Rabiu Mannir spoke with PREMIUM TIMES about his experience during the five months he and 19 other victims spent in the bush with the bandits who kidnapped them
Rabiu Mannir is one of the 20 victims who escaped after their kidnappers fled when a fighter jet flew over their camp in Zamfara State. The victims were handed over to the Katsina State government by the Zamfara State Government on September 18. Mr. Mannir spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, at the event, about his experience during the five months they spent in the bush with the bandits.
PREMIUM TIMES: Tell us more about yourself?
Mr Mannir: My name is Rabiu Mannir. I am 40 years old and I am from Katoge in Batsari Local Government Area of Katsina State. As you can see, I am one of those who escaped from the bandits’ den.
PT: How did they abduct you?
Mr Mannir: They came in the night around 10 o’clock and started shooting sporadically. They kept shooting while riding their motorcycles around the area. I was in my house. Some people left their houses and started running, but most of them were shot dead and others captured. I wanted to run too but I had my family to look after so, I decided to remain in the house because I was not sure what to do at the time. They came into my house. I have two children but they and my wife escaped.
PT: How did they escape?
Mr Mannir: I told them to run out when the shooting reduced because we could not all go out at the same time. I checked outside and asked them to run. They had escaped by the time the bandits reached my house.
When they came into the house, some of them continued shooting. I surrendered myself because they were many with guns. While some of them said I should be killed outrightly, the majority said no. They said I should be taken with them. I am alive now because God made those who said I shouldn’t be killed the majority.
They dragged me out of the house to the town centre where I was taken alongside other people of the community. While some of them started walking with us towards the bush, others on motorcycles continued shooting into the air. We trekked for many hours before we reached another group of their gang with many motorcycles.
They asked us to climb. I couldn’t count their number but they were many and all of them carried guns. I can’t also recall the time but when we started the journey on the motorcycles, it took us more than six hours before we stopped because we reached their main camp around 6 a.m. the following morning.
PT: Can you describe the forest?
Mr Mannir: The forest is thick and rocky. Throughout the journey, we didn’t see any house but we saw many Fulanis especially in the morning when we were about to reach their main camp.
PT: Can you recall what they were wearing?
Mr Mannir: Some were wearing military camouflage while others wore police uniforms and the rest wore mufti. But they were all Fulanis.
PT: Where did they take you to?
Mr Mannir: I don’t know exactly. But it is in a part of Rugu forest in the Zamfara State section; because when we escaped, we found ourselves in villages under Zamfara.
PT: How would you describe life in the forest with the bandits?
Mr Mannir: It was terrible. I can’t imagine any reasonable person doing that to a fellow human. Even the threats were enough to give one heartache. They kept shouting and insulting us. They kept beating us, saying our families are poor.
In the beginning, they were giving us food but they later stopped giving us. Because there was a time we went three straight days without food, and you know there were many children with us.
When they learnt how hard it was for us, they decided to continue giving us food. They decided to start providing us with guinea corn. We would grind it and prepare the meal. We ate only once daily for many months.
About eight people were released by the bandits after payment of ransom but we that didn’t have the money were kept with them. They were merciless.
PT: How come you are wearing new clothes and a well-cut hair, despite spending five months in bandits camp?
Mr Mannir: These clothes were given to me by the people of a village we reached when we escaped. They gave us food, clothes and shoes. I was taken to a barber in the village too before we were taken to Gusau (Zamfara capital). When I reached that village, all my clothes had worn out. I didn’t take my bath for five months while I was there.
PT: How did you escape?
Mr Mannir: We were sitting in the camp when a jet came over us. It was not that high in the air but we felt the soldiers were conducting surveillance. The bandits were not even there by then only their boys who stood as our watchmen and one of them had even gone to the town to buy food for them.
The jet hovered above us thrice and I believe the boy staying with us sensed danger and took to his heels. Before the jet began firing, I quickly removed one of the padlocks they chained my legs with. I was the only one they chained being the only adult man. I asked all the women to take their children and start running. Meanwhile, the jet was firing but not on our site.
Due to the confusion, the 20 of us all ran in three different directions and because I was the first to run, I found myself in a different village from the others but we finally met later. The town I found myself in was in Birnin Magaji in Zamfara State. From there, we were taken care of before we were taken to Gusau.
SOURCE: PREMIUM TIMES