‘Their leader told me they wanted to sell me, my wife and 2 kids to ritual killers for N5m each’
•Pastor relives encounter with kidnappers
In this interview with journalists, including ISHOLA MICHAEL, Pastor Prince Adams shared his encounter with kidnappers, narrating how he and his family members were able to escape being killed and their body parts sold.
You recently had an encounter with kidnappers. Could you share your experience?
On the 11th of April, 2019, my wife and I with our two children and three other passengers took off from Lagos to Port Harcourt in a Toyota Sienna. When we got to Owerri, Imo State, the driver said he changed his mind and was not going to Port Harcourt again, so we were put in another vehicle. We took off from Owerri at about 9.30 p.m. We had just passed the third checkpoint when suddenly we heard sporadic gunshots. Our driver lost the control of the car and veered off the main road. I said to the driver: “Will you just calm down and control the car?” I didn’t know that a bullet had hit him in the forehead. He died instantly behind the wheel. The car somersaulted about four times. All I kept saying was ‘Blood of Jesus! My family and I were in the middle seats of the vehicle. When the vehicle finally came to a halt, we tried to open the door but we couldn’t. All the while, they were still shooting all around us and coming towards us. I remember clearly how the glasses of the vehicle were being shattered by their bullets. Finally, they got to where we were and all I was saying was, Blood of Jesus!
They came with guns and cutlasses and started hitting the car shouting: ‘Everybody come out! Everybody come out!’ My wife was by the other side door and I told her to lie on the ground and I was trying to come out because of the kids. I started shouting out to them: ‘Please, these are children, let them come out first.’ I don’t know how they managed and got the other guys but I realised I was the only one and the kids in the car. Somebody hit me on my lips and immediately it was swollen and then one of them was trying to pull my boy and use the cutlass and cut him with it. I had to find a way to pull the boy back to me and in trying to come out, he wanted to use the cutlass again and without thinking twice, I just fell on the boy and the cutlass hit me on the back. That was how I was able to come out with the kids. I thought it was just a robbery but after taking our luggage, they asked us to start moving. They were taking us one by one. One of them took my wife to the other side, another one took the other passenger to the other side, so I was left with the kids. I had to carry them and I put the baby girl who is about four years old on my shoulders while the other boy was close to my arms. So, I asked them where we were going but they told me to keep quiet. We started walking into the forest and that was around Elele Police Station and we walked for about one and a half hours. Their big man now came and they had to halt the movement and they said we should sit down. Their big man started asking them: ‘Who did you bring?’ And he said he brought this and he asked each one of them and they each told him what they bought. It was like they were all given responsibilities and they had to give an account. They took my bag and opened it. In it were my laptop, my wallet, my ATM cards, my passports and other valuables. There was money inside too and I also remember I had anointing oil inside the bag. The man who opened the bag asked me: ‘Please, sir, are you a pastor?’ I told him ‘yes, I am, by the grace of God.’ He asked me again, ‘Please, sir, where are you coming from?’ I told him I was coming from Ghana with my wife and children. They checked my passport. He saw my ATM cards and then asked me if I had money in my accounts. I told him that I did. I told him that the other ATM cards weren’t Nigerian cards but the ones I use in Ghana and in the Nigerian account, I had about N370,000 and he asked me to tell him exactly how much I had. I told him I couldn’t but I told him it is close to that. He asked me if I knew how much money was in my bag and I told him I had about N400,000 and the other ones were Cefas and Ghana Cedis because whenever I am travelling, I try to keep some Cefas and Cedis and all that.
Their leader said: ‘Sir, we’re sorry, you’re not the ones we were really targeting, it’s a wrong information that we got but, however, just accept it that you have entered one chance and we’ve wasted a lot of bullets, so we have to use these as compensation and one good thing is since the bullet could not touch you and your children or any other person in this vehicle, then it means you guys will not die again because our plan was that we would sell each one of you for N5 million.’ So, my wife, my two children and I would have been sold for N20 million. With the other passengers, that would be N35 million for all seven of us. He then said, ‘Sir, just thank God because from what I can see, God is the One who has saved you otherwise all of you would have died. Can’t you see that the driver is dead? At that moment, I was thinking that maybe after taking our money and valuables, they would free us. But they asked us to start walking and this time it was into a thick forest. I think we walked for about two hours. We walked for about three and a half hours in all. Finally, we got to a place and they brought water for us to drink and then we laid on the bare floor like with the kids. It rained that day. Water was all over the place and it was very cold and it was a thick forest. Fortunately, my legs were not tied that night but the legs of the others were tied. It was their boss that told them not to tie me and my family. We all slept. The next morning, at about 6.00 a.m., he came and asked me if I knew anybody that I could call and I told him not really because most of the people I know are in Ghana. He told me that if I had someone I could call because instead of selling me and my family for N5 million each, all of us should just pay N5 million and we would be free to go. He told the other ones to think of what to do to bail themselves too.
I told him that I would call my pastor in Port Harcourt and one of the main reasons I decided to call the pastor is that I believed if I told him, they would back us up with prayers. So, he gave me his phone and I called the pastor and I told him that even though I was not yet in Port Harcourt because we had an incident on the way and there was robbery, accident and kidnapping and presently we’ve been kidnapped and they snatched the phone from my hand. I remember I had two phones and as soon as we had the accident, I threw one of them under the seat of the vehicle because that was the idea that came to me. The other phone was on the seat which they took but they couldn’t see the other one. As soon as the incident happened, I think they knew the police would be coming around. So, when the police came, it was the phone they picked and called the last number I dialed informing them that there was an accident but we couldn’t tell where the people were. There was confusion all over because they were expecting us since I had just called them that I would be in Port Harcourt within an hour and just within that time, another went through to tell them and you can imagine a whole family would have been wiped out completely. After they snatched the phone from me, I couldn’t talk again and I couldn’t tell again what was happening. We never heard from them and that was on Friday. Then on Saturday, their big man came back in the evening and told me to go to town and see how I could raise some money, leaving my wife and children behind. I told that I him I couldn’t do that. If I left my wife and the children, she couldn’t handle them because if they didn’t see me, it would be another problem. At that point, my children didn’t even know what was happening. All I could tell them was that we had a problem with the car but they were bringing another one for us. The good thing is that they didn’t panic; they stayed calm all through. My son, Michael, is seven, while my daughter, Serena, is three. Then he asked me to leave the next day to see if I could go and raise the money, but I told him I couldn’t leave my family behind. Instead, I told him to allow my wife and the kids to go but he said no except if she could go with the daughter and leave me with the son. I refused. Then they left and I didn’t see their leader again. But there were people guarding us. The funny part is that when we lodged in a particular area, the next day, they would move us to another area. We didn’t stay in a particular place. They kept moving us. They would just go and clear a particular place, cut the grass and the small trees and that was where we would stay. They would do the same thing the next day. The next day, Sunday, in the night, two of the guys decided to run away but they caught them again and brought them back.
Did they chase them or how did they catch them?
Well, I don’t know but they had this talisman that they tied around their waist, shoulders and all that and they had a particular one that they called odessey or so. I heard one of the guys saying that “if these guys who ran away are still within the environment, hit me.’ So, the odessey would hit him and that would mean they were still around. Finally, they got to know that the guys were within the environment. They had their own network and they knew how to communicate to the other guys. At that moment, we were not the only victims in that forest; there were other victims because they kept rotating the kidnapped people. These ones would come and look after us, while others went to the others. Finally, that same Sunday, one of their big men came around and asked who the pastor was.
Can you describe him?
He was dressed nicely. He was a clean-looking man. If you met him, you would never suspect he was a kidnapper because he looked smart. He wore this senator type of dressing. They pointed at me and he said: ‘Sir, we are sorry. You are not really our target, but don’t worry, you guys will leave’. That was what he told me and then, he left. I remember that I kept talking to the other guys not to worry; that we would leave that place and I told them not to worry about what was happening. That particular Sunday, they called them out and they whipped the other three guys seriously and made them lie down on the bare ground and pretend that they were sleeping with a woman. They told them to do it harder and if they didn’t, they whipped them hard with cutlass. I think that was what scared those guys and they decided to escape that night. Because it rained the whole day, the place was very cold and even the kidnappers fell asleep with their guns. For example, if I were the one in charge and I was sleepy, I would come and tap you and ask you to take over because I want to sleep but unfortunately, that night, they couldn’t do that, they all slept. Their odessey failed them that night and those two guys escaped. But unfortunately for them, as they ran, they met two other guys and they shouted for help. They asked them what was wrong and they told them they had been kidnapped, not knowing they were actually their captors, too. They told them to hold on and one of them shone the light on their faces and he realised he knew them. He then called their big man and he instructed the kidnappers to keep the guys. Early in the morning, they brought them back and from a distance, they shot them in the legs. They pleaded that they were sorry but they shot them again. Then they used cutlass on them and we could hear their cries because they were not far from us. They died in the process.
What did they do with their bodies?
One of the men said they cut their heads and private parts and took them to an Alhaji. There was an Alhaji that bought human parts and he bought at very high prices. They had kept saying that if we didn’t produce the money they asked for, they would just send us to Waterside and we would be gone. I knew this was not just a physical battle, but it was also a spiritual one, so I prayed in tongues throughout. And anything I heard them planning to do something, I prayed against it. I saw how they dealt with those guys before killing them. It was horrible. But one of the kidnappers came to me and said: ‘Sir, please, forget these people, you don’t have to feel for them, that is their own case. Just worry about yourself.’ I had to put myself together. After the incident that Monday morning, I told my wife that we would leave that place that day. Finally, at about 6.00 p.m., a call came through and I heard them talking and one of the guys came to me and said: ‘Sir, you guys have to get ready, you are leaving now.’ We immediately carried our bags and they placed us on three motorbikes that took us out of the thick forest to a place close to the town. They left us there and asked us to keep walking until we see light. We walked until we got to an area called Ahoada and we asked for direction. Thank God, one of the kidnappers gave me N1,000 and that was what we used to get to Port Harcourt. We headed to the family house. Fortunately for me, before then, one of the guys brought back my keys, my passport, voter card, my ATM cards, and some of my documents. The rest of my stuff was taken away. Even though I heard their boss saying they shouldn’t tamper with my things since they were not thieves, they didn’t return all my things. When they were about to release us, he asked me if my things were intact and I told him that I couldn’t see my bag. He told me to accept what had happened because I couldn’t go back into the forest. The next day, Tuesday, we went back to the police station and that was how I got my phone back. We gave account of what was in the vehicle and our things. According to the officer in charge of the case, they retrieved about 30 empty shells of bullets from the car. They were at a loss as to how none of the bullets hit any of us in that vehicle except the driver. So, when I look at it today, I realise that God did something marvelous beyond human comprehension. My kids are alive and they don’t even realise what had happened to us. Only my wife and I talk about it sometimes. My kids are calm and happy. That was what happened to us, but to the glory of God, I am alive today to share this testimony.
Can you describe the kidnappers? How many were they? How were they dressed and what were the kinds of conversations they had?
They were more than 20 in number and they were all wearing black attires. During the daytime, they covered their faces because they didn’t want us to see them. We only saw their eyes and mouths. I was even fortunate with my wife because they tied the eyes of the other guys but I was free, my eyes and legs and those of my family members were not tied. Anytime they wanted to tie my legs or hands, it was an issue. They would start arguing that ‘oga sey make we no touch this man, make we leave am’. Another one would say ‘I no dey wen im talk that one.’ The argument would ensue among them and that was how they would stop. They spoke mostly in pidgin English because some of them were Igbo and some others were Ikwere. One said he was from Ivory Coast and others were from Akwa Ibom. The only fluent language most of them spoke was Ikwere, because that particular community is more of Ikwere area but the common language they spoke was pidgin English. I could have sworn that that was not their first operation.
How did you really feel when all this was going on?
As soon as the accident happened, I wanted to come out of the vehicle but the next thing was gunshots all over. If I was alone, I would have escaped immediately but because of my wife and kids, I couldn’t do anything.
How would you have escaped?
Well, I have been through incidents like that while travelling. That wasn’t a new experience for me but at that moment, I couldn’t think of doing that because my family was with me. I had to stay with them. I thought it was just an accident but then I realised that it was kidnapping then I said, ‘wow! It’s not going to end now.’ I had to encourage myself not to think negatively. I started praying and I did that throughout.
What about your wife, how did was hold up?
It wasn’t easy for her. She was crying thinking of what they were going to do to us, but I would tell her to stop; that nothing would happen. The children would ask: ‘Daddy, where are we going to?’ And I would tell them, ‘don’t worry, when we get there, I will tell you but in the meantime, stay calm.’ But all I knew was that there was Somebody who would see us through, no matter what, and that is God. So, I kept praying in tongues. I didn’t allow fear to overwhelm me, because if I had, something bad would have happened. I was mentally strong and I prayed in the spirit.
You cited examples of how these kidnappers treated you differently from the other captives. Why do you think they did this?
As soon as their big man asked if I was a pastor and I told him yes, he said they should separate us from the other people and since then, all of them addressed me as ‘sir’. They called me ‘sir’ or ‘pastor’. They would also say ‘please’. God’s grace is what really helped us.
What did they feed you people with in the course of your captivity?
They would bring garri and water for us in the afternoon and that was once a day. But when the children said were hungry, they would go out and buy gala, biscuits and malt for them. That Saturday night, their big man came and he asked me: ‘sir, have you eaten?’ I said ‘yes, they gave us garri.’ Then he asked when and I told him in the afternoon. He asked if I wanted to eat again and I said yes. That night, around 9.00 p.m., he went out and returned after about an hour with hot rice and beans which he gave us. I didn’t see him again.
What about your family members in Port Harcourt that were waiting for you, how did they hold on?
As soon as that call got through to the old woman, it was like she was going to faint because she was waiting to see her daughter whom she had not seen for more than two years and her grandchildren and you can imagine that excitement. And now, they told her that this is what has happened, so she said if she didn’t see them the next day again, she would die and that was the day we got there, at about 9.00 p.m. People were going to the house morning, afternoon and night to identify with them. Some others went there to pray for them and that was what kept the family strong till the day we got back. They feared we might not come back alive, because they didn’t know what would happen. There were pastors who went to the house to pray, one of whom assured them not to worry; that we would return alive.
What did you learn from the experience?
One thing I learnt right from the onset was to forgive. I decided to forgive while they were taking us into the forest and my prayer was: ‘father, I forgive these people. I forgive them from the bottom of my heart and anything they have taken from us, Lord, I release them as a point of contact for their salvation. I never prayed any evil against them. I learnt that in the midst of a situation like this. Learn to forgive before you think of any other thing. That was what helped me and my family.