The President, Nigerian Baptist Convention, Rev. Israel Adelani Akanji, has said that 2 out of the 66 members of Baptist Church who were kidnapped during church service in Kaduna State, last Sunday, have died while three are currently in critical condition in an undisclosed hospital where they are receiving treatment on injuries they sustained from bandits gunshot.
Akanji expressed worries over the lukewarm disposion of President Muhammadu Buhari in curbing the rising spate of kidnapping of innocent Nigerians, calling on the President and security agencies to rise to their responsibilities by effecting the release of all members of Baptist Church and other Nigerians in the hands of bandits and kidnappers across the country.
Rev Akanji made the call while speaking with journalists in Warri, Delta State, saying that they paid ransome to secure the release of the 117 out of 121 kidnapped students of Bethel Baptist High School, Maraban Damishi, in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna state .
He bemoaned a situation where parents of the kidnapped school children were made to contribute money from proceeds of the sales of their houses to secure the release of their children when government and security agencies failed to carry out their constitutional responsibilities.
He emphasised that it was high time President Buhari and relevant to security agencies in the country rise up to their primary role of securing the lives and property of Nigerians.
On how he felt when the news of the kidnap students got to him he said, “It was a harrowing experience when the Baptist school students were kidnapped. I’d to rush down to Kaduna. The school compound was littered with the shoes of the children because they told them to remove their shoes and took them out of the school compound in their housewear like a school uniform. That was how they took them away. It was a sorry sight.”
“We meet parents of the abducted children wailing and weeping and rolling on the ground. It was such a bad experience. It was very painful to us. We’re a people that have been contributing to nation building through our schools since 1865. It’s so unfair on us. Imagine kidnapping 131 students! It was really sad.”
“We had to pay money. In the beginning we said we will not pay money that we don’t believe in paying money that it is wrong we pay money. These people were free and you came and kidnapped them and ask us for ransome. We called on government, we called on people but we did not get help and therefore we succumbed. We have been armtwisted to pay the ransome not because we want it. It is like somebody has a gun on your headand ask for your wallet. You choose between having you wallet or being killed.”
“No body can know exactly what we paid because we were paying from various angles, the point you should know is that we paid money, and we have accepted that we paid money, but was it our choice to pay, no, but it was out of two wrongs and we chose the lesser evil, the lesser evil is for us to pay money so that we can release our children since it is money they are after and life is bigger than money, so we were ready to spend money, life is better than money and that God who provided the money for us can provide again. But when life is taken like that, it is gone for ever, so you see we are praying that God should come to our rescue.”
“Even parents were selling their houses and property to bring money, so it was not just the church, but a collaboration of parents, Church, well-wishers and even some people in Kaduna who were not part of the Church brought money. Yes, we paid money and I want the whole world to hear about it. ”
He said, “Last Sunday again, 66 worshippers were kidnapped in a community in Kaduna. The kidnappers told them that until the govt brings them to a roundtable discussion, they’ll not release our people. They’re not demanding ransom, they’re saying govt must invite them to a roundtable discussion else they’ll begin to kill our people if govt does not oblige.”
“But we’re not government. We don’t have power over government to force them to a roundtable. And our people are in their hands. Very sadly yesterday, the seventh day of being in their custody, the kidnappers shot five of our people; two died instantly and others are lying critically in the hospital. We don’t know if they’ll ever survive. So, they’ve started carrying out their threats.”
Rev. Akanji said, “I want the government to rise and carry out its responsibility, we cannot sleep again, Kaduna State has a lot of our security agencies in Nigeria, the Defence Academy is here and some of our great institution of war are here, the military school is in Zaria, the pilots are trained there, why will bandits stroll into Kaduna and be treating Kaduna State like a toy and nothing is happening.”
“Nigeria should wake up and help us, I truly want to see President Buhari right now, I am told he is out of the country, and if he comes back I should be one of the first person he should see. I am already making arrangements to see him, our people have to be released, this is our country and we don’t have any other country, if anybody is claiming Nigeria, we are also claiming Nigeria, this is our home, we can’t leave our country, and all of us voted for those in power, so we all deserve to be assisted, we are not even asking them to do extra thing for us, just let us be alive, we are ready to do our work and earn a living. Why should they be kidnapping our people, this is wrong. And when you go to church and kidnap people worshipping then you are showing that you are against that church, you are against that faith, you are against that religion. And here in Nigeria there are many peace loving people, there are many good Muslims.”
He appealed to both Muslims and Christians to reinvent the good neighbourliness that once existed amongst them and join hands to once and for all speak in one accord to draw the attention to address’s the menace that is already shaking the fabrics of this country.
Rev. Israel Adelani Akanji, President Nigerian Bapti