'SARS told us to cooperate with kidnappers,' wife of abducted man recounts experience
The Obi family paid kidnappers millions of naira in ransom for the return of three of its abducted members.
About 20 armed men abducted three children of Kaduna-based businessman, Christian Obi, during an invasion of his home, located in Chikun local government area of the state, on December 19, 2019.
It took the gunmen around an hour to gain access into the main building, according to Fauzia Obi, wife of Jonathan Obi, one of the men kidnapped during the incident.
"They entered the house, they took their gadgets, their belongings.
"They took my husband's chains, some dirhams he had with him, some dollars he had with him, him and his gadgets, his designer clothes, bags and shoes," she told Pulse in an exclusive interview recounting the family's ordeal.
Fauzia said the gunmen tried to make a getaway with over N3 million worth of valuables but realised police officers had arrived the scene, prompting them to return to the house to kidnap her husband and two of his brothers, Joakin Obi and Benjamin Obi.
"My husband said they had to walk for at least four to five hours into the bush to get to their camp where they allegedly have lots of people," she said.
Kaduna is rife with the activities of bandits who abduct dozens of people for ransom, with bandits also wreaking havoc in the restive northwestern state.
Even though an official Police statement at the time of the abduction said officers thoroughly combed the surrounding area to rescue the victims, Fauzia said officers watched the abduction happen without doing much to help.
She said when a formal report was filed with the Police hours after the incident, SARS officers already knew a detail of the robbery that wasn't public yet, leading her to suspect them.
"The funny thing is when our pastor and my husband's dad went to report the situation, SARS told them, 'Wasn't it the boy that they found dirhams and dollars at his house?'
"And my pastor was like, 'How do you know about this?'"
SARS is a unit of the Force whose primary mandate is to combat kidnapping and armed robbery in the country, but Nigerians have campaigned for years for the unit to be scrapped due to various well-documented incidents of abuse of power including harassment, extortion, torture, and extra-judicial murder.
The officers told the Obi family to keep the issue quiet and not press it any further due to the danger it could pose for the abducted brothers.
The kidnappers later called to demand a ransom of N100 million, a price that was negotiated before both parties reached an agreement.
"We had to plead and plead because it's a whole lot of money, and they wanted the money as soon as possible," she said.
The three brothers were released three days later after the family paid N19 million for their freedom.
Fauzia, who was pregnant with her first child at the time of the incident, said it was one of the hardest times of her life.
She later moved to South Africa with her young family and has remained there since.
She said her husband is yet to recover from the experience and still gets panic attacks, but is trying to get over the situation.
"Imagine you being scared of your own country. You can't even go back to your own country because of how scary it is," she said.
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