For middle-aged couple Nehemiah and Tassi Ghata, the fact that Boko Haram terrorists are threatening their Nigerian capital is the least of their worries. After being kidnapped from their own home three times in the last fourteen months, they decided to stop it and sell their comfortable home.
“When I think of my house that my husband and I worked hard to make beautiful for 13 years, it’s hard,” she told The Epoch Times between tears.
“When we built the house in a brand new development 13 years ago, we were the first family there, and we have the biggest house yet,” she said of the white brick house, surrounded by citrus, mango and palm trees, sporty a satellite disk and solar panels.
The Ghata couple’s ordeal is a window into the ransom pandemic that has caused panic in the continent’s largest and most populous country. Bandits have already killed five hostages from a group of 20 students and three staff members of Greenfield University in Kaduna State, abducted on April 20, CNN report.
Kaduna Governor Nasir El Rufai said no ransom would be paid for the abduction, which was preceded by an abduction of 39 students and faculties, mostly Christian women, from a forestry college north of Kaduna City on March 12.
The forestry college group is still kept under the forest roof. The bandits released a video of the students sitting together earlier this week, according to sources close to Kaduna police who spoke to The Epoch Times.
The Nigerian army is struggling to contain the ISIS-linked insurgency that has recently erupted in the state of Niger, just 200 km from Abuja, the country’s capital.
To make matters worse for tourism and international investors who have an interest in Nigeria’s economy, the US State Department has warned Americans not to travel in 14 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
“Reconsider travel to Nigeria due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping and maritime crime,” according to the States’ travel advice of 20 April.
Looking back on their ordeal since March 30, 2020, when Tassie, 53, was first abducted by bandits, they see their survival as nothing short of a miracle. “I knew when I was pushed into the cold at 11:30 at night, many others who had been abducted like that did not survive,” she said.
The venue for the interview was a garden party on April 26 in Bowie, Maryland, hosted by Nehemiah’s younger sister, a U.S. federal employee. Nehemiah still works as a laboratory analyst in a hospital in Jos.
‘We were just two Christian families in development. “All the surrounding families are Muslims,” she said, referring to Nigeria’s separation between Christians and Muslims. The people are evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, but in northern states like Plateau, Muslims are the majority, while Christians in the more populated southern states dominate.
“We had just gone to bed and started slumbering when we heard a gunshot from about a mile from our house,” she said. ‘About an hour after the gunshot, we heard a loud bang on our gate, followed by sporadic firearms. That was when we realized our house was being attacked. We got up quickly and said a short prayer, says Tassie, who works as a missionary in Jos with the Grace and Light organization.
“When we got up, we heard similar loud bangs at our front door.” Nehemiah, 60, locked Tassie in the bedroom and locked himself in a bathroom while both spouses called police on their cell phones, but it was too late. Six bandits with assault rifles rushed into the bedroom and asked, “Where is your husband?” She said loudly, ‘He’s working his night shift in the hospital,’ so that Nehemiah can stay quiet and hidden.
The four bandits made a detour through the house and marveled at the kitchen appliances while helping themselves to the soft drink and prepared food in the fridge. Tassie was marched up and down the cold, brush-covered hills 7 km from her house until 04:00.
The bandit leader used Tassie’s phone to negotiate ransom in negotiations with a friend of the family. After three nights in the cold forest and four days in the hills, Tassie returned exhausted to her husband, covered with mosquito bites and traumatized. They paid a ransom of $ 3,000, which Nehemiah quickly collected from friends and family.
When she defied their demands for ransom, they threatened to rape her, she said, but she embarrassed the bandits of twenty: “I’m close to 60, would you have sex with your mother then?” she asked. The bandits from then on started calling her mummy, she said.
The Ghatta couple thought they would never see kidnappers again as they paid their ransom, but on January 15, 2021 at 21:00 on a cold night, the kidnappers appeared outside the window to their living room and threatened to kill Nehemiah shoot unless he opens the front door.
“We told them we had no more money to give, and that they should just kill us there,” Tassie said. The bandits insisted that their boss tell them to give her back as she had been abducted once earlier. After half an hour of wrestling, Tassie agrees to leave with them. Nehemiah was allowed to stay in the house to secure ransom.
After leaving the Ghata house, they raided the house next door by an elderly couple who had two grandchildren aged 15 and 16 for them. At this trial, Tassie convinced the bandits to let her negotiate for the ransom.
“The bandits told me that if the family of teenagers did not pay the ransom, they would sell the boys to Boko Haram in Maiduguri, and then they would be trained as terrorists.” She negotiated a ransom for the boys that was much smaller than what the bandits demanded. “They were very angry with me but accepted it. “I could see that they were desperate to close the deal,” said Tassie. Nehemiah eventually agreed to pay Tassie $ 1,700, and the other family paid $ 400 for the teenage boys.
The kidnappers returned just five days later on January 20th. This time they forced Nehemiah to go along and left his wife behind. In the hills that evening, the group of kidnappers beat their hostages with clubs and tree shoots and plunged him out of a stream with icy water. “They gave me the beats of my life,” Ghata told The Epoch Times. From an initial claim of $ 15,000, Tassie negotiated a $ 1,000 ransom that was paid.
“In addition to all the trauma of previous experiences, we have now realized that we cannot rely on one of our neighbors for help. The kidnappers mentioned for the second time that they said they were back in the house. It made us think that we are not wanted in the area, ”she said. Their home is for sale and, according to Tassie, is valued at $ 92,000 in Nigerian Nair.
“It is very frightening to know that your movement is being watched and that you belong to the mercy of evil men,” she said.