The freed passengers of the Niger State Transport Authority, who were abducted by robbers, say their abductors begged them to be forgiven.
They were abducted on February 14, after gunmen ambushed their bus while they were returning from their wedding in the state’s Rijau local government (LGA) district.
Abubakar Sani Bello, Niger’s state governor, declared their release on Sunday and said that securing the victims’ freedom was the product of “dialogue and hard work.”
Recounting their ordeal on Monday, the victims of the kidnapping said the bandits had made them trek inside the bush in the midst of hunger and beating.
According to NAN, Hamza Mohammed, one of the victims who described the experience as “terrible” said they were only given one bottle of dirty water used in feeding cattle to drink.
“The first day, we rested on a mountain and anyone who attempts to sleep will be flogged,” he said.
Mohammed said on the day they were to be released, the bandits asked for forgiveness and begged them to pray for their repentance.
“The bandits only carried women and children on their motorcycle to a particular destination,” Ndagi said.
“When we trekked to where the women were kept, it was already night, they cook spaghetti and poured on our hands to eat. We were cooking for ourselves and they kept beating us on daily basis and as we moved, we kept seeing more of the bandits.”
Mohammed Ndagi, a civil servant with the state science and technical board, said their vehicle was intercepted at about 2:30 pm and the bandits led them into the bush where they trekked “day and night”.
Ndagi said a particular bandit kept beating them with sticks and threatened them to give them money or risk being killed.
Jummai Isah, one of the victims, said the bandits used their motorcycles to convey women and children and did not allow them to trek.
“We had little or no food to eat, they usually give us little food to cook and eat,” she said.
“They beat the men and spare the women and children, they only started beating women three days before we were released. They started beating us and shooting on the air because they said our people refused to give them money.”
Isah appreciated the state and federal governments for their efforts in ensuring their release.
While addressing the victims before handing them to their families, Sani-Bello advised them to see their abduction as one of the issues of life and commended the people of the state for their prayers and support.
Bello, who was represented by his chief of staff, said his government has approved some stipends for the victims to aid their transportation back to their families.
He also said efforts are being made to secure the release of the students and staff of the state science school in Kagara.