The Nigerian Army has said that Methodist Prelate Samuel Kanu-Uche has some questions to answer for linking soldiers to kidnapping.
The cleric was last Sunday kidnapped by armed gunmen alongside his chaplain and a bishop. They were released 24 hours after paying N100 million ransom.
At a press briefing after regaining his freedom, His Eminence Kanu-Uche told reporters that “military personnel are aiding the kidnappers who disguise as herders in the daytime but are kidnappers at night.”
Supposedly worried over the allegation, the army through the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said it would meet with the Prelate to know more about the circumstances surrounding his abduction.
Nwachukwu said, ”The insinuation that troops are complicit in the kidnap incident is not entirely premised on any findings of investigations and, therefore, cannot be swallowed hook line and sinker
“This allegation, therefore, raises some pertinent questions which are still unanswered.
“Given our professional disposition and zero tolerance for any misconduct in the Nigerian Army, we will take this weighty allegation seriously and approach the Prelate and the Methodist Church to unravel the basis for the allegation.”
According to him, given the spate of insecurity in the South-East, the question to ask is: “Was the issue reported to the unit covering the area? Did the Methodist Church take the NA into confidence while negotiating the ransom with the kidnappers?”
Nwachukwu insisted that “no formal complaint has been received by the unit”.
He said, “More worrisome is the fact that it was alleged that the ransom was paid in less than 24 hours. Was the ransom paid to troops? These are questions that beg for answers.
“Moreso, the NA unit has not received any debrief from the Prelate of the Methodist Church.
“It is, therefore, important to state that troops are deployed at Forward Operating Base (FOB), Okigwe and in front of the Abia State University, Uturu and no information was made available to them or to 14 Brigade or any other formation, except the information making the rounds in the social media.
“It must be clarified that troops’ deployment in the Nigerian Army is not done with considerations for ethnic affiliation.”
Below is the detail of what the Prelate told newsmen after his release: “They abducted me, the Bishop of Owerri and my Chaplain and took us to the bush and were torturing us. It was in the process of that torture that I hit my right eye on a tree. Even when blood was flowing and I was soaking my eyes with a handkerchief, they didn’t feel like anything happened.
“All they said was that we should follow them. That they were not actually against Nigerian citizens but against the government, that the government is a bad government.
“They said the day they will see the President or any of his representatives, they will chew him raw.
“I said I am a churchman, I am not a government official. They said okay, ‘that is what has saved you. We would have killed you outrightly without asking for any ransom but now that you are a churchman, let’s go inside the bush.’
“I trekked up to 15 kilometres but I knew that we were rig rolling, going up, going down and eventually at 11 pm of that day, they said ‘okay now, we can negotiate.’
“They said each of us will pay N50 million and that we are going to pay N150 million. I thought it was a joke. I said we were going to pay N10 million and they said ‘what? Don’t say that.’ They lifted up their knives to cut me, I said please hold on.
“I said we will pay the N100 million. After some time, they said where is the money and I said this is Sunday night, how can we get money this night and you know that there is sit -at- home in Igboland. We can’t afford the money now. Be patient till morning, we will make contacts.”
Uche said he was scared when the kidnappers lost patience and ordered him to lie down.
The Prelate added: ”One of them raised a knife to cut me while another pointed a gun at me to show that they were serious.
“I told them we would raise the money. But the irony of it, where they were situated, Nigerian soldiers were there at Lomara junction and these boys were going behind them. The abductors were parading us around the bush until we settled at a place.
”The leader(of the gang) asked for five Ghana-must-go bags and that N20 million should be put in each bag. While some left to pick the ransom, four others waited and monitored us with guns.
“Around 5:30 pm, the youngest boy who I think is a younger brother to their commander said ‘Oga congratulations, you are free, you can go now. We have got our money, you can go. Let me show you the road.
“They took us to the old road. They told us that after buying enough weapons, they are going to bring all those people that were driven away from Zamfara, Katsina, and Sambisa Forest, that they are all coming to locate themselves in Igbo land and deal with us.
“He said, ‘do you know Ibadan Expressway? We are in all the bushethere… We are waiting for the slightest signal, we will finish you people and take over this land.
He called on the government to take decisive action “otherwise, what is happening in the North will be a child’s play”.