It was a moment of outstanding praise on Saturday at the Ministers’ Conference of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, where an escaped pastor of the church, Chidinma Ibeleji, abducted by Fulani herdsmen, gave a testimony.
The church’s General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, introduced Ibeleji to the congregation during the event held at Redeemed Camp, Ogun State.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the deaconess was full of joy as she narrated her ordeal in the hands of her abductors whom she identified as Fulani herdsmen.
Ibeleji and four other persons, among them a magistrate and a security officer, identified by the police in Ogun State as Chidioze Eluwa, Chiemela Iroha, Okoro Ohowukwe, Ndubuizi Owuabueze, were abducted on Friday on the Benin-Ore-Sagamu Expressway along Ogbere in the Ijebu-East Local Government Area of the state.
She said, “I was kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen on my way to the camp from Abia State. After they took me into the bush, I prayed that my abductors would sleep and they did. I then started walking away from the place. I walked for three hours before I found a commercial motorcyclist.
‘‘I explained my predicament to him, and he volunteered to help me to a police checkpoint not far from where I had emerged from the forest.
“The policemen took me to the Ogun State Police Command, where I provided useful information that led to the rescue of the four remaining victims.’’
Adeboye later prayed for her when she finished her testimony.
The cleric specifically prayed against kidnapping, telling God to put the kidnappers out of business so that their captives would be freed. He also prayed for the country and its police.
They humiliated, tortured, starved us—Iroha
One of the victims who agreed to speak with journalists where they were kept at the police mess in Abeokuta said their captors told them they abducted them to defray cost of bullets expended on high-profile person who escaped from their trap. Two of the victims also showed journalists their backs battered by the kidnappers.
Iroha, who is a son to the late James Iroha of The New Masquerade soap, said “They said they kidnapped us to pay for the cost of bullets expended on a high profile target who escaped from their trap.’’
He said the appearances and language of their captors gave them away as Fulani herdsmen.
Iroha added, “They kidnapped and matched us into the forest. We had a tortuous walk of 30km into a jungle. They humiliated and tortured us with any object they could lay their hands on. We were not given food or water throughout the three days we were held by them.
“I was on a bus on that day from the East. They told us that they don’t have business with us. They said the car they were shooting at drove away. They thus turned back and descended on us. They just picked us randomly.
“They said their bullets would not waste just like that and they needed someone to pay for the wasted bullets. That was how they marched us into the bush. Respite came our way when the police surveillance helicopter hovered across the area where they kept us, forcing them to abandon us and flee.’’
He lauded the security forces for their efforts, adding that the police, hunters and vigilantes mounted pressure on the kidnapers which eventually led to their rescue.
He further said, “The experience is not one I can even wish my enemy. It looks nice for me to stand before you now. You need to see me when I was rescued. I was manhandled and tortured. The herdsmen shot for an hour on the road until the police came and they ran away.
“At a point, they started being erratic, knowing that security forces were trailing them. I want to appreciate the local hunters who combed the forests. From the language our abductor spoke, they are pure Fulani herdsmen; no doubt about that. I wouldn’t want to go further on that.’’
The state Commissioner of Police, Bashir Makama, said four suspects had been arrested in connection with the abduction.
On Friday some unidentified persons reportedly emerged from the forest and forcefully stopped a commercial vehicle with registration number KW 230 XA belonging to Abia Line Transport Company and took the passengers into the forest.
Makama said, “Four male and one female were taken into captivity by kidnappers who stopped them on the highway and diverted or took them into the forest. The search commenced that day. There was a massive deployment of policemen into the area and search commenced into the forest.
“It didn’t work out first day. The search continued and we had a massive support from vigilantes and hunters. The helicopter didn’t stop its work. We had air surveillance that was massively and thoroughly conducted around the bush and geo locations.
“The woman was first rescued and has since joined her family at the RCCG. The search continued for the four men. As God would have it, they were equally rescued unhurt. That is to say the five kidnapped persons were rescued unhurt. One thing I want to call the attention of Nigerians to is that only the woman is a deaconess in the RCCG.’’
On whether ransoms were paid, Makama said, “I’m not aware of ransom payment, but they were rescued.’’