About 45 passengers in three fully loaded 15-seater commercial buses are reported to have been abducted by armed men in Orokam, along the Otukpo-Enugu Road in Ogbadigbo Local Government Area, LGA, of Benue state.
It was gathered from an eyewitness and driver of one of the commercial transportation companies in Makurdi, who narrowly escaped the ambush with his passengers, that the incident occurred at about 3:30pm on Thursday.
The heavily armed men were reported to have ambushed the ill-fated commercial vehicles when they sprang from the nearby forests in Orokam and forced their drivers at gunpoint to pull over.
According to him, “it was easy for the armed men to stop the vehicles because that portion of the road is very bad.
“The first person that came out of the bush was a heavily built young man who came out carrying an automatic rifle and a chain of bullets round his body.
“I saw three of them come out of the bush with guns, this was at about 3:30pm on Thursday in broad daylight.
“Their target was obviously commercial buses, maybe because of the number of passengers that could harvest ransom for them. In this particular instance, they took passengers in three-loaded buses that were heading toward Otukpo
“My saving grace was that a J-5 articulated vehicle was in my front. So when we were all stopped, before they got to my vehicle, I jumped out and ran into the bush, and all my passengers also followed. Luckily, none of my passengers were caught by the armed men.
“We ran into the bush, leaving our valuables, including phones, and they did not touch them. All they were looking for were the occupants of the bus.
“They took all their victims into the forest. After hiding in the bush for close to 30 minutes, when we realised it was safe to come out, we started running back to our bus to flee.
“At that point, we saw soldiers on motorbikes and a hilux van asking us where the armed went with the victims.
“This happened in-between a police and army checkpoint in Orokam after the Trailer Park at the bad portion of the road.
“Since I started driving, I used to hear stories of people being kidnapped on the road, I saw it happening live and I almost became a victim. I cannot thank God enough.”
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the armed men have already opened negotiations with family members of the kidnapped passengers for the payment of ransom for their release.
A manager in one of the commercial transportation companies at the busy Wurumum Park who spoke on condition of anonymity disclosed that the armed men initially asked for N15 million for each passenger, “but they negotiated and settled for N3million for each of the passengers.
“Some of the family members came here to find out if we have any details or are in touch with the kidnappers, but we told them that our company was not involved.
“They lamented that they had reached agreements with the kidnappers, and while trying to resolve how the N3 million they demanded would be sent to them, the phone line went off and they have not been able to reach the armed men anymore.
“So it is like they have been moving from one park to the other to find out the companies that own the buses involved in the unfortunate incident. But from what we heard one of the vehicles has its head office in Gboko.”
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent, SP, Catherine Anene, said, “I don’t have that report yet.”