From Gyang Bere, Jos
It was shock treatment for members of ECWA Church, Bishara No. 3, Jenta Apata, in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State, whose pastor, Albarka Bitrus Sukuya, faked his kidnap twice to demand ransom from innocent congregants.
The dispirited members of the church, who prayed, fasted and contributed resources to ransom to free the purportedly kidnapped pastor, were speechless on Sunday, January 8, 2023, when he came out to confess before the congregation that he masterminded his abduction for ransom.
Albarka, an associate pastor in ECWA Church, conspired with three others to have himself kidnapped and demanded ransom. It was learned that Albarka staged his own kidnap twice and collected ransom before reappearing in the church.
The sad episode began on Monday, November 14, 2022, when Albarka connived with his cohorts and staged his kidnap and received ransom of N400,000 from members of his church.
It was learned that the clergyman, who was an associate pastor for the Hausa section, conspired with Baruka Mailale and Nathaniel Bitrus, both of Yelwan Zangam community in Jos North LGA, and one Aye, from Jalingo, Taraba State, who is still at large. They negotiated and collected the ransom on his behalf.
Accommodation was provided for Albarka in Shendam LGA, where he hid for two days and returned home after the ransom was paid to one of his accomplices for onward submission to him.
The second episode occured on Wednesday, November 30, 2022, when he took his pregnant wife to a bank along Ahmadu Bello Way, Jos, with the hope of withdrawing money to buy baby clothes in preparation for the birth of their child in December.
Albarka entered the bank with his wife and complained about the long queues inside the bank. He asked his wife to sit inside the bank, saying he would use the ATM outside to withdraw money and come back. But he had arranged with his cohorts, who whisked him away, leaving the pregnant woman inside the bank waiting endlessly.
The woman got frustrated and confused when her husband did not return into the bank within the required time but waited patiently with the hope that he had gone to buy some of the baby requirements. She waited until she was left alone inside the bank and became suspicious until closing period when the bank security officials approached her and she narrated her ordeal.
The visibly angry woman managed to find her way home and a call came in shortly that her husband had been kidnapped again. She was left in despondency, crying and wailing, asking God what was happening to her husband.
Meanwhile, Albarka was said to have moved to Jalingo with Aye, who accommodated him for about one week, until the church raised N200,000 and paid as ransom. His wife gave birth through cesarean section (CS) at the end of December, while he was in Taraba enjoying life and claimed he was in the kidnappers’ den.
The church ordered members to pray and fast for his release and, eventually, he was sighted in Babale, a boundary community between Plateau and Bauchi State, soaked with water, staggering helplessly and moving to an unknown destination.
The matter was reported to the Nasarawa Gwong Divisional Police Station and the DPO, CSP Musa Hassan, swung into action, took him into protective custody him and transported him to the church where members sympathized with him, giving thanks to God for his retuning unhurt.
A few days after, two vehicles belonging to the leading reverend in the church and a motorcycle were set ablaze by unknown persons. The church decided to rent an apartment somewhere in town, believing that the abductors of Pastor Albarka were still trailing him.
It was learned that, because of the prayers of the congregation, who cried to God to expose those behind Albarka’s travails, he came out himself in the church on Sunday, January 8, and confessed that he was the one who masterminded his kinap, and pleaded for forgiveness.
The DPO, Nassarawa Gwong Police Station, Musa Hassan, invited him for questioning and he confessed to the crime. And he was arrested with his gang.
The police public relations officer in the state, Alfred Alabo, in a statement, revealed that Albarka had on several occasions staged his kidnap with his cohorts and received ransom from sympathizing members of his congregation.
He explained: “Sequel to his spurious kidnaps of 14/11/2022 and 30/11/2022 where the sum of Four Hundred Thousand Naira (N400,000) and Two Hundred Thousand Naira ( N200,000) were respectively paid by his sympathizers as ransom for his release, the incidents triggered suspicion.
“Through credible intelligence, the clergyman was invited by the DPO Nassarawa Gwong Police Station, CSP Musa Hassan, and investigation commenced immediately. In the course of investigation, it was established that the suspect has been conspiring with his gang to stage his kidnap and fraudulently collect ransom.”
He noted that the suspect confessed to have committed the crime and mentioned Baruk Mailale, Nathaniel Bitrus both males of Yelwan Zangam village of Jos-North, and Aye (surname yet to be known), male of Jalingo, Taraba State, as his cohorts.
“The suspect further disclosed that, on 04/01/2023, he set ablaze two motor vehicles ( a Mercedes Benz and a Toyota) and a bicycle parked at ECWA Bishara 3, Jenta Apata premises, belonging to his colleagues who he alleged one of them hates him, referring to his senior pastor.
“Police operatives of Nassarawa Gwong Division, Jos-North LGA, arrested two of the suspects, Baruk Mailale and Nathaniel Bitrus, while effort is been intensified to arrest Aye, the third suspect.
The command wants members of the public to be watchful and report any suspicious happenings around them or within their area on time, as this will greatly help in arresting criminals thereby reducing crime and criminality in state.
Albarka, who spoke in police custody, said: “It was hardship that push me into committing this crime. I don’t know what came over me. I am asking for forgiveness.”
A member of the church, who gave her name as Rebecca, expressed disappointment at the attitude of Albarka, saying: “He is no longer my pastor; he has embarrassed us and the church.”
She acknowledged his gift of preaching and said it was better to beg from church members than to commit such a crime.
Another church member, Joshua John, who re-echoed Rebecca’s position, disowned Albarka and said only God knows how he will get out of his present travails.
“If he had opened up his financial challenges, probably some members of the church would have shouldered it. I don’t know why he chose to go the way of commiting crime to meet his needs,” he said.
It was gathered that his in-laws have picked their daughter from his house with the newborn baby, leaving him to swim out of troubled waters.