Hostage Negotiator Receives Call From Own Abducted Wife

'WSJ' profiles Abdullahi Tumburkai, who has assumed unwanted role of go-between
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2022 11:00 AM CST
This Time, Call to Hostage Negotiator Was About His Wife
A file photo of the Nigerian college from which the wife of Abdullahi Tumburkai was abducted in March.   (AP Photo, File)

The Wall Street Journal profiles a hostage negotiator in Nigeria named Abdullahi Tumburkai, though he doesn't hold that role in any official capacity. Instead, the 46-year-old was thrust into the job when his two brothers were kidnapped last year. In phone calls with their abductors, he managed to lower the price and secure his brothers' freedom. As soon as that happened, word spread and people from all over began seeking his help as a negotiator. Tumburkai became the go-to guy when kidnappings went down, which turns out to be quite often. The story details how kidnapping is now a booming business in northern Nigeria, and Tumburkai estimates that he has helped free more than 80 people. However, he was wasn't quite prepared for the phone call he received in March from his own wife, who was among about 40 people abducted from a college.

This particular kidnapping made international headlines, and Tumburkai assumed the role of lead negotiator. He advised the local governor not to use force, and worked with other families to deliver $78,000 to the kidnappers, freeing his wife and the others after about two months. While that story ended well, Tumburkai talks about the tough position he's in. On the one hand, he has to deal with brutal abductors who terrify their victims with gunfire during phone calls to him. On the other, he's facing pressure from government prosecutors who are threatening to prosecute him for negotiating with kidnappers. In theory, he could be charged with financing terror groups. Meanwhile, the kidnappings continue, and authorities seem powerless to stop them. “I’m scared of the kidnappers and scared of the government,” he says. “But nobody is helping us.” (Read the full story.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.