As the peace effort initiated by Zamfara state governor begins to yield results, SANUSI MUHAMMAD in this report narrates the experiences of some persons recently released to the state government by the bandits.
Following their release from captivity after spending seven months in the hands of kidnappers in Zamfara state, three victims including a 16-year-old boy, Abdulsami’u Ashafa Zurmi, who was a senior secondary school 2 student of Government Arabic Secondary School Zurmi, Zamfara state, revealed how he and others were being maltreated by those who kidnapped them alongside 13 persons seven months ago. According to reports, the victims were said to have been kidnapped on January 28, 2019 after the invasion of Zurmi town, the headquarter of Zurmi local government area of Zamfara state by the bandits around 11:30 pm. It was reported that during the invasion, the bandits began a house to-house search leading to the killing of one person and kidnap of 14 others including Abdulsami’u and Malama Rafiatu Ashafa Zurmi, the wife of his elder brother.
They narrate their ordeals
According to Abdulsami’u, “After we spent two months in the clutches of the bandits inside a forest, the bandits engaged in negotiations with our relatives of which he said the sum of N6 million naira was given to them yet, he said, the bandits refused to set them free.
He disclosed that all these happened just as he was about to sit for the second term examination to enable him move to SS 3 class before he was kidnapped together alongside his seven brothers and a sister in Zurmi town about seven months ago.
According to him, the most devastating moment which he can never forget is how the bandits assaulted them by tightening them with ropes like caged animals and deprived them of food besides the constant threat day and night that they can be killed any moment.
He narrated that as a result of this experience, most of them took ill due to starvation. He said most times, they were dumped in the sunlight throughout the day and also sleep in any available open place. According to him, even when anyone takes ill, the captives do not give them any drug as they were only feed one square meal a day; At times, he said, they were deprived of food for 40 hours.
“At times, when anyone demands for water, the bandits used to manhandle that person seriously. Sometimes, they can even refuse to give that person food for up to 10 hours or more,” he said.
Another victim identified as Rafi’atu Falalu who is the wife to Abdulsamiu’s elder brother in an interview with Blueprint shortly after they were handed over to Governor Bello Matawalle said the bandits penetrated into her matrimonial room and asked about the where about of her husband whom she said had travelled to Gusau on the fateful day. She said they now kidnapped her alongside her sister to Rukudawa forest. She described the incident as destined by God but commended the state commissioner of police and the state governor for initiating the peace and reconciliation effort with the bandits through which she and others regained freedom. She, therefore, called on the government to secure the release of the remaining kidnapped victims still in the hands of the bandits.
Another victim identified as Malam Rufa’i Zurmi, while narrating his ordeal in an interview with Blueprint shortly after they were handed over to the governor, said the bandits deprived him of food for two days during the last Ramadan fast but as well commended the police chief in the state as well as the state governor for ensuring their release.
Blueprint gathered that over 100 kidnapped victims have so far been released by the bandits within two weeks as a result of the peace and reconciliation between the bandits and state government, saying the initiative is a good one.
Medical checks for the victims
The governor after receiving the victims had directed the protocol department through the Government House clinic to check the rescued persons’ medical status before they can be reunited with their families. He further directed that when the health statuses of the victims are ascertained, the state government would organise an occasion that would bring the Fulani, volunteer vigilante members and other people to witness the official handing over of the victims to their respective families to further demonstrate that the peace process is actually working.
Traditional rulers pledge support
Emir of Zurmi, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, while witnessing the formal handing over the kidnapped victims to Governor Matawalle described the kidnapping menace in the state as devastating, saying his emirate council would continue to give all the necessary supports to the state government in order to ensure that the ongoing peace and reconciliation effort is sustained.