• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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When it mattered most: The game changer (4)

Ransom worth N4.18bn among old notes expected back in banks

He further alleged that the herdsmen in question were born and grew up in the south-east and were children of cow dealers, who had lived in the region for decades.

He described the raging insecurity in the country with a Bible reference, Proverbs 29: 2, which says, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”

Speaking in a no-holds-barred interview with Arise News Channel, the broadcast arm of ThisDay Newspaper, the head of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, who was released from the den of kidnappers in Umuneochi, Abia State, after three days in captivity, alleged that contrary to earlier belief that Igbo, especially the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), were behind the killings, herdsmen were the masterminds.

He restated his accusation that the Nigerian military was complicit in the raging insecurity in the area by acting as enablers to kidnappers.

The prelate, who was kidnapped and later freed with some officials of the church after the payment of N100 million ransoms, said there was a grand conspiracy against the Nigeria state by some forces. But he expressed profound confidence that God would neutralise such evil designs.

He also lamented the outcome and direction of the presidential primary of the PDP, which he said was a ploy to bar the Igbo from the presidency of the nation.

He maintained that what Nigeria needed urgently was a nationalist and not an ethnic jingoist.
The prelate, who at a point during the interview, shed tears, said the harrowing experience was the, “worst humiliation,” a human could be subjected to.

He said the leader of the eight-member terror group, who spoke fluent Igbo language, claimed to be Fulani from Sudan while two others were from Mali and one from Songhai.

“The leader said they were Fulanis from Sudan, two from Mali and one from Songhai. They said they have lived in Nigeria for many years. The leader said he speaks Umuahia dialect fluently and has played football there. “He said his father was a cow dealer but is dead while he’s now taking care of his siblings and his people.

“It was pure kidnapping. People who cut off people’s heads are not Igbos. They are Fulanis from other countries who grew up in Igbo land. Their mothers used to sell kwose (local beans delicacy). They have integrated into Igbo land,” he said.

He also acknowledged the existence of two groups of IPOB, one of which he said appeared to be a breakaway faction of Nnamdi Kanu’s group.

“We want a united Nigeria. Look at what happened at the party primaries. They don’t want any Igbo man to be president.

“It is something that can be done by negotiation not by killing. I believe in Nigeria, there will be justice, equity and fairness,” he said.

“What we want is a nationalist. If you have somebody, who is interested in particular ethnic groups, we won’t make progress,” he said.

“The Bible says when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.

“Do you feel good where you are? There is ASUU strike, insecurity, killings. Whoever is in power, let there be justice, let there be equity”, he said.

He said he was not blaming any government but the individuals in government, who have made equitable distribution of resources difficult.

Read also: Ondo to reward whistleblowers exposing kidnappers

He said his leadership of the Methodist Church ensured equity because “the Kingdom of God is one”.

The head of the Methodist Church in Nigeria said the kidnappers, whose age ranged between 18 and 35, had, shown them a gully full of corpses and beheaded a corpse on the floor and threw the head into the gully of the dead as an example of what would happen to them if they defaulted the ransom payment.

He noted that having lived in the north himself, he was familiar with the knives they wielded. He said the knives were such that they could cut off heads with one strike.

He said the negotiation for his release started from N10 million, adding that the initial offer he made was up to N50 million but the terrorists insisted on N150 million.

The negotiation was finally pegged at N100 million which was raised by church members from different branches while assuring the contributors that the ransom would be repaid by the church.

He said the terror group later came with three motorcycles and a truck which zoomed off with the ransom.

“They took my wedding ring which I bought for $150 and my wristwatch. They just allowed us to walk after we were freed. They left nothing with us. It is the worst form of humiliation”, he said.

On the kidnapping, he said he was rushing back to Owerri to catch a flight after a church programme when the hoodlums opened fire on their vehicle, puncturing the tyres kidnapping him, a bishop and one other official while three others escaped.

Kalu-Uche said the incident happened at 2:45pm last Sunday, thus starting a long trek that lasted for hours, prompting constant threats of beheading from the kidnappers and leading to his hitting his head on a tree, where he bled profusely, soaking his two handkerchiefs, forcing him to apply local leaves to the injury which worsened the pain.

“We walked from 3:30pm to 1am. They threatened to cut off our heads if we refused to walk. The gully was massive.”