Five persons released by pirates who hijacked their boat on their way from the Safe Journey beach in Calabar, Cross River State, to Oron beach in Akwa Ibom State on January 17, 2021, have said other victims, including a Professor from the University of Calabar and a naval officer, may lose their lives if they are unable to raise N3 million each.
The Calabar channel is manned by the Marine Police and the Nigerian Navy.
The pirates, on Wednesday, blindfolded and released a four-year-old child, a pregnant woman, an injured person, an elderly woman and the driver of the boat at Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State.
The released victims, who recounted their ordeal, said they heard them vow that if by weekend those still in their den cannot pay the ransom then they will be killed.
The driver of the speed boat, Bassey Udo Essien, who is now in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) told newsmen how the hijack took place, adding that the pirates were heavily armed.
He said he was freed to go in order to take one of the victims who was fatally wounded by the pirates’ bullets for treatment because the abductors had no form of medication in the camp.
“In the morning of Monday, 17 January 2022, we loaded from Calabar to Oron. Immediately we passed all the rounds and close to the Marine police at about 9:00 AM, we drove in the middle of the water because if we drive by the side of the water those sea pirates will quickly attack us. Just a few minutes, about ten minutes drive we saw them driving to meet us, I increased the speed of our boat to the highest but unfortunately, it was not fast enough because our engine is 115 (horsepower) while theirs is 200 (horsepower).
“I couldn’t slow down because I was trying to escape from them, they started shooting. They shot sporadically at us and unfortunately, the bullet caught one of the passengers by the name Jesam on the face, close to the ear who sat at the second bench of the boat.
“Those pirates were up to eight in their boat fully armed with an AK-47 rifle, some masked their faces while some did not mask face, although I don’t know any of them.
“I was speeding up to cross to the Marine Police territory so they can return but my boat cannot speed than their own. They Kidnapped us and took us to one dangerous creek, we just departed Calabar and had not approached Oron. At the creek where they took us, they robbed us and collected every single thing we had – phones, money, shoes, wristwatches, bags, ATM cards, necklace, my boat; everything and also beat us.
“The rest are still in their camp, they are demanding three million Naira for each of us and we are 17 of us. I and the passenger who sustained gunshot wounds, Jesam did not escape they saw he was at the point of death with the gun injury since on Monday and maybe they thought if they allow him there he might die because nothing like treatment in their creek. They collected his phone, money, laptop and since I was the one taking care of the man there, they collected my money about N49,000, phone seized my boat and allowed me to go with him. They beat me up and forced me to tell them my ATM pin which I don’t know if they have removed everything in the account because they collected my sim card as well.
“They carried five of us in their boat and told us to lay down. The five of us they freed to go were; one pregnant woman, an aged woman and a boy of about four years and are still left with 12 more persons in their camp. They dumped us where we don’t even know or find our way somewhere in Akpabuyo, let’s say 10:00 AM because I have no time with me. Luckily for me and Jesam we were able to find a bike.
“We were seven (7) girls and ten (10) boys in the boat. My fear for those girls is that those pirates might rape them.
“There was a Navy personnel amongst us but we didn’t disclose the person because they saw the uniform and asked who the person was, they would have killed the personnel or any uniform man. I told them the uniform is a waybill. The place they kept us is so horrible, mosquitoes and other insects biting us. They kept women one side, men one side.
“While they were taking us to their camp, they forced us to close our eyes and bend down without looking up to see where they were taking us to. Even while they were taking five of us out to free, they blindfolded our eyes, especially mine. It was a terrible experience; they will cook whatever and anyhow food they like and say if you like you eat if you don’t, leave.
“Eight of them came to kidnap us but in their camp, they are so many, they don’t even have one camp, we learnt they have up to three camps – outside the camp, inside the camp and their main camp which they took us to their outside camp, how much more their inside and main camps. One of the victims who tried escaping was recaptured and was well beaten.”