Tungan Maje, a community on the outskirts of Abuja, was thrown into pandemonium in the wee hours of Thursday as gunmen invaded the community and abducted 12 persons.
Residents said the incident followed many unreported such cases along the Zuba/Gwagwalada/Lokoja expressway that links the Federal Capital Territory with Kogi State.
Thursday’s raid occurred at about 1 a.m and lasted over 40 minutes before the intervention of the police and local vigilante groups, the residents said.
Frank Osas, whose family members were seized by the hoodlums, told PREMIUM TIMES that he was awakened by his wife to the sight of four men brandishing cutlass and guns outside his gate and demanding that they opened the gate.
“When I refused to open the gate for them, one of them jumped the gate and used his cutlass to destroy the padlock for others to enter,” he told our reporter who visited the community a few hours after the attack.
“I opened the back door and jumped into the other compound before any of them could get to me,” he said.
He said the gunmen could not break his front door but managed to grab his wife and three children, who were among the 12 persons they abducted from the community.
The assailants, said to be about 20, released five of their seized victims, including Mrs Osas and two of their children, but kept their 14-year-old son.
Mr Osas said the assailants also let go of his neighbour’s pregnant wife when they were being chased by the community’s vigilante and the police.
“I heard one of them asking another in Hausa language if the sound of gunshots was from them or not,” a resident, Olaiya Mike, said.
He said he overheard the discussion between the gunmen while they were raiding his house.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES behind his Nissan Almeria car which windscreen and seats had been shattered by bullets, Mr Mike said he pulled his 17-year-old daughter, Mariam, through a window after forcing down his sitting-room’s burglary proof.
“After they failed at opening my gate, they climbed in through the fence after cutting the barbed wire.
“If not for the timely intervention of SARS (police’s special anti-robbery squad) which I called from my hiding place, those people would have raided many houses,” he said.
Mr Mike recalled that a similar incident had happened last month in a neighbouring community, Nagada, during which he said some residents had been killed in a kidnap operation that lasted four hours without police intervention.
Police did not rescue us – Victims
Contrary to a statement by the police, one of the released abductees who asked not to be named said their release was not secured by the police.
He also narrated how Mr Osas’ 14-year-old boy was made by the kidnappers to carry foodstuff and other items they had stolen through the forest.
The police outstation in Tunga Maje, Zuba, is less than five minutes by a motorcycle ride from the raided houses. The officer-in-charge denied that his officers failed to react to distress calls from the residents, saying he was at the scene before anyone came to report at the station.
“I am the OC in charge here. Before they called, I was there already. Before someone came to report that there was shooting, I was already there. I called the DPO and he sent two vehicles.
“Go and ask the people. I went there with my team and we started firing before we went pursuing them into the forest. We started from 1 a.m to 3 a.m in search and rescued five of them,” the officer said, showing our reporter a text message he sent to the Zuba divisional police officer during their engagement with the kidnappers.
Mr Osas recalled seeing the police officer with a kerosene lamp at the station after escaping from his house.
“There was only one policeman on duty and I explained what happened to him. He told me to wait for him to call Iyabanga (vigilante group). He called them and they said they were coming before he later called the Zuba police division,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
The identity of the kidnappers is yet to be determined. However, residents of several Nigerian states, including Kogi and Niger, both of which border Abuja, have been victims of armed kidnappers who retreat to nearby forests after their dastardly acts.
Also, a recent controversial memo, allegedly by a top Customs official, also suggested that the Boko Haram insurgents were regrouping around Abuja.
Authorities are yet to confirm which group carried out the Abuja attack but the police have said they are on the trail of the kidnappers.