LAGOS—The Prelate, Methodist Church of Nigeria, Dr Samuel Uche, yesterday, narrated how their kidnappers settled for N100 million ransom, which they asked be packaged in five Ghana-Must-Go bags for their release.
It will be recalled that Uche was kidnapped on Sunday along the Enugu-PortHarcourt Expressway in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State with Methodist Bishop of Owerri, Rt. Rev. Dennis Mark and the Prelate’s Chaplain.
Speaking about his ugly experience in the hands of the kidnappers, Uche said the whole thing happened like a film and took him much time before he adjusted to reality.
He said: “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.”
Uche said the people, who abducted them, were all Fulanis and they expressed frustration at the President and his government, saying they are not actually against Nigeria citizens but President Buhari and his government.
He said, “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.”
Uche said 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.
He said after several calls, the church was able to raise the ransom, adding: “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’.
No govt official, Police or Army involved in his release
“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.
Denies IPOB involvement
He denied some rumours in certain quarters that he was kidnapped by IPOB.
He said: “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.”
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’.”
Uche appealed to the Nigerian government to act decisively otherwise what is happening in the north will be a child’s play compared with what will happen in the east.
He said: “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.”
He seized the opportunity to thank all members of the Methodist Church of Nigeria for the love they showed to him during his ordeal, saying: “I don’t know that they love me this much, they showed great love towards me. Thank you all.”
Meanwhile, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has attributed the quick release of Uche; Methodist Bishop of Owerri, Rt Rev Okechukwu Michael, and the Prelate’s Chaplain to “the grace of God, the fervent prayers of the Christian community, and the well-coordinated response from security agencies in Abia State.”
Ikpeazu, who said he had spoken with the Prelate, disclosed that “he is in high spirits.” The governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Onyebuchi Ememanka, expressed gratitude to God for the release of the abducted clerics.