-June 2, 2022,News/Comments
Security Watch Africa News has reported that the Nigerian Army (NA) has reacted to the alleged collusion of Soldiers in the recent kidnapping of the Prelate, Methodist Church of Nigeria, Dr Samuel Uche, and the Methodist Bishop of Owerri, Rt. Rev. Dennis Mark last week Sunday along the Enugu-PortHarcourt Expressway in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State, where a ransom of N100 million was paid. The Prelate in an interview with Vanguard Newspapers during the week had said that, it was Fulani Herdsmen that kidnapped him and others, while alleging that soldiers were within the area but made no attempt : “They even attempted to kill the Bishop of Owerri and that they will let his blood spilt on me, then I will know that they were serious.”While all the drama was ongoing, what pained him most was the fact that soldiers were within the proximity.
Meanwhile, a top retired DSS director, name withheld while reacting to the Bishop’s outburst said: These things actually happens. My colleague who was kidnapped also said that there were serving soldiers with the kidnappers’’
However, the Army Director of Public Relations Officer, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu had defended the Army, stating that, the Bishop indicting the Army was unsubstantiated and not based on any investigation or findings. The statement reads:
“The Nigerian Army (NA) has been notified of the insinuation making the rounds on social media, alleging complicity of troops of the Nigerian Army in the kidnap incident of the Methodist Prelate in Abia State recently.
“While the Nigerian Army expresses concern and sympathy for the victim of this heinous crime and shares in his pains, the insinuation that troops are complicit in the kidnap incident is not entirely premised on any findings of investigations and therefore cannot be swallowed hook line and sinker.”
It also noted that the allegation has raised some pertinent questions, which are still unanswered.
The Nigerian Army raised the following posers “Given, the spate of insecurity in the region, the question would be, was the issue reported to the unit covering the area? Did the Methodist Church take the NA into confidence while negotiating the ransom with the kidnappers?”
Answering the questions, it said “No formal complaint has been received by the unit.”It added “More worrisome is the fact that it was alleged that the ransom was paid in less than 24 hours. Was the ransome paid to troops? These are questions that beg for answers.”It went on “Moreso, the NA unit, has not received any debrief from the Prelate or the Methodist Church.
It is therefore, important to state that troops are deployed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Okigwe and in front of the Abia State University Uturu and no information was made available to them or to 14 Brigade or any other formation, except the information making the rounds in the social media. “It must be clarified that troops’ deployment in the Nigerian Army is not done with considerations for ethnic affiliation, hence a deployment of troops of Fulani ethnic extraction who as alleged by the Prelate, carried out the dastardly act is not our practice or modus operandi in the NA. Given our professional disposition and zero tolerance for any misconduct in the Nigerian Army, we will take this weighty allegation seriously and approach the Prelate and the Methodist Church to unravel the basis for the allegation,”
The Prelate’s Narration:
On our way to the airport to catch a flight back to Lagos after a church function in Abia State, a group of young boys, the oldest around 35 years, came out from the bush and ambushed our cars. They divided themselves into three, some at the front, some at the back while those in the middle were shooting at our car. They abducted three out of five of us. The driver and communication man of the church was able to escape, while they captured me, the Bishop of Owerri and the Chaplain.
They led us into the bush and tortured us, during the process, I hit my right eye on the tree and even when blood was flowing and my handkerchief was soaked with blood, they didn’t feel like anything happened. I told them that I am not a government official and they said that was what saved me, if not they would have killed me outrightly without asking for any ransom. We trekked inside the bush going up and down for like 15 kilometres.
At exactly 11 pm, they started the negotiation and said each of us will pay N50 million and the total will be N150 million. I taught it was a joke, I said we are going to pay N10 million, and they said what? They wanted to cut me but didn’t before showing me the decomposed bodies of those they have killed.
These boys were within 18 years and their leader will be around 35 years. One of them understands English but the others were speaking Fulani not even Hausa. They took all my valuables and money. In the end, they settled for N100 million and said it was not negotiable that if I talk they will kill us and forget the ransom and go ahead to kidnap others. They even attempted to kill the Bishop of Owerri and that they will let his blood spilt on me then I will know that they were serious.”While all the drama was ongoing, what pained him most was the fact that soldiers were within the proximity.
Where they are situated, there were soldiers all from Fulani extraction around the area at Nnoma junction, and these boys were going behind them, meanwhile, they kept their cow somewhere numbering about 200.” After several calls, the church was able to raise the ransom. The following day, when I called the church, they said the effort was ongoing to raise the money and they have already raised N30 million. As of 3 pm, the church raised N130 million.
“The kidnappers instructed the church to package the money in five Ghana-must-go bags and make it N20 million in five places. During my conversation with their leader, he made it clear to me that he was from Sudan and his parent had died. But they gave birth to him in Igbo land around Umuahia where his late father was a cow dealer. They threatened that our people that are bringing the money must not involve security men, that if they do, they will kill us and pointed to a certain area where they dump decomposed bodies of those they have killed”
“Around 5:30, the youngest boy among them said, Oga congratulation, you are free, you can go now, we have got our money, let me show you the road. They took us to an old road where they wrote ‘Welcome to Imo’ and ‘Goodbye to Abia’ This is the time I understand what it means to be kidnapped, for more than 15 hours, with no water or food. We were all on the ground inside the bush. If you want to urinate, you need to take instructions. All the efforts made to secure my release were by the Methodist Church of Nigeria, not the police or army. Some people are spreading rumour that I said IPOB released me. They were trying to bring political colouration into the matter and this is very sad.”
Vanguard further reported that, Uche said the kidnappers confided in them that the ransom they are collecting was to raise money for weapons, noting: “That after buying enough weapons, they are going to bring all those that have been put in disarray at Zamfara, Katsina and Zambiza forest to Igbo land to deal with the people residing there because it belongs to them.
“They also revealed that some of their people are also along Lagos– Ibadan expressway and that they are only waiting for a signal. They said ‘We will finish you people and take over this land because it belongs to Fulani. The primary purpose of government is to protect lives and property. Any government that failed in that regards has failed woefully.
“Nigeria is on reverse gear, we are nosediving. These guys are operating within a particular area and security operatives are aware that they are there but failed to act.” Meanwhile, the Prelate has expressed gratitude to God and his church for raising the fund “I don’t know that they love me this much, they showed great love towards me. Thank you all.”
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