
“We have a team stationed permanently at Onigaari. We have another one stationed at Ogere. The Commissioner of Police, Edward Ajogun, the Deputy Commissioner, Operations and Area Commander were there the following day. That was when the arrangement was made to put stronger teams there.”