The armed men who abducted 29 people who were returning to Zamfara state from Sokoto state, where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues, released them after payment of an unspecified ransom.
The victims, who were mostly mobile phone and phone accessories dealers at the Bebeji Communications Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara state, were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.
The secretary of the GSM Distributors Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but gave no details.
One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.
Although the amount paid as ransom to secure the hostages’ release has not been disclosed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those kidnapped, said his relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money”.
“Each family was told to raise N400,000 while members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and they told me that they were still negotiating with the bandits,” she said.
He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy my brother is okay,” he said.
From N5m to N700,000
A phone accessory salesman, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES by phone that officials from the phone dealers’ association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to free the captives.
“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives, but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.
When asked about the person who allegedly died in captivity, Muhammed said his identity has not been released.
“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t say so, but we will surely know when (the captives) arrive in Gusau tonight,” he added.
The spokesman for the police command, Mohammed Shehu, did not respond to calls or SMS sent to him about the development.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were kidnapped when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were traveling in a few kilometers after Bimasa at the Dogon Awo crossing, Sokoto state.
They were returning from the town of Tambuwal in Sokoto state, where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.
The captives were traveling in a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by the Local Government of Gusau.
The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to free the 29 hostages.
Bandits have been terrorizing northwestern states and a part of north-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and stealing domestic animals.
Traveling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, kidnap and kill motorists.
Major federal highways, including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna, have become travellers’ nightmares, with attacks and kidnappings or murders of travelers becoming a daily occurrence.