INTERVIEW: Kidnappers begged for forgiveness after collecting N5 million ransom – Victim’s son

The kidnapped Widow; Lubabatu Mohammed and her son
The kidnapped Widow; Lubabatu Mohammed and her son

The first son and breadwinner of the family, Abdullahi Muhammad, said his mother was abducted in her home in June following which the police arrested six suspects. But the suspects are yet to be arraigned, and the family fears that some politicians in the state allegedly connected to the suspects had interfered to scuttle the prosecution.

A police internal memo seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed that the kidnappers negotiated the N5 million ransom through GSM No. 09054170931 with Mr Muhammad to secure the release of his mother, Hajiya Libabatu.

The ransom was paid through one Aliyu Muhammad, a driver to the complainant who delivered the money to the kidnappers in a bush along the Gumel-Malammadori highway in Jigawa State.

The police described the suspect that collected the ransom as a Fulani man dressed in an army camouflage uniform.

The police tracked down the owner of the phone number used for the negotiations and identified him as Ahmed Isa, a teacher attached to Mallamadori Local Education Authority.

Following his arrest, Mr Isa allegedly made a confessional statement on how they kidnapped the elderly woman.

He identified members of the gang as having different addresses in Mallamadori, Kaugama, and Maigatari local government areas of Jigawa State.

The police also stated how Mr Isa revealed to them how he got N500,000 as his share of the five million ransom. However, the police said in the report that the money was not found.

In this interview, the widow and her son narrate how she was kidnapped and the negotiation and ransom payment that preceded her release.

PT- How did it happen?

Lubabatu – My name is Lubabatu Mohammed. I was sleeping at about 1:30 a.m with four of my children when some men jumped over our fence and entered the compound. They went straight to the security man, woke him up and tied his hands and legs. The kidnappers then asked him to take them to wake us up.

When they noticed he could not walk, they untied his legs and ordered him to direct them in. Getting to our door, the security man knocked and said, ‘Hajia, wake up.’ I asked, ‘hope all is well’ and he responded by saying all was not well, that I should get up and open the door.

“I got up and looked through the window and saw the security man with his hands tied to his back. Then I saw two other men wearing masks and with guns in their hands. They shouted and said I should open the door for them. I went to the door, I was opening from inside and they on their part were closing it from outside because we forgot the key outside.

Immediately I opened the door, they entered hurriedly and one of them started saying I should go with him to give him money from inside.

“On getting inside I brought money and gave them, they asked how much and I replied and said it was N20,000. They ordered again and said I should give them money. I brought another N30,000, out of which I had removed N1,500 to pay for a work I requested. So the total money they collected was N48,500.

“They got hold of one of my daughter’s hijab (head cover) and threw at me and instructed I wore it, that they were going with me. Before then, they asked if I knew kidnappers and I replied no, and they said they were one and would be going with me.

“The kidnappers saw a pair of shoes on the floor, they threw it at me and said I should wear it, that they were going with me. They hit one of my daughters, who is about 20 years of age, and asked her to stand up and give them a phone. The girl said she didn’t have a phone. They hit the security man too.

“After we came out of the room, they locked the children and the security man inside and left with the key. Thank God, there was another door through the back that they did not know about, that the children could go out from.

PT – When these kidnappers held your hand, where did they take you to?

Lubabatu- With the kidnappers holding my hand, we trekked all the way throughout the night without a lantern. I spent three days with the kidnappers and just ate from the food they brought, food like yam, beans, rice.

Lubabatu’s son, Abdullahi continues

Abdullahi is the owner of the house that the mother lives in.

PT – How did the family hear the news that she was kidnapped?

Abdullahi – My brother told me that she went with her phone, so I tried to call her number. I called severally for about 40 minutes but nobody answered the call. After an hour, I and my wife called again but still no response.

“In the morning, the kidnappers called my wife’s number and said: ‘Alhaji Abdullahi, how are you?’ and I replied fine. They went ahead to tell me that Hajia my mother was with them and that she was in good condition.

PT – How much did they say they wanted?

Abdullahi – They said they were looking for a huge sum of money and I told them they should please say an amount that I would be capable of giving them. They said N200 million and I asked them, ‘do you know who you have kidnapped?’ The kidnappers said yes and I asked them who did you kidnap, do you think it is Buhari’s mother?

They replied and said ‘No’ but that it was a rich man’s mother. ‘We kidnap only those that we can get money from’, they said.

The kidnappers said they would not collect anything less than N200 million and I told them to think more and get back to me because that amount was too much. They said okay.

By that time, we had reported to the divisional police officer of our local government. We spoke with the police and they advised I go to Jigawa and report. I also went to the Command and talk to the Commissioner.

“I went to Jigawa on Monday, we went there and saw the DPO and he told us he was already aware of the situation and that he would take the report to the Commissioner of Police.

“On Tuesday, I went to see the CP in Dutse and spoke with him. I described how everything happened. The CP called one of his officers and asked him to go with me and make a statement so that they would know how to continue with the investigation. We did that and went back.

“We continued negotiating with the abductors. On Tuesday, they asked me how much would I remove from the N200 million. They said if I could raise N150 million, they would reduce N50 million for me.

“On Wednesday at 6:00 a.m., we greeted and I asked them if they were ready to collect what I had and they asked how much did I have. I told them I had been able to raise N2 million.

Immediately, he said ‘Are you stupid? We are asking for N150 million and you are asking us if we would collect N2 million!’ They asked what would they do with N2 million and said they did not want it.

The next morning, they called me and said if they did me a favour, would I understand it’s a favour? I said why not. They said if they mentioned what they had in mind, I should accept it, that if I tried reducing it again, this time they would add N5 million. I told them to go ahead and mention it but that they should know that I do not have money that they were thinking that I have.

I told them to bear in your mind that if they called an amount that I cannot afford, there was nothing I could do. They said okay and added that this was the last price they were going to call for me.

“The kidnapper then said I should give them N10 million and thank them. When he requested to know when I would be bringing the money, I told them that this N10 million they had called, how could one who had told them he had N2 million be able to bring N10 million? ‘Let me start looking for the N10 million, if am not able to get it, then we would know what to do.’

My call with them was at 7:30 a.m and they did not call back until 7:30 p.m. They called and said they had not seen the N10 million. I again pleaded with them that this amount was something that we could not afford, even though if we sold all of our properties.

They went ahead to ask me how much I had at hand and I told them all that I had with me was N3.5 million. They said I should try and make it N8 million.

They said I should go and look for N5 million and that once the money was up to the N8 million, I should call them and added that they were ready to release Hajia to me.

At this point, they started to complain that their job had been put on hold since they captured Hajia and that they had a lot of other people to kidnap.

At a point, they handed over the phone to Hajia and instructed her to beg me to do whatever I could to aid her rescue.

I told them that I had asked one of my friends to bring money for me because I requested that he should take one of my properties in Kano and bring whatever he had. The kidnappers continued calling me and kept asking me how far with my friend, and how much was he capable of bringing? I told them he had just N700, 000 with him and he was in Kano. They said I should ask him to bring it.

They said if he brought the money, it would sum to N4.2 million. I told them I would call him and get back to them. They said I should try and get the money from my friend.

They called again, this time around they asked if I could raise N6 million. ‘We want to it lessen it for you, just raise the N6 million and come and get Hajia today,’ they said. I told them no problem, let me see how to go about it.

After 30 minutes, I called them and told I would not be able to make that N6 million they were requesting. This was when they now came to the conclusion that I make the money N5 million because they did not want to waste more of their time.

After another 30 minutes, I called them again and I told them the money with me was N4, 950,000 and they said no, that I should go to any of my neighbours and look for the N50,000 to add to it to make it the N5 million. They said they would give me 30 minutes, after which they would give a call back to know if the money was complete.

I told them a friend of mine was 30 kilometres away to my place to contribute N50, 000, they said that’s okay.

They called back after an hour to know if my friend had arrived and given me the money to complete it and I said yes, the N5 million was complete.

They again asked to be sure if the N5 million was complete and I said yes. The kidnappers said if I brought the money to them, they would count it and I said there was no problem if I bring it they should count it.

They asked who would take the money to them and I said my younger brother would be the one to take the money to them.

I told them I would give him my phone, so they can continue communicating with him. They gave me a number that should be used in communicating with them. Immediately, I forwarded the number to SARS, and to one of my friends too, to have it as a record.

PT – While you were negotiating the ransom, were the police aware?

Abdullahi – Yes, they knew and they told me that once the person that was taking the money to the kidnappers was ready, I should let them know.

At 1:30 a.m, the kidnappers asked that the money should be taken to them. The police continued tracking the new number the kidnappers had given.

PT – Where did you pick Hajia?

Abdullahi – I was not the one that went to pick her, it was my driver that I sent with the money.

PT- When your driver got there, did he see the kidnappers?

Abdullahi – Yes, he saw them. As the driver was going to their place, they called and asked him if he knew Gujungum, and he said yes. That place is 30 kilometres from our village. They told him to go there. Again they called and asked him if he knew Gummi, they said he should go to Gummi. They said when he got to Gummi, there is a T-Junction that leads to Kano, Hadejia and Gujungum. They said when he got to the T-Junction, he should let them know that he was there. When the driver got there he called and told them that he was at the T-Junction. It was at this point that they asked him if he knew Hadejia and the driver said, yes and they directed him to go towards Hadejia road. They advised him to drive gently.

PT – Was the driver alone in the car?

Abdullahi – Yes, the driver was alone because the kidnappers had earlier instructed that he should come alone and that if he went with anybody, they would know and they would fight them. So the driver went alone.

“When the driver got to where they were, they instructed him to turn off the vehicle’s light. He obeyed and they asked if he had seen a big signboard. The driver said yes, they told him to park there and cut the engine.

They told him they had seen him and instructed he comes out of the car. The driver came out and they told him to go to the passenger door and walk towards where they were. The driver was doing as instructed. They asked him to go back and turn on his vehicle’s inner light. You know that from far if one turns on the car inner light, you would see inside the car. After turning it on, they asked him to off it and go to them.

While going, he got to a point and they asked him to stop, and one of the kidnappers came out to meet him and told the driver that he could even join them. ‘What you did, a hundred men cannot do it’, he applauded the driver.

He immediately asked for the money and he told him that the money was inside the car. He instructed him to bring it out of the car. On getting to their place with the two bags containing the money, the kidnapper opened it and brought out a bundle and asked the driver how much it was. The driver told him it was N250,000. He then asked how many bundles of N250, 000 makes N5 million and the driver said he did not know. The kidnapper then said he should add another bundle of the N250, 000 to make it N500, 000 and count, the kidnapped added that he knew Alhaji would not cheat them.

“Immediately, he called unto his accomplice and said he should bring Hajia forward; that the money was ready. Then Hajia was brought out of the bush. They now asked her if she knew the driver and she said yes. They asked her who he was to her to be sure and she said he is Alhaji’s younger brother.

They now asked Hajia if she agreed to follow the driver and she said yes.

In that moment, the kidnappers asked Hajia to forgive them, that this condition they found themselves was not by their intention and that it was the situation of the country that had led to doing this job.

PT – What language were they communicating with?

Abdullahi – They spoke in Hausa and Fulani. None of them spoke English.

PT – Were the kidnappers armed when the driver met them?

Abdullahi – Yes, the two of them had guns.

The kidnappers said if they pick any person and their people cooperate, they would release the person freely without hitches and added that they always advised that anybody coming to pick the person to come alone. And that was how the driver took Hajia and brought her to us.

PT -How were the kidnapped arrested?

Abdullahi – A day after Hajia was released, you know what happened caused some form of suspicion. The family suspected that someone must have given the kidnappers information before they came. So two people we were suspecting were part of those we realised the police arrested, one of them is a Fulani man that had been in the armed robbery system.

PT – How did you know him?

Abdullahi – I do not even know him but his only business is to rob at kidnap people.

PT – Where does he stay?

Abdullahi – He was in Malamadori before he left and that was where Hajia was kept. He had an issue and was arrested, so he was bailed but the people of Malamadori said anytime they see him, they would kill him because he disturbed them a lot.

And secondly there was a boy who gave us suspicious alert and we reported for him to be arrested. This same boy, while Hajia was with her abductors, there was a day myself, the driver, two of my uncles, my friend and this particular boy were discussing on how to go to Kano to meet a cleric to pray for the safe return of Hajia, without letting that boy know that we were going to the police station.

The boy said, if we go to the Malam, were we sure he would be able to solve the problem without money? I replied to him by saying he would, due to the type of prayer that he does.

PT – What is this boy to you?

Abdullahi – He is my relative

PT – What does he do?

Abdullahi – He has no job and he stays in the village.

That period, as we were heading to Dutse, one of the kidnappers called me and asked if I had finished with the cleric I said I was going to see? I asked back, ‘what cleric?’ They now said it was just that they had the information that we were heading to Kano to see our cleric. I replied saying I was not in Kano.

They began to swear that I was in Kano, that one of my uncles had instructed that we go there and that once we got there, Hajia would be released. I said no, it’s a lie. The kidnappers kept insisting that I was lying to them, that they had somebody that was feeding them with information and he was the one that told them that we were on our way to Kano.

‘The informant told us that before we even pick Hajia, that once we kidnap her, money would be released. He has informed us that you have a house in Abuja, in Jigawa and all other property that you have.’

I told him all was a lie. That was when we started suspecting this boy, that he was the one feeding the kidnappers with information.

PT – After the police arrest, did the accused confess to this crime?

Abdullahi – The police after arresting the first three targets, they asked them to take them to their settlement, which they did and on getting there, the police searched and found 10 handsets and they asked them what they were doing with the 10 phones. They said they were into phone business.

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