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,” Br. Peter says, adding that Benjamin was kicked out of the group following the ordeal.
The other three- Peter, Godwin, and Anthony- who didn’t speak Hausa were led away, embarking on a five-day journey of flogging, empty stomachs, and long hours of walking barefoot in mashes, 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 October 21,” he says, adding that Br. Godwin walked in from 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. 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, made us to sit out in the open while they surrounded us. Sometimes, we were rained on while they made a fire for themselves away from us,” Peter narrates.
(Story continues below)
The kidnappers had demanded 150m Naira (US$190,000.00) when they called the monastery, a few hours after they took Peter and his companions. The amount, Peter says, was too huge for the monastery.
Whenever the ransom negotiations went south, the kidnappers turned to the three monks with their weapons to steam off.
“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,” Br. Peter says, and adds, “I lack words to describe those men. To me, they have lost every sense of humanity. Something else is living in them.”
Br. Godwin Eze (second from left) with others at Benedictine Monastery, Eruku. Credit: Benedictine Monastery Eruku
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. The insects bit us and since our bodies were numb, we only noticed the swelling in the morning,” Peter said.
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 says.
On the way, the men smoked all kinds of substances, Peter says, and adds, “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.”
Br. Godwin was killed on October 18 (Wednesday) at night.
As usual, he was walking ahead of Brs. Peter and Anthony in the dark.
“I heard Godwin cry out in a very loud voice. One of the men flashed a torch light and I could see my brother standing in a pool of his blood. A big piece of wood had torn through his ankle, baring his flesh. As he struggled to remove the piece of wood from his leg with his hands tied behind his back, he stumbled and fell into a large pit,” Peter narrates.
Badly injured, Br. Godwin could not walk again. This aggravated the kidnappers’ anger given that their negotiations for ransom were not going as they wanted.
“That night, the beating was worse than the previous occasions. The men had kept threatening us that they were going to kill us. That night, we knew they were going to make good their threats” Br. Peter narrates, and adds, “I heard one of the men cock their guns. I said a prayer ‘Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit’. A shot was fired. It was Godwin that they shot.”
Peter describes the killing of Godwin as the worst day of his life.
“Anthony and I were so mad. We screamed at the men, begging them to kill us. We couldn’t take the torture anymore,” he says.
Godwin was murdered on the edge of a fast flowing river. His two companions were then forced to throw his body into the river. “We tried our best to refuse amid the beating they gave us. After a while, we signaled each other, held the body of our brother Godwin by the arm and leg, and tried to jump into the river with the body. Anthony jumped in first, but was quickly pulled out. After that, he received a thorough beating for it.”
“I couldn’t sleep on the day that my brother Godwin was killed. The men promised to kill me on Thursday and to kill Anthony of Friday unless they received money from our families who they had roped into their evil negotiations,” Peter says, adding that the men had dozens of mobile phones and a solar panel which kept their communication with the monastery flowing.
Asked what kept them going, Br. Peter says, “We stuck to our prayers. In fact, it was Bother Godwin’s idea that we continue with our mental prayers. We would signal each other to pray silently since the men didn’t want to hear the mention of the name ‘Jesus’.”
The Benedictine Monastery is located in Kwara State which is bordered by Kogi and Niger States. By Saturday, October 21, Brs. Peter and Anthony had walked up to the Kogi border, miles away from their community. As they approached Kogi, the negotiations between their abductors and their monastery had a breakthrough and they were released.
“We were in a very bad shape,” Peter says, and recalls, “I could look at brother Anthony and see that he was at the verge of death.”
“I remember taking the back seat on the bus since I was smelling vary bad. I hadn’t brushed my teeth for five days. I hadn’t taken a bath and definitely, I hadn’t had a change of clothes,” he narrates.
Peter says that the October ordeal at the hands of his kidnappers has strengthened his faith. “I joined the monastery hoping to make it to heaven. After my kidnapping and the horrors I encountered, it has become clear to me that I want something more. I am prepared to die a martyr in this dangerous country. I am ready any time to die for Jesus. I feel this very strongly.”
The monk has fond memories of Br. Godwin who has also been described as easygoing and prayerful.
“Brother Godwin was my senior in the monastery. He guided me on many occasions. I sometimes sat next to him in the oratory and he would help me open the prayer book. Some days, as I fumbled with the prayer book, he would sense my struggles and give me his already opened book. He would then take mine and quickly open the page and join the rest of us in the praying or singing. He was that loving and caring,” Br. Peter says, and adds, “I have no doubt that brother Godwin is in heaven.”
Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.