“I quickly abandoned the idea to run as I felt the men’s presence in our room,” he continued. “Instead, I slid under the bed and hid there for a while. I heard them rough up my roommate Anthony, who shouted ‘Jesus!’”
Olarewaju said the men ransacked the room and found him hiding under the bed. They took him and the roommates joined two other monks, including Eze, who along with another monk, Benjamin, was already outside the house kneeling, their hands tied behind their backs.
Asked to surrender their phones, Eze is said to have calmly confessed that their devices were with Oga, the monastery’s novice master.
“I was scared for our novice master and so I quickly offered to give them my phone,” Olarewaju said. The men then led him by the gun’s barrel back to his room, where he surrendered his phone and the novice master’s phone number.
The gang leader then asked the monks who among them could speak Hausa, one of the Nigerian native languages.
“Brother Benjamin raised his hand, thinking that the men wanted someone to offer them translation services. To his shock, he was given a hot slap across his face. In fact, it was so bad that he is still being treated for it as we speak. It then occurred to us that the men didn’t want anyone that could follow their conversations in Hausa after they took us away,” Olarewaju said. Benjamin was kicked out of the group following the ordeal.
The other three — Olarewaju, Eze, and Anthony Eze — who didn’t speak Hausa, were led away, embarking on a five-day journey of flogging, starvation, and long hours of walking barefoot in marshes, through thorns and rocky grounds, up mountains, and down valleys.
“They strategically put us in a straight line with one of their men separating us. Our hands were tied behind our backs for the entire five days until we were released on Oct. 21,” Olarewaju said, adding that Eze walked in front of his two companions.
“The kidnappers were very well coordinated. They would send two ordinarily dressed men out in the day to survey the landscape and find the routes we would use during the night. When night fell, they would set us in motion, making us walk very long hours,” Olarewaju recalled. “We were not allowed to complain as they would hit us with machetes, gun barrels, and large pieces of wood. At daybreak, they pushed us in the bushes [and] made us sit out in the open while they surrounded us. Sometimes, we were rained on while they made a fire for themselves away from us.”
The kidnappers had demanded 150 million naira (about $190,000) when they called the monastery a few hours after they took Olarewaju and his companions. The amount, Olarewaju said, was too large for the monastery.
Whenever the ransom negotiations went south, the kidnappers turned to the three monks with their weapons to steam off.
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“They took turns to hit us. There is no place on our bodies they didn’t hit us. We tried our best to hide our eyes from the beating. We cried until our voices became hoarse,” Olarewaju said. “I lack words to describe those men. To me, they have lost every sense of humanity. Something else is living in them.”
Sometimes, the men would steal yams from people’s farms and prepare meals for themselves. Monks were made to carry the heavy loads of yams and not given any to eat.
One night, they were made to lie down under a large tree as it rained. “Unknown to us, we were made to lie in an ants’ nest,” Olarewaju recounted. “The insects bit us and since our bodies were numb, we only noticed the swelling in the morning.”
By 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the three were faint from hunger and no amount of beating could make them move.
“I think our kidnappers thought that we were going to die before they could collect the ransom. One of them brought out six pieces of biscuits and untied Godwin to feed us,” he said.
On the way, the men smoked all kinds of substances, Olarewaju said. “They would pick some leaves, crush them and make them into big rolls, which they kept smoking. At no given point were their lips free from the smoke.”