…Villagers lament after six women, freed by kidnappers, are withdrawn; convent shut down
By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
On November 13, 2017, three reverend sisters and three aspiring sisters attached to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Convent, Iguoriakhi in Ovia South West local government area of Edo State were kidnapped by gunmen who stormed the convent at midnight.
They were said to have been taken away in a speed boat that was waiting at the bank of the Ovia River.
The convent, located at the bank of the river, has been in the serene community for the past ten years. Whereas the victims regained their freedom, last Sunday, nearly two months after the abduction, events have taken another turn at the convent.
When Sunday Vanguard visited Iguoriakhi on Thursday, the convent was under lock and key. It was learnt that the Catholic Church decided to shut down the place temporarily due to the sad incident.
Sunday Vanguard further learnt that the abductors of the women refused to release them due to the Catholic policy which forbids the payment of ransom.
On the temporarily shut down of the convent, a source said it was to enable the sisters overcome the trauma they suffered in the hands of their abductors. Sunday Vanguard could not find any of the victims to speak to, but some community members narrated the incident of November 13 and how they were missing the sisters.
One of the residents, Pa John Dogha, 76, whose house is adjacent to the convent, said he was shocked by what befell the sisters, saying the community was missing their prayers. “They (kidnappers) came very early in the morning and said they didn’t come for us. They were shooting and we ran into the bush. They said we were not their targets.
This is the first time we would experience this kind of incident. They took them away but we are not happy because these people have been good to us. They should come back to our community we are begging them. These youths are not doing well at all they should stop this kind of attitude we are not happy”.
Another villager, Mrs Elizabeth Oboh, a farmer, regretted that the activities of kidnappers had plunged the community into suffering. “We heard the kidnappers barking orders”, she narrated. “We didn’t know what was happening but we stayed in our houses while some people ran to the bush.
It was in the morning that we came out to hear that they took the reverend sisters away. We have been living happily here for years, sometimes the reverend sisters will come and meet me here, and we will sit down together and talk.
They always made our community busy and happy. During Christmas, they will share gifts to us and our children. But this last Christmas, our children did not celebrate well because we did not get any gift from the sisters because they were in the kidnappers’ den. I wish I know where they are, I would have loved to go and see them.
Superior-General of the Catholic Convent, Sister Agatha Osarekhoe, who was contacted, explained that the convent was not permanently closed but that the sisters were asked to leave due to security reasons. Her words,”The kidnapped sisters are fine.
These days will not be easy for them. They have been away in a strange environment. They are taking care of themselves and they will be fine. That was why we decided that for now the place be temporarily closed. We leave the future in God’s hands. It is good to know that the community is missing the sisters. We wonder why such a thing will happen to people who have been so generous to the community. We care about them and share our resources with them. It is unfortunate that the incident happened to the sisters.”