My name is Khalid Abdul Hameed I am 32 years old from Kano state. This is my #SuvivorSeries.
I lived a very comfortable life with my wife Amina and my two girls Samira and Habiba. I’m a businessman so, I own and run several businesses in Abuja. My parents live in Kano, so, every December and Eid we traveled there to spend the holidays with them. We usually traveled by road because it was convenient also because of my girls’ and I always loved road trips.
However, in 2018, news began to spread that the roads were no longer safe. It was advised that it was better to travel by air or to use the train because there were kidnappings along the Abuja-Kaduna road. I thought of using the train to get to Kaduna and then driving to Kano but I didn’t know anyone in Kaduna so that plan was canceled. I decided that if my family was traveling to Kano it had to be by air. During the last few days of Ramadan, we decided to make travel plans for Kano.
We tried booking plane tickets but the flights were either overbooked or the prices were ridiculous. I thought of canceling the trip for the safety of my family but my mom was ill so, we really needed to be there. Since the kidnappings weren’t deadly yet, we decided to go to Kano by road. We left Abuja by 10 and prayed to God for our safety. We arrived in Kano safely and I was honestly relieved because I couldn’t imagine anything happening to my family.
During iftar, my parents brought up the issue of the kidnappings. My dad said “Khalid I really want you to be careful, the roads are not the same anymore. Left to me I would advise that you stop traveling by road completely” I told him that he shouldn’t worry that after this trip, it would be the last time I travel to Kano by road. Little did I know that I was predicting my fate
Eid came and I was excited. The house was filled with the aroma of different spices and I just couldn’t wait to dig into the meals that were being prepared. My wife made her famous fried rice while my mom made masa.
After the meals were done, the guests started to arrive to do “yawon sallah”. I used that opportunity to sneak my wife upstairs so we could have some alone time and we discussed our life’s plan. Suddenly, we heard cries downstairs, we paused the conversation and went downstairs to find Samira with an injury on her hand. We asked her elder sister Habiba what happened to which she explained that she fell while they were running races. We calmed her Samira and tended to her wounds. That’s how we never had the conversation.
We were meant to stay for 10 days but we spent only one week. During the 7th day of our trip, I received a call from the manager of one of my businesses who told me that there was an emergency that I needed to attend. I decided that we left Kano earlier than planned. Amina warned me against traveling earlier, she suggested that I go back and they come back by plane later. “Nonsense! Let’s have one last road trip”. Even though she didn’t agree with me she decided to let it be.
We left for Abuja the next day. I would have been lying if I said that I didn’t feel anxious, I had a bad feeling in my stomach that just didn’t go away. We got to Kaduna safely so I decided to stop worrying since half the Journey was done. I prayed to God for a safe journey and tried to stop worrying. I decided to play games with my girls to take my mind off things. “Concentration, concentration, no repeat, and no hesita-”
Suddenly, a large stone was thrown at the windscreen, it shattered the glass and made me swerve dangerously. My wife and children’s scream coupled with the rush of adrenaline confused me momentarily. I thought of speeding off but I had to stop to ensure that everyone was safe. We heard gunshots in the air and at that moment I knew that it would be a miracle to come out of this unharmed. I parked by the roadside to prevent anyone from getting shot and seven men came for us from different angles holding rifles. I tried to resist them but they punched me out cold and dragged us away.
A couple of hours later, I woke to blood on my face. I tried to wipe it off but my hands were tied. At that moment, the memories started flooding in. I searched around the room for my girls but it was too dark to see, I called out their names but it was just silence. I feared for the worse. I cried at the thought of losing my family and prayed to God for safety. The door was kicked open and three men walked in. I had to act cool and not to show fear because I was the man. “Where are my girls?” I asked “Don’t worry they’re fine unless you don’t cooperate” one of them answered. I asked for what they wanted and they asked for 50 million naira, I told them that I couldn’t afford that, the price was ridiculous. They kicked and punched me till I was almost out cold. I tried reasoning with them but there was no use.
Later on, someone came in with some food and he untied my hands so that I was able to eat. I tried to make conversation with him but he didn’t pay attention to me. So, I just kept to myself and ate, even though the food wasn’t what I was used to I devoured it in minutes.
That’s how we continued for days, I calculated the days by meals since it was brought in once a day. I began to worry about my family, so I decided to get the attention of the person guarding the room I was in. I told him that I was ready to talk. He laughed and said it was about time. I waited to see if their leader would come in but I was met with disappointment because no one paid attention to me.
On the fifth day, the men came into the room to talk. The first thing I asked, was about my family and whether they were fine. I was told that they were alright. I asked for their demands and then asked for the number of my relatives. I gave them my Dad’s number and they dialed it. He picked and asked “who’s this?” they explained to him that we had been kidnapped and they wanted a ransom of 50 million naira. “50 what! How can I afford that? It’s too much please let’s negotiate this” my dad said, “50 million and that’s final, you have two days”. The man said after giving them the details, he switched off the phone.
The room was dark so, I couldn’t make out any features except that their leader was tall and well built. I asked him please if he could reason with me to lower the prices but he said that his decision is final. I learned that my family tried contacting the number several times but to no avail, it was switched off. The two days passed and my family couldn’t meet the demands so, they decided to use a different method. As they said they’ve been too lenient with us.
Their leader came in with a gun and told me that this is the last time that he’ll sit with me. I begged him to lessen the ransom “anything, I’ll do anything please just lower the ransom” the man smiled sheepishly and said, “okay let’s do it your way”. He called one of the men and whispered something to him. The man nodded and stepped out.
“Let me go!” I heard a voice saying. I recognized it to Amina’s voice, my heart sank and I begged them not to harm her, I asked them to take me instead. They brought her into the room and turned on the light. That was the first time in days that I had seen light and my wife. I scanned the room to see that there were no windows. They laid Amina on the floor and their leader forced me should watch because this was going to be entertaining. Immediately I understood what was about to happen, I tried to stop him but I was tied up. I begged them not to but it was too late.
They ripped her clothes and took advantage of my wife right in front of my eyes. I lost my cool and tried to break free but that only got me more beating, I could only watch my wife struggle. “Ah, shegiya ta cizeni!!,” their leader shouted. Before I could say anything he drew his gun and shot her multiple times. She died right before my eyes. The men left me with her corpse to remind me of my failure to protect her.I cried so much I couldn’t even breath, I wanted to die right there and then.
Hours later, their leader came in and called me to join him, he dialed my dad’s number and they negotiated for hours while I sat there, finally, they agreed to accept 20 million because that’s all my family could raise. At that point, my freedom didn’t matter because I lost my best friend and partner. I tried to be positive about the release but I couldn’t. I thought of my girls and how they would grow up without a mother all because I couldn’t protect her. I imagined what must be going through their minds not knowing where their mother is. I couldn’t sleep at all. I could see Amina.
The next morning, I was told that the kidnappers and my family have finalized arrangements to deliver the money and that they’ll drop the money at an agreed location. “If they try anything funny, you’ll be sorry”. Their leader warned.
In the evening, they blindfolded us, put us in a car, and drove for a while, not sure for how long. I kept moving in out of consciousness, my girls kept whimpering and I couldn’t even console them. I was such a failure! I didn’t know how to tell them about their mom, so I kept quiet all through. The car stopped and they threw us out. They called my family and told them of our location and drove off laughing. We spent the night at the location scared for our lives but we couldn’t do anything about it.
Luckily the next morning, I heard a man screaming and called others to come and see. They removed the blindfold and untied us. I told them about our situation and begged for water and a cellphone to call my family. Thankfully, my dad picked the call immediately. The villagers directed him to our location. After hugging my girls, I saw something that shook me to the core, there was a sac beside us. I already guessed what was inside but I didn’t want to horrify my daughters. Slowly, I approached the sac and peeped into it; I saw the body of my precious wife. At that moment, I had to tell my 5 and 7-year-old daughters that their mother had been killed. They wept. I tried consoling them but I couldn’t do much.
One of the locals named Musa, offered to host us in his house while we waited for my dad. Who came over in the evening, immediately I saw him, I broke down and wept like a baby. I just couldn’t take it anymore. We slept in Musa’s house. The next morning we thanked Musa for everything, buried Amina, and said goodbye.
It’s been almost two years since the incident but it still feels like a fresh wound. I still have nightmares about it but I’m slowly getting through each day. My daughters live with my parents but I still move between Abuja and Kano. I haven’t traveled by road since then. Now, I’m both a mother and father to them but thankfully my parents are there to support me. I still miss her a lot. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I listened to her.
Written By Aisha Muniru Mai