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How we survived on half a loaf of bread, ‘pure water’ for 4 days – Kidnapped Catholic priests

By Emeka Mamah

Enugu—A Catholic priest, Rev Fr Cajetan Apeh, yesterday, relieved his experiences in the den of kidnappers.

NEW YEAR MASS: Father Cajetan Apeh (middle), flanked by the Parish Priest, St Joseph’s Parish, Imufu, Enugu State, Rev. Fr. Rufus Achinike (left) and Rev Father Johnson Nwanonenyi (right) celebrating the new year Mass yesterday.

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Apeh, who was ordained priest on August 11, last year at Enugu, was kidnapped along with his parish priest at Anam in Anambra State while returning to their station.

The Catholic priest said he was serving in Abuja but was transferred to Anam   in November following a vacancy occasioned by the transfer of members of their Carmelite   profession in the church.

Narrating his ordeal shortly after celebrating a New Year mass at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Imufu Enugu Ezike yesterday, Rev Fr Apeh said that he had taken his parish priest to hospital, from where they went to buy some items to be used during the visit of Cardinal Francis Arinze from Rome to his new parish on Christmas day when they were kidnapped by four herdsmen armed with AK 47 Rifles and taken through the bush parts into a very thick forest in the area.

“I was transferred from Abuja to Anam in Anambra state in November, but barely a month later on December 24, 2018, my parish priest told me that he was sick and could not drive himself to be hospital  and asked me to drive him to see a doctor.

“When we finished from the hospital, we went to buy some things that would be used during the visit of Cardinal Arinze to our parish the next day, being Christmas Day.

“However, as we were returning, we were suddenly stopped at a very bad portion of the road leading to Anam. A Fulani herdsman armed with AK 47 rifle, jumped out from the bush and pointedhis gun at us, threatening to shoot if we didn’t stop. It was really an ambush.

“Initially, we thought it was just robbery, but after searching and taking all our possessions, including some loafs of bread; they led us into the bush where two of us were given half a loaf of the wheat bread they took from us for four days before our release to our superior, who drove from Enugu to Anam on the instruction of the herdsmen.

“During the period, we were not allowed to talk to ourselves even as two of us drank one sachet of water per day. On the second day in the night, (Christmas), we were shivering as the harmattan cold was two much, so one of them made fire for us in a bid to keep us warm. I wore a a pair of trousers and a T-shirt.

“Apart from the cold, mosquitoes bit us throughout the period. We slept in the open farms without anything to cover ourselves while our captors wore jackets to protect them from the cold.

‘On December 26, the condition of my parish priest deteriorated, because, although we were given some drugs in the hospital, he was not allowed to take his medications. His blood pressure became very high and he was very weak .

“They were communicating with our superiors, telling them that they wanted big, big money as ransom but when after all these days of our kidnap, nobody offered them any money they became disappointed.

“They asked us  our bank account numbers and we told them that we had no personal bank accounts, that everything belonged to the church. They asked if I was married, I said no, because I am a Catholic priest. They said that if I was married, my wife or members of my family would have been calling them and running around for ransom.

“Due to your prayers and those of others throughout the world, we were released to our superior who travelled to Anam from Enugu, unaccompanied by any policeman or security agent,” he added.

Apeh said that throughout their days in captivity, they never stood up except while going to ease themselves with the permission of their captors as they were only allowed to lie or sit down.


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