Pastor Emmanuel Apeh is a two-time victim of Kidnapping.
In this interview with The Voice Correspondent, Moses Mbaiorga in his Gboko residence, Pastor Apeh shared his experiences with the kidnappers, how they handled him, as well as a comparative analysis of the two instances of his abductions. Excerpt:
Sir can you share your experience in the kidnappers den?
Yeah, it has been long I rode on a Bajaj bike the way I did that day, because they carried me all through on Bajaj. We were in the Church behind Mbalamen Fuelling station Akaajime. Soon after the service around 8pm, I was about living and 3 young men jumped over the fence and confronted me. All of them were carrying guns. They dragged me out and kept me at the back of my car. When they wanted to drive the car, they couldn’t find the keys. So they asked me for the keys, I said I did not know because when they were dragging me the keys left my hand. So, they rushed my Pastor and seized his vehicle. They forced me inside too, shooting sporadically into the air. The young man who was to drive, I think he has mistaken Mercedes gear for Toyota. The common cars we have here is Toyota. So he also put Mercedes as Toyota. So when he wanted to accelerate and whisk off the scene, the vehicle instead reversed and hit one of the church buildings. People ran away because of their shootings. I was still in the car. So I came out of the car and made my way out of the collapsed building. Before I know it they forced me somewhere and put me on Bajaj motorcycle. While these ones were there (at the church premises), the Bajaj motorcyclist who was standing by the road side took off to Kontien and make u-turn around St. Paul’s Catholic Church and then face this side (pointing towards Ameladu side). That was how we drove for more than two hours. We got to a place and they held me by the hand because my face was covered and they took me to one round hut. They guarded me there day and night and asked me how many schools I have, my businesses, how to assess my account balance and so on. I showed them my account balance. Truly what the situation is now I don’t have money. They said I have other businesses and I said no they should go and find out, except if they are dashing me other businesses. I am managing only one school and I am a pastor. Some said they will shoot me others said they will do this and that. I was not afraid because I knew I was not lying. I told them if they were not sure they should go and confirm if I had money. They said I have money because I gave Palliatives for covid-19 to the host community even when it was hot and I have been helping people in need, so if I do not have money how can I do all those things. I said well, philanthropists do not gather money; as it comes it goes.
Sometimes I give my last kobo out. I gave them an instance that Thursday I was taken away, Tiv Disabilities Forum called me that they were to have a meeting and two of the shock observers on their car were bad, if I can help them with 7,000. I gave them the money which I kept to fuel my car and go to Makurdi on Friday, because someone who is complete is better than the one who is crippled. The kidnappers kept threatening me. When I explained to them that I don’t have money, other schools and businesses; and that I give people food does not mean I have money, but as a result of generosity, that is why I used to give. In fact, I told them that since March I don’t have income. They now realized what I was saying was true because they were using my sim cards for calls and people were sending messages telling them they have touched a wrong person, that I am their father and all of that. They told me they were sorry and didn’t know. I am that kind of person. Actually, they were misled and they will release me. But I should give them their fuel, I said Kobo I don’t have with me here. They had already assessed my account balance except from my son. I called my son and we put heads together gets something and send to them. They carried me and dropped me somewhere and I left. I opened my eyes and discovered that I was where I didn’t know. I have to trace my way and got to a place where I was told was close to Wannune. I asked the people around to get a bike for me, bikes were not available and I had to wait until I finally got a bike that took me to Wannune. There, I called my family to come and take me home.
How did they treat you while with them?
They were very friendly with me. They fed me with Jollof rice and I was forced to eat because I had to take my drugs (didn’t specify). At the end, they left me with my phone and SIM cards, because they told me that the phone was being tracked and if they go with it they will be suspected even if sold.
When did the incidence occur?
It was on Thursday, August 27 around 8:30 PM and I was released on Saturday, August 29, around 9 pm. I reached Wannune around 10 pm and finally got home around 11pm.
What tribe were they?
All of them were Tiv because they were speaking Tiv language fluently; and they were young boys, around (28-35 years) but there was a matured voice that spoke to me last. They wore face masks and face caps on normal clothes. So it became difficult for me to see their faces.
As a man of God what revelation did you have before the incidence occurred?
There was no revelation before that time. But when they took me there, God told me that within three days I would be freed, I spent 53 hours in their hands.
How can you testify the goodness of God having been kidnapped twice?
Wonderful! There is nothing God cannot do for a purpose. My going there gave me the opportunity to preach to them (abductors). I talked to them and some of them cried with tears. I said I pity their age for risking their lives by carrying guns to abduct somebody and get money. I told them that even if they didn’t have a job they should create a legitimate one for themselves rather than venturing into this kind of business.
Sir, this is for the second time that you are being kidnapped, how can you compare the two incidences?
In short, the first experience that took place in May 20, 2017 was more terrible than this last one because the former abductors were more brutal than those in the later case. Again, where they took me to is a different location entirely. The other time they took me to Mbagba, Ushongo local government, but this time they took me to Buruku and dropped me at Tarka local government. Also, at first instance I paid a sum of 500, 000 and immediately the money was given my abductors were arrested. This time they were not arrested.
How can you describe the reaction of your immediate community on your return?
Everybody, young and old was happy. When I was taken away they were not happy, even the District Head of this council ward (Mbakper council ward) was here a day prior to my release, he prayed and cried with my family. As I came back he also visited me. The community had visited me in their numbers. I now suffer more than when I was kidnapped because people kept trooping in and out of my house.
What message do you have for those who kidnapped you as well as other criminals out there?
They should check history, nobody became rich through criminal activities and wealth is eternity. They will also discover that there is no criminal that grows grey hair. Before the grey hair comes out, they must have wasted their lives already. The best thing is that they should draw near to those who they feel are rich and find out how and what makes them rich. When they know to be rich they should follow suit. It is better to let them repent and start small and grew in it. Most of the great men we have today started very small and grow to be what they are today. Nigeria has a lot of resources to go round. Therefore they should be wise to learn and work hard rather than be in haste.
How much was it given to them for your release?
Actually, I told them I didn’t have money, so my son gathered his other siblings and others together including Idoma and Tiv and gathered money; 10, 000; 20,000 and so on. He realized the sum of 600, 000 and took it to where they showed him.
Pastor Emmanuel Apeh is a two-time victim of Kidnapping.