From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
Venerable Honest Gab Nwosu is a clergyman with the Anglican Diocese of Enugu.
He was abducted by Fulani herdsmen along Umulolo Okigwe – Arondizuogu road on his way to Oru Diocese in Imo State on official assignment on May 27.
He was set free after three days in their deadly camp in the thick forest, but not without the payment of a ransom.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Nwosu who is just recovering from the trauma of his abduction, narrated his ordeals and his interactions with the kidnappers. Excerpts:
Recently, you had an encounter with kidnappers, what exactly happened?
It was on the 27th of May, that’s Children’s Day. I was going to Oru Diocese to represent the Diocese of Enugu, to go there and share with them and from there to Okigwe South Diocese. So around 9:00a.m, I was on my way driving through Okigwe then branched at Umulolo – Arondizuogu road. After some distance I heard gunshots at my back and through the mirror I saw the people shooting and immediately some other people came from the side of the bush and others stood in front with their guns. They were brandishing their guns, I can’t say the brand of the gun, but I know it’s like the police gun. I could also see pump action and little pistol and all the rest of them. They were about nine of them and they asked me to surrender. I was thinking they could be police or vigilante, but they said no that they were kidnappers. And they marched me direct into the forest. While we got into the forest, there was another young man there, whom they have earlier abducted and kept there so they marched the both of us, and said we should move on. They collected my shoes and one of them put his feet, wore it immediately; they took my wristwatch and searched all my bags and collected the money I had. They also collected my phones and asked us to move on. We started moving on. We walked so many kilometers in the forest. With no buildings around, the forest was so thick. We crossed about eight rivers or streams before we got to a place where they said let us rest here. This is our camp. And they began to harass me with gun and started beating me and the other man saying that we must pay them some amount of money. They said I will pay them N20 million and asked me to call anybody that I want to call and I said I will call my son. And when I called my son they told my son that they were kidnappers and I was now in their net. They asked my son if he can provide N20 million, my son shouted and said where? Throughout my working period that I have not seen that type of money and they said he should shut up, that the money must be provided. And so with the beating and threat of death, we were able to say okay, let them run around and see where they can get N5 million and they said no, it must be N20 million. This continued until eventually they soft-pedaled and asked me to transfer whatever I have in my own account into my son’s account and there and then I transferred it, N147, 000, that’s the only thing they saw in my account. They transferred everything to my son’s account. For three good days, we were still moving, I don’t know, whether it is round and round or going straight, but the forest was so thick. For three good days, we were moving, after some hours, we moved, after some hours we moved, until eventually on Sunday evening or thereabout, my people were able to meet them and now they said I should be released so they brought us out beyond Ihube and asked us to follow straight, that was 18 plus 600 kilometres as written on the floor with a white paint and there we started moving, I and the other young man they released. Whatever they collected, I think they collected it at Leru junction area, but they led us inside beyond Ihube and we came out and eventually, my people picked me at Ihube junction. That was my concern with them.
From your interactions with your abductors, can you say for sure who they are?
These people were totally Fulani men and they never spoke any Igbo, they were speaking totally Fulani and they actually said that they are herdsmen. But I saw no cow as far as that forest was concerned. When I asked them why their cows were not there, they said, ESN and all of them had killed all their cows and they had no cows, I said okay. Why are you doing all this thing? They said in Zamfara, Kaduna and all the rest of them, that they are all over everywhere, that the problem is that they are fighting President Buhari. That Buhari equipped some people and gave them some of these things. They said they kill our Mama, they kill our Papa and they kill all our cows and we had nothing to rest on. They said it will not be well with Buhari. That the problem of Nigeria is Buhari and Nnamdi Kanu, that was what they expressed. And we continued to converse until when they led us out to that place. They also asked me to pray for them and I did pray for them. They also asked me to forgive them, I just told them that I have forgiven, but my prayer is that they will never continue in this business because it profits them nothing. That the people they are mentioning, Buhari, Nnamdi Kanu and even Dangote all of them have one head, and so they can still make it as human beings if they repent and change. And then they said forgive us.
Did they recognize that you are a pastor?
They recognized that I was a pastor. When I told them initially that I was a pastor, they said ‘you’re the type of people we are also looking for.’
Were are they also in touch with other people while you were there?
Yes, they were communicating. I think once in a while, there were some movements that came around that area. There was a particular movement they seem to show as if they were apprehensive, but at a stage, they said it was one of them, is our people, is our people. This means there are groups of people within that area, they were not the only persons and so they keep on communicating with their language. They communicate with their girlfriends and the rest of them. But all the communication was in their language.
How where they eating?
They had loads of bread in Baco bags they were carrying and water they fetch from the streams. At a stage, there was a time they cooked macaroni with that bread. They will be eating the macaroni and bread. That was the only thing I saw them eating.
While in their den, how did you feel?
At the initial stage when they were beating me, and threatening me with gun, I was afraid, because they were threatening to kill me. And they showed me the skeleton of someone they killed. So one of them was threatening that he was the one that killed that person and so if we do nonsense, they would kill, so the fear was there. But by the grace of God, I was praying. I couldn’t imagine, I was able to also sleep, but though on the bare floor in the forest. But I never saw any carnivorous animal or any animal inside that forest.
With what you experienced, are there things you think can be done to curtail their operations there?
The basic thing is that the government should create farm settlements and clear the forest. The forest cannot be there and people are hungry, the government should enter there, create farms, use mechanized farming, and get the youths and all the rest of them involved. A lot of youths are doing nothing, but when they create this thing and support them they will make a lot of money. The palm products that we produce in that place can feed the whole state if they are serious. But the government are not serious, nothing is happening. The forest that is there for so many years, uncultivated is much wild and these people have turned the whole place into their abode and terrorize the whole people. And they claim that the whole area belongs to them and the whole forest in the Southeast belong to them. I was wondering how they were able to navigate through the forest, to know where to go and where not to go. We have no knowledge of the forest like them.