The cleric recounts how he was allegedly attacked by terrorists along Otukpo Road in Benue State on his way back from a crusade in Abia State.
Pastor Peter Kegh, a Benue-based cleric, has talked about his horrific experience with terrorists.
The cleric recounts to GODFREY GEORGE how he was allegedly attacked by terrorists along Otukpo Road in Benue State on his way back from a crusade in Abia State.
You were reported to have been attacked by terrorists around Ugbokolo Otukpo Junction, Benue State. What really happened?
My name is Peter Kegh. I live in Benue State and I am an evangelist. I went for evangelism in Abia State and was on my way back to my station in Benue State on June 15, 2022, when I was accosted by some gun-wielding terrorists along the Ugbokolo-Otukpo at about 6.14 pm. There is a place called Otukpa Junction. Once you get there, if you are driving, you will notice a long descent of about two or three kilometres. One will just keep descending gradually; after descending that slope, I was supposed to climb another hill-like surface when I noticed that the vehicle ahead of me quickly made a diversion on the right into a town called Ogbokolo. I didn’t think anything was off, so I continued my trip. But as I climbed the gradual slope and levelled, I saw, in a stretch, some persons wearing black outfits across the road. When I saw them, at first, I thought they were police officers, so I didn’t really read any meaning into it. I wondered what they were doing there. I was in the car with my wife, mother-in-law and two other ladies. About 100 metres to where the first group was standing, they flagged me to stop. I was at a speed of 100km per hour, so I couldn’t slow down immediately. I almost slowed down but something in me just told me to continue moving. “Even the police shouldn’t just stop somebody like that on the highway,” I thought to myself. So, I decided to start moving.
What happened after that?
Those guys began to shoot. They targeted us and were shooting directly at my car as I drove. At that point, not knowing what to do, I went down under the steering wheel with my hands on the steer and I kept driving. My head was faced down; I just tried to maintain a straight line but the shooting continued. My wife, my over 80-year-old mother-in-law and two other ladies all began to shout. We screamed, “Jesus! Jesus!” amid the gunshots. As they shouted, I sensed my tyres were going off the road so I raised my head slightly to check and it was true. I was headed for a bush nearby so I swerved back into the road and met another set of three hooded men with AK-47s also shooting at the car. We just kept shouting and screaming the name of Jesus because it seemed like all hope was lost and there was nothing else humanly possible. We were surrounded by these terrorists and we couldn’t even think of turning back because the car was in a mess. Our sure bet was to keep moving, hoping we would escape.
How did you escape from the ambush of the terrorists?
As we screamed, it was as though there were other voices that joined in the shout which made it even louder. At that point, I became so courageous. I decided to keep driving no matter what. When we passed the three hooded terrorists, there were four others in front. Those, too, began to shoot, but I didn’t stop. I didn’t also want to look at them so that fear would not grip me. I just knew there was divine intervention. I saw fire explode from the barrels of their guns as they were shooting in front and by the sides. In the midst of all of that, God intervened and we drove past them. We were still hearing the gunshots from behind, one of them, also hooded, used a bike to come after us with speed. He rode close to my side and shook his head and turned back.
Were your tyres not affected?
The pictures are there. They aimed for the tyres but somehow, the bullets landed on the frames of the tyre and affected the tube; I could still manage for a while, though the car started jerking after a few minutes. When I throttled it, it did not respond. It moved slowly on its own, so I decided to manage it like that till I saw a checkpoint in front.
How close was the checkpoint to the scene of the attack?
(The checkpoint was) very close. A mobile police officer was standing by the road unarmed. Another officer was in the shade but he had no gun. They were laughing at us as we drove past. I kept managing the car a little further until I saw that we had a little settlement where we found some oncoming cars parked. It was at that point that it looked like they (the drivers) were aware of the attack and had to park. I went further and I saw two checkpoints but decided to stop at the third one. My car had stopped. So, when I looked at the vehicle, I found out that one of the bullets hit the engine and affected the injector manifold, piercing through it. That was what caused the low compression. So, I got some paper and wrapped it with sellotape to cover the hole. When I started the car, it moved, at least, at a better speed. It was no longer jerking, though it was still vibrating. I was able to move for about 67km before my front tyre by the driver’s seat went flat completely. When I stopped to check, I discovered that another bullet had hit the alloyed rail very close but didn’t get the tyre although the tyre was scratched and had begun to leak. I got a mechanic nearby who topped air into it before we continued.
At what time did that happen?
It was already night. We couldn’t move further, so we moved to a settlement called Alaede, where we slept till the next day. It was there that I was given a tyre tube which they (villagers) helped me fix and then I continued to my destination.
How did you feel when the suspected terrorists shot at you and your family members?
The first thing was that when I saw people in black on the road, bearing AK-47s, I honestly thought they were law enforcement agents. It was on a second look that I noticed that they had red masks on, hiding their identities. When the shooting started, the amazing thing was that I didn’t panic. I was normal. When I notice live ammunition was being shot at us, I knew I couldn’t let go now because I knew how ruthless these terrorists could be. I had just watched the interview of the Methodist prelate who was released from the kidnappers’ den so I had that consciousness in my head. I cannot explain but I had no fear in me. I just knew we were in danger and we knew that only God could intervene for us and that was why we kept calling on the name of Jesus, and he answered his name.
How bad is your car now?
I think pictures alone will do justice to this. When I look at the car, it is hard for me to believe none of us was hurt. The bullets had come from the front, back and side. I remember I saw when one of the terrorists aimed at the glass where my wife was seated, but the bullet hit the door. If you see the pictures, you will see that the bullet rebounded and pierced the door and came out from the other side. The bullet is still inside the car. The mechanic told us that we may have to use fire to be able to get the bullet out. (Laughs) My car is not bulletproof. It is just a regular car.
It seems the terrorists target preachers and clerics because about 16 clerics have been attacked in 2022 alone. Is there a reason for this?
Honestly, I am not a very important person. I am just a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t say it was a targeted attack on my person. This is because, even after our incident, someone else said they were attacked. One of the persons even lost a loved one. Now, what people do is wait for a military convoy to pass so that all of them would join the convoy to pass. That is the only way to feel safe.
Did you report this case to the authorities since you had evidence?
How do I do that, when I passed a checkpoint that was not far from where I was attacked and I was being laughed at by officers of the law? How do I trust them? It was a mobile police checkpoint, and they were on duty. In fact, they should have heard the sound of the gunshots if they were more attentive. I was even amazed when I saw them standing by. They were not alarmed even as they saw my car pass by. These are people who are supposed to be in charge and have those territories under control, for God’s sake! They were just too casual, and it sent a wrong signal. For me, Nigeria has got to a stage where all we have is just God.
How are you handling the shock a month after?
I haven’t recovered from the shock. This is why I tell everyone that if they have no critical need to travel, they should not put themselves on the highway. I couldn’t even imagine those terrorists with those women (who were in my car) in captivity. What would have happened to my wife, her aged mother, the 12-year-old girl and the other two ladies? It is better not to imagine! The only thing we can do now is to pray for this country because the security situation of this country is becoming unpredictable, very horrifying and nightmarish. As I drive now, I imagine a lot of things. It has not been the same with me.
As a preacher, did you have any intuition that you would be attacked?
I did, but I was not attentive enough. I even had to change my tyre just 30 minutes into the journey; I changed another tyre near Enugu State, and I knew something was off but I am just grateful to God.