Again, Methodist Prelate’s Kidnap Exposes Our Hypocrisy

Charles Okoh

Charles Okoh

There has always been this dangerous tendency to deny or refuse to accept responsibilities when things go bad. We accuse everybody except ourselves. It’s no longer news that the reason the crime rates have gone up at such an alarming rate is because we have refused to accept responsibility and face the challenge to its logical conclusions.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there is no denying the fact that the level of insecurity in the country is caused by the indifference in the leadership to address this threat. We cannot be fighting corruption, insecurity and other social malaises with biases, as we do, and still hope to make a success of it. This, I am sure, we may have said severally in the past, but we are constantly confronted by these realities on a daily basis, yet we have remained long-suffering in our ineffective approach. The result being that we deliberately or inadvertently send these wrong signals to the criminals who simply take advantage of this to cause more mayhem and wreak greater havoc as the days go by.

Penultimate Sunday, the Prelate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, His Eminence Samuel Kanu-Uche, and two other priests were abducted at Umunneochi, in Abia State.

Speaking on Tuesday, after they were set free by their abductors, the prelate said a whopping N100 million ransom was demanded and given to the kidnappers before they were set free.  At a news conference in Lagos, he narrated the ordeal they passed through in the hands of their abductors, who according to him were eight in number.

Seeing the seriousness of the case and the possibility of losing their prelate the Secretary of the Methodist Church Conference, the Rt. Revd. Michael Akinwale, had in a statement on Monday, a day after, appealed to all parishioners to rise up and help in raising the N100 million ransom.

By the same Monday, the money was raised and paid and the prelate was let off the hook. Imagine if they were unable to raise the money.

Meanwhile, the governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, had in a press statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Onyebuchi Ememenka, gave the impression that no ransom was paid before the clerics were freed.

He attributed the release of “the eminent men of God within 24 hours of their abduction to the grace of God, the fervent prayers of the Christian Community and the well-coordinated response from security agencies in Abia State.” Bunch of liars!

But while the Prelate acknowledged the hands of God in protecting them and safeguarding their lives as they passed through torture in the hands of the evil men, he outright stated that neither the security agencies nor government played any role in securing their release.

According to him, the huge amount of money paid for their freedom was arranged in five sacks of N20 million each, adding that the kidnappers came in an unmarked pickup van and collected the money at the spot it was dropped for them.

Aside from admitting the payment of ransom, the Methodist Prelate also made other revelations confirming that Fulani herdsmen were behind the business of kidnapping for ransom in Abia.

He identified the gang that abducted him and his fellow clerics as “Fulani boys”; adding that their leader, who said he was born in Amuzukwu Umuahia, is about 35 years old while others were in their teens.

The Prelate lamented the apparent indifference of the security agencies to the atrocities being committed by the Fulani herdsmen along the axis of Umunneochi and Isuikwuato local governments of Abia State.

“But the irony of it is that where they (kidnappers) were situated, the soldiers were all of Fulani extraction, Nigerian soldiers, they were there at Lokpa junction and these boys were going behind them. Meanwhile, they kept their cows somewhere, numbering about 200,” he said.

Trust our security agencies to always want to defend their own and their propensity to always tell lies; they were quick to pick some holes in the statement of the prelate, who was the victim. They want us to believe them who are writing from the comforts of their air-conditioned offices in faraway Abuja.

In dismissing the allegation in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the allegation of complicity of its troops was not premised on any investigation.

Hear him: “Did the Methodist Church take the Nigerian Army into confidence while negotiating the ransom with the kidnappers? No formal complaint has been received by the unit.

“More worrisome is the fact that it was alleged that the ransom was paid in less than 24 hours.

“Was the ransom paid to troops? These are questions that beg for answers,” he said.

The Army spokesperson also said no information was made available to them or to 14 Brigade or any other formation, except the information making the rounds in the social media.

He reiterated that troops’ deployment in the army was not done with considerations for ethnic affiliation.

Nwachukwu explained that deployment of troops of Fulani ethnic extraction, who, as alleged by the Prelate, carried out the dastardly act was not our practice or modus operandi in the army.

“Given our professional disposition and zero tolerance for any misconduct in the Nigerian Army, we will take this weighty allegation seriously.

“We will approach the Prelate and the Methodist Church to unravel the basis for the allegation,” he said.

If you believe him, then you can believe anything. Just one question for Nwachukwu: Was his extemporaneous reaction to the alleged complicity premised on any investigation?

The prelate was kidnapped on Sunday, the fund was raised on Monday and they were released on Monday. On Tuesday, he granted a press conference where he narrated his experience in the hands of his abductors, and by Wednesday the army had written its statement even before making any attempt to investigate the allegations or visiting the site of the incident or the victims to hear from them.

That is the typical Nigerian government parastatal, agency or security agency knee-jerk reaction to the issue of insecurity in the land. When the news of crime occurs and the victims or eye-witnesses, perhaps by way of trying to help the security operatives in tracking down the suspect, announce that the attackers are criminal Fulani herders, the Federal Government populated by these ethnic group, would impulsively scream ethnic profiling and the discussion would deviate from how to track down these marauders to protecting ethnic biases.

You would have expected that given the status of the prelate an operation would have commenced to chase the men who cannot spend a N100 million in one day, no matter what they are involved in, except, of course, if the money is to be used to obtain APC expression of interest and nomination forms. You would expect that following the trail of a group of people with such humongous cash which they would have to spend on earth and not on the moon, may not be too convoluted. You would expect that by now some arrests would have been made. You would have expected that the military authorities would have begun an investigation. You would expect that the government would have ordered that these men be hunted and brought to justice. See, not a single arrest would be made.

All you will get are some denials by people in their cozy offices located several kilometres from the scene of the incidents making statements that only go to expose their hypocrisies, sycophancy and biases that have left us where we are now. Soon this prelate kidnap would no longer be news as soon there is a case of another unfortunate incident.

One thing for sure, if these clerics had been killed and their bodies deposited at the roadside, it would automatically have been attributed to IPOB and the ubiquitous unknown gunmen. Thank God the clerics are alive to tell their stories. This has been our lot as a nation in recent times. Why we cannot track and bring to justice felons across the nation, irrespective of their tribes or ethnicities, beats me hollow.

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Professor Jideofor Adibe

Publisher

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