The memory of May 8, 2017 robbery in Ilorin, Kwara State will linger on for so long if not forever in the mind of Reverend Dr Solomon Ademola Gbenjo, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Surulere, Ilorin and two other Reverend Fathers Abiodun Olatide and Tunde Ajayi. Some unknown robbers invaded the Mission House for the very first time in the history of the church in over 70 years of the church’s existence. MOSUNMOLA AYOBAMI spoke with Pastor, Reverend Gbenjo on how the incident happened… Below are excerpts of the interview.
When did the incident happen Sir?
The incident happened early on May 8. They (robbers) got to our own apartment around 2 am because they forced the door open. Although my daughter said she was hearing when the door was been broken but she was afraid. So her room was the first place of visit, my laptop was there with the receipt and the bag. Around that time, somebody was to come and collect N20,000 from her but unfortunately could not come, that was the first money they grabbed. They took some of her wrist watches, so when they dealt with her to some extent, they asked her to lead them to our bedroom, they came in, asked us to face down and ransacked the house. As soon as they came in they said they had killed one of the gate men and that if we did not corporate, they would kill us too. After a while, they said I was looking at them and then they hit me with belt, though just once but it was a serious hit. That was how the whole thing started. It caught us unawares. But when they came, they told me they saw me on the evening 7th of May because I went to Emanuel Baptist Church for a programme so I came in around 8pm. They said they saw me but I wouldn’t know where they were.
Was there any prior notification about the visit?
There was nothing like that.
How many were the robbers?
I would n’t be able to say clearly, but two of them came in. But the people were saying they were about 8 but I didn’t see them, because when they finished dealing with us, it was my daughter they asked to lead them to the two other Reverend’s apartments and only two of them left here.
What are the items carted away?
From my own end they took my Hp laptop, apple I-pad, the two mobile sets that belong to me, Samsung ground plus, c20 Nokia, the two phones that belong to my wife, one Techno and a Nokia. They also took the N20,000 I packed to give to our guest speaker the following morning, so I just put it where I can easily lay my hands on it. Over N100,000 was taken from my office, as the church is observing 31-day fasting and prayers but they must have gone with some other money. We discovered we didn’t see one new towel, I could also not see one of my black shoes. I think they went away with some bed sheets about two or three, a long touch light, small radio. For Rev. Ajayi- Hp laptop,Techno phone,wrist watch, adult bag then N102,000 and a 64 gb flash drive. They ransacked all the bags of my wife. We just thank God we are alive. After they finished with us they tied my hands to the back and legs and this is the wound I sustained when I was trying to force the rope to lose. It was a terrible experience and we just thank God for our lives. For Rev. Olatide- LG phone, (L30x), Hp laptop, his son’s laptop, N73,000, N23,000 as counted the last time for my wife’s wares. That was before the Convention in April, then another N20-25,000 made at shop between Friday and Saturday. The other one I will not want to disclose the amount is a Cooperative Loan we were to pay back on Tuesday 9th of May. Then one of them took one of my suits and wore another, while going, which was around N12,000 when I bought it.
Was there any robbery in the church before the May 8 incident?
Yes there were; thieves have come on three occasions to steal motor cycles, the owner of the bike went to report at the police station so they resolved that their company would pay those involved. As we were using a guard from one of this guard’s company, each motor cycle costs N210,000 so they said they would pay them N70,000 so there was an agreement between them. They came the second time, the third time before this May 8 incident and about seven motor bikes have been stolen.
What step has the church taken concerning the May 8 incident?
We went to report to police, they came to see things for themselves, interview and counsel us as to what we can do to avert future occurrence. We followed them to their office to write a statement, then the day before yesterday (Thursday) I sent one of my deacons and another person to B Division to ask them if there was information regarding that and the response they gave me was nothing to write home about. And they went to the DPO, the day the incident happened. By the time the thieves were still in the church some of the church members and a pastor were trying to come through the gate they told me the thieves were flashing light at them,one of my pastors went to the police station and instead of them to act promptly they were saying ‘I can not come, I am not the person to call the DPO. If they had acted promptly, they would have tracked them down, then I was told one of the thieves asked the security, do they know any police man who once served here? Can they identify him if they see him? And the guard said no. They said they were sent!
Has any other church fallen victim of robbery attacks in Ilorin before or after the May 8 incident?
There are. I learned they went to the headquarters of Winners on the same May 8 along Gaa-Imam. I learned they entered the Pastor’s Office that very day. Then before that day, before the crusade Rev. R. M Popoola did, I learned they visited him and asked where he got the money he used for crusade, then I learned they had gone to Baba Adio about two times. Then sometimes last year, about seven churches were raided at Eyenkorin and First Baptist Church, Eyenkorin was one of them. Those are the few churches I knew have been affected.
Has the Christian Association Nigeria (CAN), Kwara Branch taken any step concerning this?
I think they are in the process of taking but I believe the Chairman and Secretary will be able to give definite answers but I told both of them and the neighbourhood that this time around we should do something, we should write a strong letter.
What security measure is the church putting in place to avert future occurrence?
We have held meetings and we have decided that we will look for security that are stronger than the one we are using now as they don’t have any weapon to fight and may be do some other security devices.