• Reverend fathers recount their ordeal with Fulani kidnappers
• We trekked kilometers for 4 days and only released when death lurked
BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
Father Emmanuel Obadjere , Director, JDPC of the Warri Diocese of the Catholic church was among the four Reverend fathers kidnapped penultimate Tuesday in Delta state on their way to Ekpoma, Edo state. The other Priests are Father Victor Adigboluja, Ijebu Ode Diocese, Father Anthony Otegbola of Abeokuta Diocese, and Father Joseph Edia, Benin diocese in this interview Obadjere narrated their traumatic experience they had the four days they were in the custody of the kidnappers.
I am Reverend FatherEmmanuel Obadjere .My class mates (old boys ) at the seminary came to my place at Orerokpe, Okpe local government area, Delta state because this yearwill be our 10th anniversary in Priesthood.
As usual, every year our class members gather for our annual meeting . We graduated from Catholic Major seminary of All Saints and were ordained Priests 2008. So we meet as old students of that year in that school.
It was the turn of Warri to host this year. So they all came from all parts of the country and I was the host. They met me here at Ororokpe on Tuesday. We finished the meeting and were on our way to the Catholic Major seminary in Ekpoma , Edo state where the entire seminary would celebrate our class as ten years in priesthood.
We were going to Ekpoma in a convoy when the unfortunate incident happened. We were two in each vehicle of four. We had passed Umutu in Delta state and where approaching Abavo still in the same state and suddenly we started hearing gun shots from different angles. We sped up a little. Two of our vehicles drove through the shooting and escaped. Bullets entered from the front of their vehicles and came out from the back windscreen .
The other two vehicles behind, in the commotion one bumped into the other
We stopped and tried to run into the bush. The kidnappers, pursued us and caught up with us. They walked us deeper into the bush. They were ten, armed with guns. About ten minutes later the Police came close to where we were and started shooting.
They did not see us so could not rescue us. We slept the first night in a cassava farm. At night they walked us through the railway. We went through the forest under the sun and the rain , no water , no food. They were demanding money and said that they would kill us if we did not bring it. We told them we did not have money , that we were doing the work of God. This angered them more. We were all in our cassock so there was no doubt about our identity.
They were very brutal, violent. They beat us. They said they would kill us if we didn’t bring money
Their ages :
Their age bracket is between 20 and 30. They were Fulani, speaking Fufude. I understand Hausa so I knew it was Fufude they were speaking.
How we prayed in their custody
They walked us the four nights till we got to Abavo. They usually stood at a distance when we prayed. Four of us would hold our hands to pray. Each time we did that they got angry. Sometimes they would brutalise us to stop us from praying.
Our freedom was dramatic
Then, God did his miracle and we were released. The whole process of our release started when one of us fainted. They were now worried.They threatened that if any one died among us they would kill the other three. They were bitter that no money came from anywhere despite all the calls they made with our phones to numbers they saw on our phones.
The one who fainted was almost dying , they uprooted cassava and gave him to eat because the four days we were with the kidnappers we ate nothing.
When they saw that the Priest was almost dying, in panic they released us They said since money was not coming they couldn’t keep us beyond Friday. M One of us was already dying. They released us at about 7pm that Friday night, making it four days we were with the kidnappers
No challenge from the state
“But it is sad that the four days we were in the custody of the kidnappers there was no form of challenge from the state .
The security architecture in the country has to be reworked. Everyday people are kidnapped in the country. I learnt from Abavo down to Umutu is the den of kidnappers. Government should work the security architecture in the area. If the police had come with a sniffer dog they would have seen us because we were just some distance away from them. We saw the Police when they came for our vehicles from where we were. And the kidnappers were laughing at them from where we were. Abavo community laments over activities of kidnappers
We were released at night. The community was happy. The community told us that life had become difficult for them in Abavo because their women cant go to farm again
Appeal to government
I want to appeal to government to do something about the security. In war tone Syria, Libya there is no way a group of people can kidnap four reverend fathers for four days with no challenge from the state. I was so angry that while I was in hostage my President was planning to travel for a peace conference in France. So if it was the President’s son that was kidnapped would he be planning to travel to France for a peace conference? Or if it was the governor’s son will he go to sleep? Only in Nigeria will a group of kidnappers hold four Reverend fathers and no challenge.
Perception of the kidnappers
They could be Boko Haram. When you see the people who kidnapped us you would suspect there could be more than that. Government should ban open grazing as a way to check activities of the Fulani kidnappers in our forests