At exactly 2:30pm, my colleague who had received a telephone call from an unknown number let out a loud scream and fell to the floor crying. The whole office gathered round her and tried to make sense of her tear filled babbling. A few moments later she left for home and it was only this morning that the exact details of her situation became entirely clear. Her 16 year old son had been the victim of a group of suspected 419/ritualists in Lagos. According to her, it was only by the sheer grace of God that the young lad managed to escape the hands of his captors.
The day began like any normal day, as her son who is currently preparing to retake his JAMB set out to the Library as he did every morning. As he walked towards his usual bus stop, and was approached by a man who spoke to him first of all in French and then later on in broken English. The man claimed he had some goods with a customs officer near by and needed help calculating the costs of such goods and their equivalent in his foreign currency. He went on to claim that he did not understand Nigerians and was afraid he was being cheated, so he needed the boy’s young and bright mind to help him. At first, my colleague’s son ignored him, but the man persisted and some seemingly innocent passerby’s also encouraged him to help. Reluctantly he agreed. It was only later he realized that these innocent passerby’s were also in on the deal.
Two hours and two bus rides later, the boy found himself in Ajegunle being forced to enter a house which his assailants claimed housed the Customs officer and said goods. Sensing that something was amiss he refused insisting instead that the goods be brought outside. A few moments later the Customs Officer came out of the house and also began to coax the boy. Sensing that the boy wouldn’t budge they tried a different tactic. The duo and their accomplices began to discuss the financial potential of the goods and asked the boy to swear an oath of secrecy with them by drawing crosses on the floor and making a blood oath. Now utterly petrified, the boy refused and suggested instead that he would swear using the Bible in his school bag.
At this point his captors lost patience and began to beat him. They explained that their real purpose for abducting him was to kill him and that he was making things very difficult for himself. The boy began to plead for his life and for some reason his captors released him. They gave him N40 and asked him to keep running without looking back. He did as he was told, entered the first bus he could find and collapsed in tears. It was while in the bus that a helpful passenger gave him a phone to call his mother.
Goosebumps permeated the surface of my skin as my colleague recounted this story to me this morning. What was even more surprising was that almost everyone who heard the tale either had personally experienced something similar or knew someone who had. Although their experiences may not have been as diabolical and dire as my colleague’s son, they were chilling and frightening none the less. I am sure we can all remember the various kidnapping incidents that occurred recently. When 10 month old Enioluwa, Ify Eneli and Micheal Neri were kidnapped in Lagos. Thankfully all parties where safely returned to their families but we can only imagine what turmoil the families faced during the period before their successful release.
Stories of attempted 419, alleged ritual abductions and kidnapping seem rife in our country and it gets even more worrying when these stories hit close to home. But what is the solution to this issue? Have we as a country become less vigilant or aren’t there enough punitive measures to deter such offenders? Or has the state of our economy become so dire that people are willing to do absolutely anything to get ahead? In times of complete anarchy and insecurity, where is our safety as a nation? In the hands of the government, police or high fences with “Beware of Dog” signs hanging loosely at the gate? Have you or someone you know been the victim of such attempts? How did you/they manage to escape?