By Dayo Johnson
Akure—Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, yesterday admitted the payment of ransom to the Fulani herdsmen who kidnapped him for 72 hours.
A dependable source confided in Vanguard that N5 million was paid as ransom before the former Minister for Finance was released last week Thursday.
Chief Falae, who received the former Chief of Defence Staff, General Alani Akinrinade in his residence in Akure, however, did not say the exact amount paid to the kidnappers.
Speaking with newsmen during the visit of Akinrinade, Chief Falae said his abductors threatened to kill him every 30 minutes until they received information that money had been given to them as demanded.
He said: “There were six of them with three or four guns and every half an hour or so, they will say, ‘Baba we are going to kill you if you don’t give us money. We are going to kill you.’
“On Wednesday, one of them came and said, ‘look we are going to leave here on Thursday morning. Since we cannot leave you here alone, if we don’t get what we want, we are going to kill you.’ And they said they gave me until 3pm and if at 3pm they don’t get the money that they would execute me. I thank God that at 21 minutes to 3pm, one of them came and said, ‘the money don complete.”
‘How I was abducted’
Explaining how he was abducted, the former minister said: “When the hoodlums came, they slashed me with their cutlasses, they said I was not cooperating. And they dragged me barefooted into the bush.
“After dragging me around for about two hours, they stopped somewhere for us to rest and there they asked me to phone my wife and tell her that I have been kidnapped and taken out of Ondo State by car which was a lie.
“It was about 2.30pm on Monday we started walking with very few stops until 2am the following morning. I suspect that I must have covered a minimum of 15km. That morning I did not take anything.
“ So all day, I had no food, no water and I walked close to 15km. How I survived I cannot really remember. I had no food in my stomach, I had no shoes, my clothes were torn to shreds.
“At some point, one of them gave me rubber slippers. We walked until about 2am. At some point, they called for an okada.
“At about 2.30am, the okada man took me away and I had no clue where we were going. Finally, they dumped me somewhere. We stayed there until I was released on Thursday.
“In that place, we all slept on bare ground, unfortunately, the rain came in the night and I was thoroughly drenched where I was lying down.
“One of them brought a small umbrella to cover my head, my head was covered, but the rest of my body was not covered.
“They offered me bread, but I told them I cannot eat it. I demanded for a bottle of coke, which was what I drank everyday to have the strength to survive and to continue the march, because they were permanently moving.
“They were changing locations at two to three times a day. I suspect because they did not want the police to succeed in tracing them.”
Confirmation of ransom payment
“The confirmation of the payment of ransom was made on Wednesday afternoon, I was not allowed to go until Thursday morning.
“So the following morning, they said I should go. One of them took ropes to stitch my buba which was already in tatters, so that it could at least stay on me and I wouldn’t look like a lunatic while leaving that place.
“So when I came out of the bush, I was able to find an okada rider, who gave me a lift to Owo.
“The place was about 10km from Owo town. The place was between Owo and Ifon. And I walked most of the distance between my farm to that place, that is about 25km that we had to trek.
Not tired, not hungry, and not afraid
“As I said, miraculously I was not tired, I was not hungry and I was not afraid of them at all. Each time they said, ‘Baba we will kill you,’ I will tell them, ‘no, Insha Allah, you will not kill me.’
“I did not break down, but I want to tell you that when I got back home I became completely exhausted. But I am now 80 per cent fit and I know in the next few days, I will be up again.”
Chief Falae, however, warned that “this sort of thing should not be allowed to happen again as it could result to even graver consequences.
“It is not because of me. As for me, I am a very humble person, but by virtue of what God has made me and the status God has given me, it is an insult to our race that a man like me could be abducted by a bunch of hoodlums.
“By the way, one of them told me that if after I had left them, talk nonsense that they will come and catch me again. That is the kind of insult I received.”
Earlier, Akinrinade had described the recent abduction of Chief Falae as an insult on the entire Yoruba nation.
Akinrinade asked the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to the spate of kindnapping in the country.
According to him, kidnapping is more pronounced in the South West now. He added that criminals now penetrate Yorubaland more than before.
He said the recent abduction of Falae was the height of insult not only on the Yoruba race in South West Nigeria, but also the nation as a whole.
The former minister later said that only two of the kidnappers could speak some English. He said they were between the ages of 25 and 35.
They were Fulani, they spoke Hausa.”
“The cattle rearers have been giving me a hard time for the past two or three years. Because I have a dam on the farm, so they like to bring their cattle there to drink water, then they eat other people’s crops,” he stated.
“This time they ate up my maize farm, two hectares. We took pictures, and it was videoed, the police went there.
“They were asked to pay compensation, they begged and paid half of what we claimed and we accepted it.
“That was about two months ago. Whether it was one of them who went to bring his brothers to come and deal ‘with this wicked man,’ I don’t know. It is plausible. Absolutely plausible.
“My view is that this is my home. I have not gone to farm in any other person’s territory. This is my home where I was born. I have every right to farm here and live in peace here. So, this is totally unacceptable.
“I once told the Commissioner of Police that if he cannot protect us and protect my farm, that I will protect myself. There will be self help if government fails to protect its citizens.
“It would have been unfortunate if that were to happen. The IG met me and gave me assurances that they will give us protection.
“I hope that we as a community in Ondo State and in Yoruba land as a whole must go into consultation to ensure that we enhance our protection. We cannot be slaves in our own territory.”
Falae said he was not surprised that the police could not trace and arrest the kidnappers because of the manner of their movement and operation.
“These fellows were permanently on the move. Day and night they were walking. Through farm lands, through water, through swamps…they were scared, they knew they could be traced with GPRS, that was why they were running around all the time,” he said.
“I was not surprised at all that the police could not trace them before they decided to let me go.”
Earlier, Akinrinade had described the recent abduction of chief Falae as an insult on the entire Yoruba nation.
Akinrinade asked the Federal Government should find a lasting solution to the incessant activities of kidnappers in the country.
According to him, kidnaping is more pronounced in the South West now, adding that criminals now penetrate into Yoruba land more than before.
He said the recent abduction of Falae was an height of insult not only to the Yoruba race in the South West Nigeria, but the Nation as a whole.
“This is a big insult to the Yoruba nation. Chief Olu Falae was traumatized in the hands of these hoodlums. This is a gentle man who
is making farming for a living and doing well with it,”
While describing the incident has unfortunate Akineinade noted that the activities of the Fulani herds men are becomingworrisome to the people of the South West.
He said “the fact that the Yoruba people are hospitable in their dealings with other tribes should not be a basis for dis-respecting
its leaders including its culture and norms.”
According to him “the Yorubas’ in the southwest region might be forced to protect themselves if the Federal Government fails to compel the security agencies to provide adequate security.