Armed Fulani herdsmen on Friday (Aug. 4) kidnapped a pastor as he and his driver were traveling in central Nigeria's Plateau state, the wounded driver told Morning Star News.
The Rev. Jen Tivkaa Moses and his driver, Yohanna Maina, were on their way to Abuja from Jos to attend a church seminar planned for Saturday (Aug. 5) when the armed Fulanis stopped them on the Kafanchan-Kwoi-Bwari highway at about 8 p.m. near Jere village.
Maina said that Pastor Moses, director of the Christian Education Department of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), was praying loudly when he last saw him held at gunpoint by the kidnappers. Church officials said the kidnappers have demanded a 1 million naira (US$2,730) ransom for his release.
"I am glad I survived this ordeal, and I pray that Rev. Moses comes out alive," Maina said. "I am saying this as, while the gunmen led us into the bush, Rev. Moses was praying very loud, and they disliked this so they were beating and threatening to kill him."
Maina and the pastor had passed a police checkpoint and were approaching another that police were setting up when they heard gunshots, he said. Their car and the vehicle in front of them were shot, and a bullet coming through his front windshield struck him in the thigh. It was so dark that he was not even aware he was bleeding, he said.
The gunmen ordered them out of the car and led them through the bush. Maina said he saw that some occupants of the other car were shot, and he saw lifeless bodies lying beside the vehicle. A group of armed men led occupants of the other car in a different direction. The gunmen asked him and the pastor which of the two was the boss, he said, and Pastor Moses told them he was a pastor and Maina was his driver, and that the head of their church was in Jos.
"We realized that the armed gunmen were Fulani herdsmen, as they spoke to us in Hausa language but communicated with each other in the Fulani language," he said.
Leaving their car behind, three of the Fulanis forced them to trek through the wilderness for hours, stopping to rest at midnight, while four remained on the highway to continue with their terror. Maina and the pastor heard their captors say it was midnight and their colleagues had yet to join them, and the assailants then took the Christians' mobile phones and money.
When they noticed that Maina was wounded, they asked another group of armed men they met there to take him away, while Pastor Moses was taken to another site. They ordered Maina to hand over his jacket to Pastor Moses, who had nothing on his torso but a shirt, and told Maina they were taking the pastor to a very cold place.
They marched Maina another two hours before leaving him on the highway, telling him to remain on it or their colleagues located throughout the bushes would kill him, he said. They told him the highway would lead him to his car.
Recalling that Pastor Moses had the car keys in the jacket he had given to him, Maina continued on in hopes of finding someone to help him, watching in vain as no vehicle stopped for him.
"I trekked for two hours or so until I arrived at a village where I found some youths keeping watch outside their homes," he said. "I told them how we were kidnapped and how I found my way to their village. The youths in the village were suspicious and afraid as they found me with bullet wounds, and it was bleeding."
One of them believed him, however, saying he had ridden his motorbike past the spot of the attack that Maina had mentioned. One of the young men told Maina he knew of an ECWA pastor in a nearby village, and he telephoned the pastor, who arrived and took him to another village, from which a military patrol team took the Christians to Bwari town in the Federal Capital Territory.
"The soldiers took me to the police station in Bwari, where I lodged a complaint, and the police then accompanied us to the hospital where I was treated," he said. "A surgery was carried out on my right thigh to extract the bullet that had lodge there."
When Morning Star News visited ECWA headquarters in Jos on Monday (Aug. 7), leaders and church workers were holding prayer vigils at the conference hall for Pastor Moses. ECWA officials said the kidnappers have contacted the pastor's wife and the accountant in his church office to make the ransom demand.
"Rev. Moses is a man of prayer and strong faith, and I am convinced that God will see him through this terrible ordeal," Maina said.
Predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen have launched numerous attacks on Christians in northern and central Nigeria. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria's population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranks 12th on Open Doors' World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.