PASTOR Albarka Bitrus Sukuya, the Jos, Plateau State-based cleric who was recently paraded by the state’s police command, must be lamenting his woes in detention right now. The exact opposite of what he professed until he was recently apprehended, Sukuya twice faked his own abduction and led his congregants to pay ransom, only to sing like a caged bird once in police net. That is not all: Pastor Sukuya also confessed that he was responsible for setting his colleagues’ vehicles parked outside the Jenta Apata premises of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Jos ablaze. In a statement, Alfred Alabo, the Plateau State police spokesman, said that prior to Sukuya’s arrest, he had staged two kidnap incidents during which he collected the sums of N400,000 and N200,000 from his church members. The sums were paid between November 14 and November 15 2022.
It is indeed disheartening that these heinous crimes were committed by a cleric. If anything, Sukuya’s case shows the level of decadence in religious circles and the Nigerian society as a whole. Highly revered members of the society are now involved in crimes against humanity. Yet, as the Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales says, if gold rusts, what will iron do? If decent, godly and patriotic conduct cannot be associated with clergymen, who is it supposed to be associated with? Time and again, Nigeria’s public space is suffused with news of otherwise respected members of the society engaging in conduct that is inimical to the wellbeing of the society, betraying the trust reposed in them without the slightest prick of conscience. By the very nature of their vocation, clerics are supposed to be beacons of light and hope to those who are in moral and spiritual darkness, not agents of destruction. Surely, the lofty example which the pastor is expected to be, especially to the younger generation, has been destroyed by his lack of circumspection and self-control, and this is what we find in every sphere of the society. This society certainly needs to be sanitised.
It is a no-brainer that raising ransoms in this terrible economy is extremely difficult. In the desperate bid to rescue their pastor, Sukuya’s congregants, most of whom are probably poor and needy, may have contributed their entire savings to save him. While N400,000 and N200,000 may not sound like a lot of money to some, a critical analysis of the Nigerian condition would show that it is indeed a lot among most of Nigeria’s chronically impoverished population. The minimum wage in this country is still N30,000, and most of the states are not even paying it. Sadly, Pastor Sukuya, scoffing at the desperate contributions of his church members born out of love and deep concern for his safety, used them as a prop to perverse prosperity. He showed no mercy to people desperately concerned about his safety.
Certainly, Pastor Sukuya’s story is such a bewildering tale that speaks to the depth of moral decay and decadence in the country. Imagine a pastor that is supposed to be in charge of the moral training and upbringing of his congregants, and thus expected to be the personification of the moral teachings he would ordinarily be dishing out and pretending to impart to them, now deliberately exploiting and extorting money from them, wilfully betraying their trust in him! Just how would the congregants have believed that their pastor could fraudulently get himself kidnapped in order to fleece them of their hard-earned money? This is sheer brigandage and betrayal of trust in the worst possible form. It is conspiracy and betrayal of trust rolled into one.
The government must ensure that this decadent pastor faces the strictest of punishment for his dastardly act. It is important to state, of course, that the cheap resort by many people, including this pastor, to the kidnapping regimen is due to the relative success of abductions in the land in the absence of rigorous governmental action to apprehend perpetrators. The government has a responsibility to make crimes unattractive by ensuring that no crime is left undetected and unresolved and by making perpetrators pay heavily, which would then dissuade others from following the same path. It must act with more decisiveness to eliminate the cheap resort to crime in the country. In this regard, the swift and resolute prosecution of this sordid pastor is definitely a good way to go.
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