Among those still being hunted is the church’s General Overseer, Pastor Sunday Ekezie, allegedly the mastermind of the abduction. Those arrested included his girlfriend, Victoria Nwabuzor, 40, and his sidechick, Ogochukwu Onyenache, 30.
A General Overseer of a church and members of his congregation are presently hunted by police officers in Asaba, Delta State capital, for a foiled kidnap scheme in which the kidnappers demanded a staggering N100m ransom.
The kidnap gang––all of whom are members of the congregation of Royal Life Assembly Church––are currently on the run, after a few were nabbed by detectives from A Divisional Police Station, Delta State Police Command.
Among those still being hunted is the church’s General Overseer, Pastor Sunday Ekezie, allegedly the mastermind of the abduction. Those arrested included his girlfriend, Victoria Nwabuzor, 40, and his sidekick, Ogochukwu Onyenache, 30. Both suspects are currently guests of the police. The duo in their confessions had explained their motivation and the role they played in the kidnap of a church member, Rosemary Ifeanyi, 32, whom they held hostage inside Achalla-Ibusa forest for N100m ransom.
Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Mustafa disclosed to Saturday Sun the saga happened on June 6, 2018, after the victim closed from her shop and was about to enter Tony Osadebe Street, Asaba.
A red Rav 4 SUV reportedly blocked her path, and seconds later, three young men forcefully abducted her. Tied and blindfolded, her abductors took her to the home of Ogochukwu Onyenachi where she was fed for the next few hours before she was taken into Achalla-Ibusa forest.
In the meantime, her husband, Mike Ifeanyi had gone to the Police station to report his missing wife. He was on the premises of the station when his phone rang and the kidnapper demanded a ransom of N100 million. The station’s DPO, Supol Temitope Fatugba and his team then got on the trail of the kidnappers and three days later, arrested Ogochukwu Onyenachi after a brief gun duel close to Royal Life Assembly Church.
End of a sleazy plot
The plot fell apart with the arrest and confession of Onyenache, who indicted Pastor Sunday Ekezie, as the mastermind of the kidnap.
Onyenache also fingered another church member, Abagi. Subsequently, he took detectives to the Achalla-Ibusa forest where the hostage was rescued unhurt from the other kidnappers who are currently on the run.
After further investigation, detectives also arrested Victoria Nwabuzor, alleged to be the cleric’s girlfriend and an accomplice that provided the information that gave birth to the kidnap scheme by Pastor Ekezie and his gang.
According to Mustafa, detectives from A Division who went to the house of the clergyman discovered that he had absconded with his wife and children. The detectives also visited the two branches of Royal Life Assembly Church, at traffic light junction, beside Union Bank and at the back of Ibori Golf Centre, in Asaba.
“We have packed the church’s’ musical instrument and chairs. The articles are in our custody in A Division. People have stopped worshipping there,” he affirmed.
The suspect, Ogochukwu Onyenachi, who hails from Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State, grew up in Anambra State, where he had his primary and secondary education until he dropped out of Holy Ghost Comprehensive Secondary School in SS1.
A sober Onyenachi narrated to Saturday Sun the summary of the kidnap plot.
“I know about the kidnapping of Rosemary Ifeanyi. It was planned by the General Overseer himself and Abagi, also a member of the church,” he began.
He claimed he was at home when the victim––whom he recognized as a church member––was brought to his house, bound and blindfolded.
He and his two wives were saddled with the responsibility of feeding the hostage for the day. “Pastor Sunday and Abagi promised to give me N100, 000, although I knew they demanded N100 million from the victim’s family.”
He also confirmed that the abduction was executed with a red Rav 4 SUV. “I was arrested when I went to Pastor Ekezie’s house to collect N6, 000 to buy foodstuff and recharge cards to enable me to communicate with them in the forest.”
From Victoria Nwabuzor, the second suspect in police custody, came a more startling confession: “I’m a girlfriend of Pastor Sunday Ekezie, the General Overseer of Royal Life Assembly Church. I’m a member of his church. The kidnapped victim, Rosemary Ifeanyi, is my close friend. We both attended the church’s vigil and deliverance. I was the one who informed the pastor that Rosemary’s brother, who recently returned from Dubai, has bought her a car. A few days later, when my friend was kidnapped, I called Pastor Ekezie and he urged me to be praying for her. He later called and informed me that her abductors had taken her to Ogwashi-Uku.
Three days later, I heard that she had been rescued. I called Pastor Ekezie but his phone was switched off. He called later in the day and oddly, instructed me not to go to my house. I was shocked when he told me he was on the run. He called again to tell me his friend, Ogochukwu Onyenache, has been arrested. He urged me to pack my luggage and run away.”
Nwabuzor who is from Umuleri North Local Government Area of Anambra State claimed she had no idea the cleric was behind the kidnapping of her friend until Onyenachi was arrested.
“I was arrested in my house on Agric Road Asaba and I have spent over a month in police custody,” she said.
Saturday Sun had a brief interview with Rosemary Ifeanyi. The rescued victim reconstructed the sequence of the kidnap episode.
“I had locked my shop and headed home. I was about to enter my street when a red Rav 4 car blocked my path and three young men came out from the car, pointing a gun at me. I started shouting Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! I struggled with them until they pulled my hair and I fainted. They carried me into their car and tied my two legs and hands before they drove me to an unknown destination. They threatened me with cutlass and ordered me to tell them my brother’s phone number. Later, I heard them demanding N100million from him. After my brother pleaded to give them one million naira, the young men blindfolded me and took me into the bush. But before I was blindfolded, I saw Pastor Sunday Ekezie by the side of the car. I was rescued by policemen three days later.”
A church member reacts
Royal Life Assembly Church holds its services on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. When Saturday Sun visited the church, there was not a single soul in sight. Church members have erased the picture of the pastor and his wife from the signboard.
A member of the congregation, Mrs Nneka Joseph told Saturday Sun: “I have been attending Royal Life Assembly Church of Pastor Sunday Ekezie since four years ago. He conducted deliverance on Friday vigil. We believed so much in him. We respected him. That is why we are shocked by the story of the kidnap of a member of the church. I didn’t believe the story, until our mem- ber, Brother Ogochukwu was arrested and he confessed in public that Pastor Ekezie and some other church members are involved in the kidnapping of Rosemary Ifeanyi. After the confession of Brother Ogochukwu, my whole family and other people stopped going to the church. A lot of people have stopped attending the church.”
Joseph added: “Nobody knows where Pastor Ekezie and his family are hiding. Nobody heard from them. Some pastors under his ministry have started their own churches in Asaba. Others relocated from Asaba because of the shame.”
Now, I don’t trust any man of God, Nneka Joseph lamented. “We are indeed at the end time, what with all these fake pastors in town deceiving people with lies. I’m biding my time before I decide which church I will be attending,” she said.
Investigation still on-going
According to Commissioner of Police Mustafa, the investigation is not over as detectives are hunting for the criminal cleric and his other gang members still at large.
Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Delta State Criminal Investigation Department, Wale Abass, affirmed that all the characters involved in the kidnap drama––hostage, kidnappers and accomplices––are all members of the Royal Life Assembly Church.
He summarized the progress made so far: “The victim Rosemary Ifeanyi has been rescued and the pastor’s girlfriend, Victoria Nwabuzor has been in our custody at A Division since the incident. Principal suspect Ogochukwu Onyenachi has confessed that Pastor Ekezie masterminded the kidnap with other gang members from his church. Ekezie, his wife and children have absconded, likewise his accomplice, Abagi.”