According to Saturday Punch, New information has come to light on the controversial kidnapping of a seven-year-old boy by his parents’ neighbour and mother of four, Mrs. Rosemary Chukwu, in Majidun area of Ikorodu, Lagos. The suspect claimed in her statement given to the police after her arrest, that Pastor Ernest Nwankwo of the Holy Family Happy Family Ministry (aka House of Mercy) offered to pay her N2.5m if he could deliver the child, our correspondent learnt from a police source. According to Chukwu’s statement, the pastor had appeared to her many times in her dream and had even made love to her in dreams before she decided to do his bidding.
The woman, whom residents of their Omo Ologede neighbourhood described as a firebrand “prayer warrior” kidnapped seven-year-old Emmanuel Emeka, son of her co-tenant, while the boy went to fetch water from a well located within their compound early in the morning. Chukwu, who was said to have been a choir mistress at House of Mercy, had alleged at the time that the popular pastor sent her to kidnap the child, whom she gagged and stuffed in a large luggage.
Nwankwo, who is from Nsugbe in Anambra East Local Government Area of Anambra State, was arrested on Monday at Ebute Metta, Lagos, after the police had been on his trail for many days. Chukwu, who was nearly lynched by residents of the area before police intervention last week Wednesday, has now told the police that the genesis of the kidnapping plan was when she approached the pastor for a loan. Our source said, “The woman said that when she told the pastor that she needed some money, the pastor told her that he could only lend her the money if she could bring a child in return.
“She told us that the pastor promised to give her N2.5m in return if she could get a child by any means and deliver the child.” However, Saturday PUNCH learnt that the pastor who is being detained at the Department of Criminal Investigation, Panti, Lagos, has denied Chukwu’s allegations. Our correspondent noticed that Nwankwo’s church has shut down its website. When our correspondent visited the church premises at Majidun on Wednesday, it was locked up. Residents of the area said nobody had visited the church since the police who had initially barricaded the place against looters left.
Our correspondent who spoke with Kelvin Emeka, the kidnapped child’s father on Friday, learnt of the emotional struggle the young boy has been combating since he was saved from his kidnapper. Emeka described Chukwu as a reserved praying woman, who kept mostly to herself. He said, “We only know each other as co-tenants and within the two years that we lived in the same compound, nobody saw or knew her husband. “When we were at the police station, she was asked of the phone number of her husband, she did not know it. She was also asked to provide the address of his workplace, she could not provide that as well.
“All I can say is that God loves my family. That was why she did not succeed in taking my child away to the ritual killers who sent her. “Emmanuel still feels pain on his neck where the woman tried to strangle him before she put him in the luggage but the hospital did a great job on him. He is still undergoing treatment but he has been discharged.” He said the boy has been having panic attacks since he was discharged from hospital. “Nobody can touch him anymore, not even my siblings. The only people whom he allows to touch him now are his mother and I. He sees every other person suspiciously and gets scared when they want to touch him. But I know he would be okay. God has delivered him,” Emeka said.
Emeka said the day Chukwu was caught by residents of their neighbourhood, a green sports utility vehicle picked up the suspect’s four children and they have not been seen since then. But the man is concerned for the safety of his family. “I don’t know what the members of that pastor’s church are planning. I don’t know the kind of arrangement he (Nwankwo) must have made before he was arrested. The police should ensure nobody harms my family because it is no longer my family that has a case with him. It is a criminal case being prosecuted by the police, not me,” he said.
Our correspondent also learnt that some other members of Nwankwo’s church were apprehended after Chukwu’s arrest but it is not clear what the level of their culpability is. This case again brings to the fore the rising cases of child theft in the country, which Saturday PUNCH reported in June. Police spokesperson in the state, Ngozi Braide, said investigation was still ongoing on in the case. “We are doing all we can to follow every lead. Every truth would come to light on this issue. But we cannot reveal too much information that could jeopardise our investigation at this moment,” she said.