Armed men have kidnapped 45 commuters at Orokam, along the Otukpo-Enugu Road in Ogbadigbo local government area of Benue State.
The assailants forced the drivers of three fully-loaded 15-seater commercial buses at gunpoint after ambushing them around forests in Orokam.
An eyewitness, who is a driver of one of the transport companies in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, who narrowly escaped the ambush with his passengers, said the incident occurred at about 3:30pm on Thursday, January 11, 2024.
He said: “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 be harvested for ransom. In this particular instance, they took passengers in three-loaded buses that were heading toward Otukpo
“My saving grace was that a J-5 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 checkpoints 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.”
It was learnt that the abductors have opened negotiations with family members of the abducted passengers for the payment of ransom for their release.
A manager at the busy Wurukum Park, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the armed men initially asked for N15 million ransom for each passenger, “but they settled for N3million for each of the passengers.”