+ How her release was negotiated
Pastor Harry Umudi is the founder and head of Relevance Christian Worship Centre, Iba, Ojo, Lagos. The Urhobo born preacher escaped the claws of dare-devil 8-man gang of kidnappers on Saturday, August 27, 2016, at his Augustine Afegbole Street, Victory Estate, Iba, Lagos home. In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, Pastor Harry Umudi gave a graphic report about how he made good his escape, the kidnap of his landlady, the ransom paid for her release and much more.
We empathise and at the same time rejoice with you for escaping the fangs of dare devil kidnappers at about 9.30 pm on Saturday, August 27, 2016, in your Iba, Ojo, Lagos home. Could you give a graphic narrative of the incident?
I came in from a missionary journey of Edo and Delta states at about 7.30 pm on that fateful day, chatted with my landlady for some time because her husband was at Abuja and was expected in Lagos that evening. I left the woman with her four children and housemaid to have some rest, listen to world news report and retire for the day. I was neck-deep in the CNN report on Donald Trump’s political rascality in America when sporadic gun shots filled the air with terrifying bangs. Certainly, the bangs were from our gate because my landlady, Mrs. Ogugua Nwochie had locked up the pedestrian and motor gates as soon as I stepped into the premises. The charlatans came with axes and sophisticated sawing machines. They forced the main gate open after several bangs. The bottom bolt gave way and they came in.
I was in my flat alone because I left my wife, Evelyn Umudi in Delta state. I was apprehensive. That locality had recorded several inciedents of armed robbery and kidnapping. I was convinced and determined that any intruder will not get at me.
As soon as I heard deafening bangs on the door of the master’s bedroom of the landlady. I knew there was real trouble. With the axes and sawing machines they had ripped open the master’s bedroom. I immediately put on my boxers, put my handsets in my pocket and relocated to the ceiling. Though I have knowledge that these people know that some of their targets take cover in ceilings and a times they shoot at the ceiling rapidly, but I couldn’t be bothered.
From the ceiling, I was communicating with some people in the neighbourhood. After the hullabaloo that lasted over one hour, I came down from the ceiling to my flat. There was every indication that they ransacked my apartment but nothing tangible was removed.
What was the reaction of your neighbours?
Those who had the guts to come out were far away telling okada riders and motorists to take an alternative route because the area was not safe. A jeep was vandalized during the operation but the driver escaped.
Okada operatives who did not heed the warning of people in the neighbourhood were robbed.
What about your landlady?
My landlord, Peter Nwochie, a journalist with Green Sprints Communications based in Abuja arrived Lagos that same day and was driving in his jeep to his residence when he was instructed by sympathizers not to go further because the gun fire and noise from his gate.
My landlady, Mrs. Ogugua Nwochie was kidnapped that night and taken to their hideout in a swamp. Mrs. Nwochie told me after her release she was given a bed in the camp but she refused their food for 10 days. She said the hideout had five camps with five commanders.
Was any ransom paid?
Yes, they asked for a ransom of N20 million. We had to haggle and negotiate until it dipped to N1 million. The ransom was paid but along the line, there was a twist. We got a report that the man that collected the N1 million had absconded with the money and until a fresh N1 million was paid, my landlady would remain with them. We had to hurriedly run around for another N1 million and payment was made, yet Mrs. Nwochie was not left off the hook. Our inquiries revealed that the abductors were asking for N500,000 to appease the gods of the land for bringing an abducted person into the land. We had to rally around to get the said N500,000. As God would have it, on Monday, September 5, 2016, the hostage, Mrs. Nwochie was left off the hook at about 11 pm at Iba, Ojo, Lagos waterside after 10 days.
Where is she now?
She and her entire household have gone into hiding at least for sometime so that the trauma would subside.
What about your wife, Evelyn?
She’s back in Lagos, but for now, we are hiding somewhere in Ikeja, Lagos.
What about the police?
They came that night but their lackadaisical approach put off everybody. The police from Iba Police State were going about the incident with kid gloves, that was why my landlord, Peter Nwochie decided to put them out of the picture. The police were pussy footing.
Do you have any suspect?
I lived in that area when I was growing up, so I know much of the place, but I never knew the area has degenerated to this level. Oil theft is the stock in trade of this community. Armed robbery and kidnapping is the in thing here. Street urchins sell 25 liters of petrol for N2,500 here and nobody is saying anything about it. The police are not interested in criminality here.
Even the people I left here believe I have all the money because I travel overseas to preach Jesus. I don’t have such money. I work for whatever money you find in my domain. The body language of the police was not encouraging at all, that was why my landlord said we should not involve them. We plotted and secured the release of my landlady on our own.