Thursday, September 29, 2022

Police rescue over 20 ‘abducted’ children from Ondo church underground

At least 50 church attendees, including under-age children between the ages of 8, 10 and 12 years old, were kept in an “underground” facility of the church.

• July 2, 2022
Police Commissioner Oyeyemi Oyediran

A new generation church where worshippers, mostly teens, are kept underground, has been discovered in Ondo state, Peoples Gazette can report. 

The worship centre belonging to “The Whole Bible Believers Church” in the Valentino area of Ondo town, was busted by the police on Friday night, following a tip-off. 

At least 50 church attendees including under-age children were found in an “underground” facility of the church. The children were between the ages of 8, 10, and 12 years old. 

It was gathered that some parents of the children were formerly attending the church. 

Witnesses said the children were abducted from their parents and kept in the church underground by the founder. 

One of the witnesses, Omotayo Omolayo, told The Gazette that he led the detectives of the Fagun Police Division in Ondo to rescue the victims. 

Mr Omolayo is the President of the Great Constitutional Right and Justice Forum in Nigeria. He narrated how he discovered the church, which has operated in the area for years. 

According to him, the pastor of the church, David Anifowose, and his assistant, Josiah Peter, had been “brainwashing” their victims. 

“A woman came to my office a few days ago that she wanted to pick her children in the church because they had been attending a programme there. 

“And these children have been writing their WAEC exams too but she said the pastor did not allow her to pick them.

“The woman told us that the pastor said he will not release her children because there will be ‘raptured’ (coming of Christ) by September and he wants her children to make it to heaven.”

Mr Omolayo said that after hearing from the woman, he visited the church to make findings. He said residents on the same street as the church complained to him about the pastor’s activities. 

“They told us that the pastor had just completed a 100 days prayer programme and wanted to start another programme for 11 days.

“And those who had been attending the prayer have also been staying there (eating and bathing) without being allowed to go home. 

“I was also told that underage children populated the church for the programme.”

While explaining that he visited the church premises but was denied entry into the auditorium, Mr Omolayo revealed that he had to call the police for action. 

“Immediately, I hinted the security men from the Fagun Police station here in Ondo town and they came. But Surprisingly, the church members overpowered the first set of policemen and beat them up. 

“They tore the clothes of the policemen and we had to call for reinforcement before many of them fled and we busted the underground in the church to rescue the children,” he added. 

The police spokesperson in the state, Funmilayo Odunlami, confirmed the rescue of the victims to The Gazette in an interview on Saturday evening.  

Ms Odunlami said the police have also arrested the pastor and his assistant, adding that investigation was still ongoing over the matter. 

“The arrest followed complaints of some parents who reported the case to the police in Ondo town. So, give us more time and we’ll get back after our conclusion on the case,” the police spokesperson said over the phone.

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