NPR’a Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Abdullahi Tumburkai, whose spouse and brothers have been just lately kidnapped in northern Nigeria. He’s now serving to others whose relations have been kidnapped.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
That is the story of how one man went from being a sufferer to turning into a hostage negotiator coping with a number of the most fearsome kidnapping teams in Nigeria. The difficulty started at night time.
ABDULLAHI TUMBURKAI: Really, it occurred on the 11th day of March 2021 round 11 p.m. Nigerian time.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is Abdullahi Tumburkai. His spouse, Fatima (ph), was a scholar on the Federal Faculty of Forestry Mechanization Afaka in northern Nigeria. That day, a bunch of gunmen broke into the college and kidnapped her and over 30 different college students, marching them into the countryside.
TUMBURKAI: They trek on their legs for nearly 4 hours in that very night time. They bought inside to the bush – deep, deep bush.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: By deep bush, he is referring to the lawless Birnin Gwari forest that’s house to one in every of Nigeria’s kidnapping hubs.
TUMBURKAI: Within the forest right here in Kaduna, there’s so many teams – so many teams – 1000’s in that bush.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: 1000’s of gang members who’ve made an trade of mass kidnappings, leaving folks terrorized. He tells me the boys are closely armed.
TUMBURKAI: They arrive with subtle weapons. They’ve – their weapons is way, much better than the Nigerian military weapons.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Weapons financed with the ransoms relations are compelled to pay. There’s a script to how this stuff work. You see, Abdullahi Tumburkai had been by this earlier than. Only a month earlier, his two brothers had additionally been kidnapped. So after his spouse went lacking, he waited for a name. When the abductors made contact, he wished them to know one factor.
TUMBURKAI: Once they referred to as me, I informed them that my spouse was pregnant.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Fatima, his spouse, within the early phases of being pregnant, had hidden her situation from the abductors, and he was terrified over her and his unborn kid’s security. The bandits, as he calls them, made their calls for. They wished the discharge of three gang members who had been arrested by the federal government plus cash – a substantial amount of it. The households of the scholars acted collectively as a bunch, asking the federal government for assist. The federal government did ultimately launch one of many gang members, however it was as much as the households to collect the cash. Abdullahi Tumburkai is just not a rich man. He is a journalist. However he had some land which he offered. Girls offered their jewellery. Everybody did no matter they may.
TUMBURKAI: Sure, sure, we’re in horrible monetary drawback as a result of I give all of them my belongings. There isn’t a cash to provide your loved ones meals. It’s so onerous for us now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In whole, they paid some $120,000 for these kidnapped college students. He says there is just one manner out.
TUMBURKAI: Once they kidnap your relations, you have to pay. In the event you did not pay, they may kill them.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says issues have gotten so unhealthy that persons are afraid to go to relations who stay within the countryside. Persons are afraid to journey by automotive on the open street as a result of they could possibly be grabbed anyplace. He says he cannot afford to be kidnapped or have one other member of the family taken once more. He is bought nothing left. The Nigerian authorities, he says, does nothing. He says they’re afraid of the gangs, who’re better-funded and better-armed. Gang members have even killed military officers, which leaves folks like him having to take management. Whereas the negotiations over his spouse have been happening, he grew to become the purpose particular person to speak to the gang. He developed, if not a rapport, then at the least an understanding. He would inform them that he sympathized with their anger on the authorities.
TUMBURKAI: These folks – they’re dwelling within the bush for all their lives. They do not have meals. They do not have electrical energy. They do not have even potable water.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: They do not have the fundamentals to stay. And he says he does pity them. They drink water from the river. Their children do not go to highschool. They’ve been deserted by the state. He says they preferred the way in which he spoke to them. And eventually, the deal was struck. When the day got here handy over the ransom…
TUMBURKAI: We went to the bush, handed over the cash to them, so that they launched the remaining college students.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: His spouse, Fatima, would find yourself being held 57 days in whole, and she or he misplaced her unborn baby in captivity. However because the kidnapping, he is been utilizing what he discovered and has been serving to different households negotiate with their kidnappers. Mainly, it is made him a sort of group hostage negotiator.
TUMBURKAI: You must be gentle in order that they may take heed to you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says he would not make use of bravado or threats. Lives are on the road. Proper now, there are two hospital staff that he is hoping shall be let go. He is been speaking to their kidnappers for a number of months. Abdullahi Tumburkai says, although, that that is all untenable. It is not simply people who’re being held hostage however a complete group who’re completely unprotected. He needs the Nigerian authorities to step in and go for talks with these he phrases infamous bandits, so the folks will not have to provide away the whole lot they’ve simply to maintain their family members alive.
TUMBURKAI: That is why I referred to as the federal government to name them for negotiate. Give them farm land, give them tractors. So let the federal government do one thing.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: However for now, the official Nigerian authorities place stays that they won’t negotiate or pay ransoms to the gangs. And as for the college the place the scholars have been kidnapped from – after that assault, it closed down.
And due to WEEKEND EDITION’s Andrew Craig for his assist reporting and producing this story.
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