‘Our captors beat us mercilessly as we trekked three hours inside forest’
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‘Our captors beat us mercilessly as we trekked three hours inside forest’



By Kennedy Mbele
A second-year student of the Department of Zoology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, NAU, Awka, Anambra State, Gideon Igwe, was receiving treatment at a healing ministry located in Kadauduji, Kaduna State, when kidnappers attacked the centre, kidnapping him, and three others, including the owner of the ministry, Evangelist Clement Emeanuru.

In this interview, Gideon, who had spent over three and half years at the healing home before the incident, narrates his experience in the hands of his captors with whom he spent 31 days, expecting the worst to happen. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Igwe, also speak briefly on the incident.

Excerpts:

You were kidnapped in Kaduna State. How did it happen?

I had some health challenges at school that required prayers and my parents took me to a church located in the Kadauduji area of Kaduna State for treatment. The town is said to be near another town called Duji. I was there for almost one year and had improved significantly but I was asked to stay more.

On the day of the incident, I was outside the healing center washing plates when I heard gunshots.

I thought it was security agents trying to scare away suspected criminals. Suddenly, four armed men in military uniform drove in on Okada. Although they were in military uniform, their movement showed clearly that they were not military officers. We started running and they chased us and ordered us to stop or be shot.

We then stopped and they ordered us to board their Okada which we did under duress. They drove us to an unknown destination.

How many were you and where did they eventually take you people to?

Initially, we were three but they later kidnapped the evangelist who owned the center, making a total of four.

They took us to a forest after about four hours drive on Okada. The evangelist was rattling in pain as they broke his hand when he put up resistance.

By the time we arrived in the forest, it was dark and they just beat us severely and asked us to go and sleep, stressing that we will know them better the following morning.

How was life there? Were you people doing any work for them?

Life was terrible. We were not doing much work. The only work we did was fetching drinking water from nearby stream.

How did you spend each day?

When we woke up early in the morning, we would wash our face, then cover it properly with the rags they gave us until it is dark.

They would serve us little white rice or beans with little oil on days they wanted us to enjoy.

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We were only allowed to uncover our faces at night and they always wore masks. We would just sit down on the ground and if we are pressed, we were allowed to go and ease ourselves.

How was the environment, were there houses around?

There were no houses around. It was a very thick forest.

How and where were you people sleeping?

They had us cut down trees and used their leaves in making two shields; one for boys, the other for girls. We slept on the floor.

Did anybody die?

Yes. They killed one boy who tried to escape. Escaping was not even possible because if you escaped, where do you head to? Victims who had been with them for long helped them to serve as security. So, they had adequate security, trying to escape was simply suicidal.

Did they have weapons?

Yes, they had a lot of weapons; very sophisticated weapons. I understand they even had machine gun. There was a day a helicopter came around the camp.

They thought the helicopter came to bomb the area. That night, they moved us to another location within the forest. We trekked for over three hours to the new location and as we moved, they were beating us.

After the helicopter incident, they made a video in Hausa which we were told was sent to Governor El-Rufai, asking him to send them money so they could release us and expressed their preparedness to face whoever may want to try them.

They threatened to move us to Zamfara State if such persisted, but we were lucky, they didn’t do that until we were freed.

Were your abductors receiving visitors?

I don’t think so. The only people who were coming seemed to be their members who went to rob or kidnap and were reporting back at the base.

You were there for a very long time. What were your observations?

I couldn’t observe much because we were always blindfolded, all day. But, I noticed that they treated both Christians and Muslims alike. Whenever their members returned from operations in the night, they beat us and assemble us to dance for them.

The boys would dance first, then the girls. They would ask the girls to shake their bottom, this excited them so much.

In fact, it was those girls that saved us. On the days they allowed us to wash our clothes, which were usually at 4 or 5 days intervals, they took the girls to the stream to wash theirs and take their bath first, then the boys; we would wash our clothes, take our bath and dress in the wet clothes, and it was cold there. We had no change of clothes.

Were the girls molested?

Not to my knowledge, girls were not blindfolded even during the day and we were not allowed to interact with them because our captors were always jealous. So, I wouldn’t know their challenges.

We know that each day must have been miserable for all of you but what day can you say you can never forget?

The day they brought one girl and her brother whose father was a soldier… Four of our captors were beating each of them at once. They were wailing, we too couldn’t control our tears, we wept for them, profusely.

How did your captors know that their father was a soldier?

You must tell the truth when they are beating you. If not, they will kill you. Besides, they seemed to have little information about us.

Were any of them friendly with you at any point?

Yes, one of them was a bit friendly after some time. But, my case was different; they always beat me more than others because I don’t understand Hausa. They even asked me what I was doing in Kaduna.

The one who later said he liked me because I was hard-working came to chat with me very often. On one occasion, he asked me what I would do if I saw him in Igboland in future and I said I won’t do anything to him and we laughed.

You talked about not understanding Hausa. What language were your captors speaking?

They were Fulani, speaking Hausa. Only two of them and their main oga understood English.

Did you know that you would eventually be released?

I didn’t know because on the day their boss visited, he said that two out of four of us captured as a group would be killed, even if ransom was paid and since I was the only Igboman among them who neither understood nor spoke Hausa language, I was almost sure that I would be one of the two to be eliminated.

So what did you do, pray?

No! We were only allowed to pray after they released us, before then, we were not allowed to pray.

How did you feel on the day you were released?

I was very happy but I thought they were joking until we got back to the healing centre. What really happened was that their oga travelled to Zamfara that day and, as God would have it, his boys could not implement the wicked order he left behind.

So, were they paid any ransom?

Yes, my parents and the parents of the other two captive and the pastor’s wife raised N5m and paid them, alongside N420, 000 being the cost of a motorcycle. Initially, they asked for N10m with two motorcycles and warned that they would kill us if our people failed to pay that amount in full.

Now, what can you tell us about Evangelist Clement and his healing ministry?

He is a real man of God, healing all infirmities with prayers. The only problem is that he appears to be strong-minded and perhaps foolhardy.

Can you explain?

He is the only Igboman living in that area and, according to people, he has been advised to leave the area, but he wouldn’t.

Now that you have been healed, what is your next step?

First, I’ll take some rest. Later, I will go to my school and see if they can allow me complete my program, if not I will try and get something doing.

When did you leave the school for your treatment?

I left school in March 2018 when I took ill.

Parents speak
Gideon’s parents, Mr and Mrs Franklin Igwe, also spoke with us. Filled with joy, the couple thanked God for saving the life of their son, narrating how they were shocked on the day Evangelist Clement’s wife called to inform them of the incident. “For one week, I was in shock because I had the premonition”, said Igwe who noted that it was Clement who delayed their son until the day he was kidnapped.

Igwe, a Lagos based Uber operator, explained that for fear of security reports from the state, coupled with his sons apparent recovery from the brain peel for which he was being treated, he had sent his wife from Lagos to pick up the boy four months ago, but the evangelist refused to release him, saying he needed to watch him more.

He said the man also refused to release the boy when armed security operatives detailed to pick him up, after the kidnappers released them and that he later released the boy when the men decided to arrest everybody in the healing home, including him.

He dismissed the insinuation from some quarters that the evangelist may be the brain behind the attack, saying although the man’s wife was the go-between during their negotiation with the abductors, the evangelist’s foes must have been the ones that organized the kidnap.

Vanguard News Nigeria


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