In a tale both harrowing and inspirational, the story of Tanzanian Frater Melkiori Dominick Mahinini, a 27-year-old man, unfolds against the backdrop of a nightmarish abduction in Nigeria. The narrative is punctuated by the audacious demand of $70,000 (equivalent to an astounding Sh170 million in local currency) made by his captors. Mahinini shared his heart-wrenching experience in an exclusive interview with The Citizen; a Tanzanian-based media house that offered the public a glimpse into three weeks of captivity marked by blood, sweat, and tears.
The chronicle commences with a noble mission — dispatched to Nigeria by the Missionaries of Africa to pursue educational endeavors, Mr. Mahinini traces his roots to the Kabanga Parish in the Kigoma Region. However, his trajectory took a tragic turn on August 3, 2023, when he fell victim to anonymous assailants at the Saint Luke Gyedna Parish in the Minna Province.
Despite the darkness that shrouded their days, this narrative is not devoid of light. An account of collaboration and resilience emerges as both Frater Mahinini and his fellow abductee emerged unscathed on August 23. This remarkable outcome was the result of collective efforts orchestrated by the Tanzania High Commissioner’s office in Nigeria, the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the Catholic Church, spanning both nations.
In the ensuing account, Mr. Mahinini vividly recalls the early hours of August 3, East African time, while Nigerian time remained anchored in August 2. A twist of fate interjected his phone conversation with a Tanzanian friend in Nigeria with the jarring sound of gunshots. Initially dismissed as echoes of local hunters, the situation took an ominous turn.
Minutes later, a repetition of gunshots spurred Mahinini to investigate, only to encounter armed intruders systematically searching each room. Seizing a fleeting opportunity, he executed a daring escape through a window, albeit with a broken toe upon landing. Remarkably, the pain deferred its arrival, allowing him to find temporary refuge in the garden, oblivious to the presence of two additional assailants nearby.
However, this brief respite was fleeting. The assailants apprehended him, demanding information about his superior’s whereabouts, as he grappled with the intricacies of the Hausa language. Guiding them to his room, he wove a tapestry of deceit, leading them to believe it belonged to his superior. Within the confines of the room lay a substantial sum of Tanzanian currency totaling Sh400,000, alongside an ATM card brimming with Sh500,000 – all claimed as spoils. The incident culminated in the seizure of his belongings, including clothing.
Expressing dissatisfaction with their bounty, the captors compelled Mahinini to descend to the lower floor, where he encountered a fellow abductee, Priest Fr. Sanogo, hailing from Mali. The stakes escalated as the captors coerced them for information on their fellow seminarians, accompanied by ominous threats of conflagration.
Confronted by approximately a dozen armed captors, each brandishing weapons and ammunition, Mahinini and Fr. Sanogo made a strategic choice to withhold their missionary identities. This decision stemmed from a desire to forestall heightened pressure and escalating ransom demands.
The journey subsequently led them to a dense forest, where they endured rigorous interrogation. Employing a shrewd ruse to safeguard their true identities, they contrived a narrative centered on their purported presence in Nigeria for language studies. Mahinini assumed the guise of a farmer, while Fr. Sanogo masqueraded as a retired cook.
Amid this tumultuous backdrop, a demand for a 100 million naira ransom materialized. Swiftly, however, a decision was made to decline the demand, thereby mitigating the prospect of further danger. As prospects of raising the funds dwindled, threats of execution intensified unless an 80 million Naira sum was delivered.
The story then pivoted to a phase of fasting and prayer, an earnest plea for divine intervention. Gradually, the captors’ determination waned, culminating in an intensified prayer regimen and internal dissension among them.
Fueled by the Diocese of Minna’s concerted support, a pooling of resources ensued for their release. By the third week, as the captor’s resolve weakened, threats escalated. Yet, the augmented prayers of Mahinini and Fr. Sanogo dismantled captor unity, rendering them impotent.
A contact relayed news of funds collected, fulfilling captor’s demands and alleviating their financial duress. On August 23, at 11 a.m., freedom was finally regained, acknowledging the futility of their initial target of 25 million naira.
The journey towards liberation was replete with challenges, navigating a dense forest spanning 100 kilometers from civilization. Their trek continued until the twilight hours, when they encountered a village congregation engrossed in worship songs. Relying on their faith, Mahinini, and Fr. Sanogo joined the congregation, and Mahinini, proficient in Hausa, addressed them, beseeching assistance for their journey to Abuja.
Kind-hearted individuals provided transportation via motorbikes to a nearby parish, rendering crucial initial aid. The duo expressed profound gratitude for answered prayers during their darkest hours. Subsequent medical evaluations and treatment were administered at a health center.
As the narrative concluded, Major Seminarian Mahinini outlined his plans for the future, albeit with an uncertain timeline. Resolute in his commitment to Nigeria, despite the ordeal endured, he pledged to persist in his mission. Undaunted by the past, he underscored the inherent positivity of Nigeria, transcending a minority fixation on unearned wealth.