A Nigerian comedian-cum-actor, Efosa Japheth, popularly known as Young Elder GCFR, has narrated how he escaped being kidnapped at the Benin-Auchi expressway, at 4.30 p.m., on May 21.
Sharing the grim encounter with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Japheth said he is yet to recover from the shock.
The Benin-based comedian said he was billed to perform at a club in Ekpoma, a village in Edo state on that fateful day. While travelling by road, he encountered kidnappers, who were fully armed.
There have been several cases of kidnappings reported in different parts of Nigeria. While many of the kidnappers demand ransom from the families of the victims for them to be released, others kill the victims before or after ransom payment.
Mr Japheth said before he embarked on the journey on May 21, his friend, Miracle Aigbe, reached out to him. According to him, she joined his vehicle since they were headed to the same location.
“As we were going, after the Benin bypass, we came across some military checkpoints. There is a particular Ayelala building on that express road, immediately we passed the checkpoint, Miracle Aigbe was seated at the back while I was sitting at the front with the driver. She was putting on an earpiece and was not too aware of our conversation and what was happening during the journey.
“Five minutes from the checkpoint, we noticed that someone came out from the bush, dressed in red beret, I didn’t really get a look. He rushed out from the bush and was shooting sporadically,” he narrated.
The comedian said in a split second, another person joined the armed man from the bush, and at that point, they realised the men were kidnappers.
“My driver matched the brake and attempted to reverse. Based on some orientations and stories we have heard about kidnapping, I immediately knew the people had their traps set for us at the back too. As soon as he reversed, I beckoned to my driver that some of them would be at the back.”
Mr Japheth said his driver reversed the vehicle nevertheless, after which they saw five more men at the back pulling over other vehicles behind them.
“It was like they were trying to contain us. My driver stopped the car and beckoned everyone in the car that we should run as fast as we can. We opened the doors at the same time and started running. We ran to the left side of the road, there was a little bit of hill and we climbed it,” he said.
The comedian narrated that the third occupant of the car, Ms Aigbe, also tried to run but could not catch up.
“Those bandits were actually shooting as we were running, they kept shouting that if you run, I will shoot you. They were Hausa/Fulani people. I fell and stood up again, I kept running, following my driver,” he narrated.
Thinking that they had escaped the kidnappers, Mr Japheth said he and the driver hid in the bush for about 30 minutes, where they met another injured individual – who also escaped another set of kidnappers in another direction.
“As we were about to leave the bush, we suddenly heard footsteps and sounds of the kidnappers bringing people towards our direction. We immediately lie (laid) back on the ground, hiding.”
He added that they hid in the bush till about 5:50 p.m. almost an hour after the incident occurred. Fearing that they could be exposed if it gets darker, the comedian said he and the other two people decided to leave the bush after hiding for some time.
“When we ran out, we saw the Nigerian army, the police, and the vigilante were all there. We also realised that there were other vehicles affected, a Sienna, God is Good bus, a small car and others were at the side of the road.
He said they were taken to a police station to write their statements and he pleaded with the police to escort them back to Benin city.
On getting back home, negotiation for the release of his abducted friend, Ms Aigbe began.
“When I got home, I got a call from Miracle Aigbe’s phone saying that they have her and she was crying in the background. The kidnappers requested N35 million as a ransom for her to be released. I started negotiating for her release and pleading with them,” he narrated.
Mr Japheth said Ms Aigbe parents could not raise any amount as the mother is a petty trader and the father a bus driver.
“I told the kidnappers that N510,000 was all I had with me and they threatened to kill her if I mentioned the amount again. They later said I should pay N5 million.”
He said after raising money from well-meaning Nigerians and his colleagues, he realised N1 million and after much negotiations and pleading, they agreed to collect the sum.
“They (kidnappers) said ”go and arrange the money, we will call and tell you how to send the money”. They called the following day and sent a bank account and phone number and instructed me to send the money there.
“It was later I realised that the account belongs to another victim’s brother who was instructed to collect ransom for about four victims,” he said.
The comedian said after paying the ransom, his friend, alongside 13 other victims, was released on May 24 around 10 p.m.
The comedian also revealed that the security challenges in Nigeria have affected his job in more ways than one.
Mr Japheth said he has lost so much money and gigs because he has had to turn down several jobs because he is afraid to travel by road.
“I have four companies that I represent (brand ambassadorship) and I am meant to do videos for them but I have not been able to do that. I have other jobs I am supposed to travel for but because of this insecurity, I cannot pass the road, especially the Benin-Auchi expressway where I ran into kidnappers.
“Insecurity is so rampant in Benin, Edo state. They (kidnappers) are all inside our bushes. The insecurity has reduced me from creating content on my own. I hardly go for shows, to anchor events, and attend stand-up comedies,” he said.
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