By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
Sometime in May 27, 2021, friends and family of the Founder and General Overseer of Resurrection Power Ministry, Maraba, Nasarawa State, Reverend Richard Onyekachukwu were devastated when they received a call from a suspected kidnapper who claimed that his gang had abducted the man of God. He demanded a N10 million ransom.
Onyekachukwu family members, who lost their mother earlier, were perfecting plans for her burial when the news of Richard’s kidnap was announced by his wife.
Unknown to them, it was an orchestrated plan by Richard to extort money which he claimed was meant to pay his debts. About three weeks later, and despite the threat that the police should not be involved, his younger brother, Prosper Onyekachukwu, on June 16 alerted the Inspector General of Police.
Detectives of the Force Intelligence Response Team (FIRT), who were assigned to see to the safe return of Richard, quickly discovered that Richard faked his kidnap with the help of his wife, Mary and one Enoch Frank Nwaolisha, General Overseer of Christ Resurrection Power, Gospel Church of All Nations.
According to police sources, when the operatives visited the house of the victim, they met his wife who looked unperturbed. They told the wife that they are police officers investigating a case of armed robbery against her husband. It was at that point that she shouted that her husband was not an armed robber, adding that he travelled to Taraba State for business.
She told them that she saw her husband about a week earlier, while his brother Prosper reported that he had been in captivity for three weeks.
She was arrested for further interrogation. At the police station, she opened up that it the pastor had kidnapped himself. Her husband, she confessed, had financial challenges and was looking for how to pay up his loans that he collected from banks. He wanted to use the ransom to pay up his debts, she noted. She also told the police that her husband would soon visit the house. The police then laid an ambush and he was picked up the next day while on his usual visit to the house. He made confessional statement and led the police to arrest his friend Enoch who was the one that called the family for ransom.
Money to clear debts
A native of Idemili South Local Government Area in Anambra State, Richard told Saturday Sun that he was desperate to clear his debts and had to fake his own abduction.
“I am 47 and the second child in a family of seven. I am an ordained pastor and con- tractor. The name of my church is Resurrection Power Ministry. I had a big church but the roof was blown away by the wind early this year. I decided to close down the church temporarily. I took some loans to assist the businesses that I was doing to support the ministry. It was about N600, 000. In the process, I had financial challenges. Paying the loan became difficult. I made some losses in my poultry farm, and COVID 19 did not help matters. The banks were after me and I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking of how to get money from my younger brother, Prosper who is stingy.
“He is a civil servant and rich. I was thinking of how to get money from him to offset the bills before they take me to court. It wasn’t easy; that was why the thoughts came to me. I don’t know why I decided to use that strategy.”
After convincing himself that a self-kidnap was the only way out, Richard contacted his friend Enoch who is also a pastor.
“I called my friend Enoch and shared my thoughts with him. Enoch is also a pastor. Initially he did not accept, but after some-time, he agreed. I told him that even if it is a million or N500,000, I am satisfied.
“Sometime in May I travelled home to drop the corpse of my deceased mother at the mortuary. After that I travelled to Nkpor, close to my village to search if I could get some contracts. I was supposed to come back after a week. I called my wife and brothers about my mission at the village. There was a three-day delay, and my wife was panicking because my phones were off. She called my brothers that I was missing. When I came back, I sneaked into the compound and dropped my bag and went to the mountain to pray. I called Enoch that we had gotten an opportunity. He then called and told them that I had been kidnapped. On the ransom, we requested 10 million and they bargained to N5 million and finally N2 million. We were still waiting to hear from him when the police arrested me at home.”
After more than a week in hiding, Richard decided to go home for a change of clothes and probably get some homemade food. “I used to come back home but most times I would sleep at my friend’s place. I told my wife after a week. I reminded her the heavy debts on ground, and there is nothing to sell. I needed to get money from Prosper before the bank people would come to embarrass us. I am the second son of my parents and as an elder, I am expected to play a major role in her burial. We had a meeting and fixed a date and every-one was running around to see how to raise money to contribute. All these things lined up led me into trouble,” he stated.
On why he requested that his brother Prosper must bring the ransom personally, Richard said: “I have no particular reason to request that my brother, Prosper should bring the money. I never even thought of that as an issue. This is something I thought that it would just end within the family. My plan was to inform him after sometime.
I am not happy; it is a regrettable action. I took it as a family issue; I did not know it would get to this extent. My plans were to simply tell him that the reason is that if I had asked him for money to settle my debts, he would not do it. I am close to my brother, so I expected that he would bring the money to save my life.”
I was taught to be submissive
On her part Mary claimed that she decided to keep quiet because she was taught to be submissive to her husband. “I married him nine years ago and we live in Maraba, Nasarawa State. I am a petty trader. My husband told me that he would be travel- ling for a business trip on May 20. After some days, we could not reach him again. He did not come the day he said he would return. I called his brothers and explained to them. They said I should relax that he will come. It took about three days be- fore someone called that my husband had been kidnapped and they were demanding N10million as ransom. After a week, he came back to the house.
“I was happy that he had been released and wanted to call his brothers out of excitement. He told me to shut up, that he would explain. He then asked me if I had plans to pay up our debts. He said that since everyone believes that he had been kidnapped, that I should not say anything till money was paid.
“He told me that I have started my stubbornness, that a woman has to be submissive to her husband no matter the case. I was confused and scared. I met him as a pastor and I was taught to be submissive. I was just being submissive; it is not about love but to obey the word of God. I don’t have any word to justify myself. I am finding it difficult to forgive myself,” she stated.
A friend in need
Richard’s friend and fellow pastor, Enoch, said he decided to help a friend in need and also make quick cash.
“I am 39 and from Awgu area in Enugu State. I am the founder and General Over- seer of Christ Resurrection Power, Gospel Church of All Nations. I have no other job except evangelism. I started the church two years before COVID 19 shut down churches. My members dispersed and I was not able to raise money to pay rent, so I shut down the church. Reverend Richard is my neighbour and brother in the Lord.
“He came to me and told me about his money challenge. He owes micro fiancé banks; the landlord was at this neck and he needed money to contribute money for his mother’s burial. He does not have money to contribute as an elder brother. He said that he needed my assistance and I asked, in what area? He said that he wanted to have himself kidnapped. He lamented that his brother does not like to give him money. He wanted to use this pattern to get money from his brother. I agreed to help him.
“He wrote a script and gave me, which I acted properly, including pretending to beat him up. We normally go close to the mountain and call them from there. I also had hope that, no matter how small, Reverend Richard would settle me for all the stress. I want to use it and go down to the east for evangelism. To survive, I used to go for outreach programmes and people will sow seeds and give offerings.
“I knew that it was wrong when we got to the police station. Bible says that deceit is a sin. I don’t know which devil entered my mind.”
On how he managed to be ordained a pastor, Enoch insisted that it was God that called him into the ministry as far back as 2002.
“I have a calling as far back as 2002 and I served under a church till 2015 when I was officially released to go. We opened an outreach but the churches were officially opened in 2003.”