Nigerian Police Investigate Pastors in Suspected Kidnapping

An Ondo State police spokesperson, Funmilayo Odunlami, said police were talking with parents and relatives of the 77 rescued worshippers on Monday, trying to determine what happened at the church.

Police on Friday raided the basement of the Whole Bible Believers Church, following a tip by a parent who told authorities her children were missing.

The police freed 54 adults and 23 children.

Odunlami said they were believed to be waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ, following a sermon by a church pastor.

Odunlami said police arrested two church leaders after the raid. She said they have denied the allegations of kidnapping.

“The pastors still claim that they were having a seven-day program. The one who claimed that Jesus was to come by September said it was what God told him; but, we want to ask more questions from the parents that are around; we want to first of all get this information clear from the parents.”

Odunlami said the state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has taken over the case and will update the public on what it finds.

The U.N. Children’s Fund in Nigeria praised authorities for the rescue mission, and for saving the youngsters in particular. Peter Hawkins is UNICEF’s Nigeria country director.

“It’s about the basic freedom to be able to do what a child needs to do, wants to do. And at the end of the day, the psychosocial impact on those children is going to be profound and would need to be carefully managed. For those badly affected who might have been abused, we don’t know.”

The rescued victims remained with state police Monday. Authorities say they will be reunited with their families once investigations are concluded.

UNICEF is urging more evaluation of the children before returning them to their homes.

Source: Voice of America

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