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Deniliquin doctor's ambush terror in Nigeria

The vehicle Doctor Sydney Paul was travelling in near the Nigerian captial of Abuja on Sunday was peppered with machine gun bullets, killing the driver.

ZOE MCMAUGH May 16, 2014 4:00am

A photo of Pastor Josie (far left) and Ruth Hodge with Emmanuel Razack (white shirt) who was killed in the attack.


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Deniliquin doctor Sydney Paul has fled Nigeria after the driver of the car he was travelling in was shot in the head and killed on Sunday.

Dr Paul was travelling with his friend and missionary Kent Hodge, who is now based out of Deniliquin, when their cavalcade was ambushed by militants only two hours into their journey from the Nigerian capital of Abuja to the town of Jos.

The militants peppered the vehicles with machine guns, killing Dr Paul’s driver and friend, Emmanuel Razack, who was the leader of the Christian Faith Ministries’ Bible School in Jos.

The Deniliquin doctor, Mr Hodge, another passenger, Pastor Josie, and the other survivors were ordered out of their vehicles by the militants, who threatened to hold them for ransom, according to Mr Hodge’s wife, Ruth, who is currently in Deniliquin with the couple’s two youngest children.

‘‘Kent said they were told to get out of their cars and the militants threatened to kill them,’’ Mrs Hodge said.

‘‘They took cash, phones, laptops, cameras, passports – all items of value.

‘‘They were angry that there was not enough because they expected more form foreigners, and threatened to keep Sydney and Kent for ransom.

‘‘Kent explained that as missionaries they didn’t have much money, and the militants got even angrier,’’ she said.

‘‘They (hostages) were told to walk into the bush, and with the militants behind them Kent said he expected they would be shot in the back.

‘‘They walked for an hour searching for a village and some assistance ... they didn’t dare to look back.

‘‘Eventually they decided they would have to turn back, and when they arrived back to the car the mobile police and ambulances were there.

‘‘Kent said the car was so full of bullets he didn’t know how they survived.’’

Mr Hodge opted to stay on in the African country despite the harrowing ordeal.

Dr Paul is now in India where he sent this message to the Pastoral Times on Wednesday:

‘‘I am grateful and thankful to the people of Deniliquin regarding their enquiries and concerns about the incident in Nigeria.

‘‘I am now spending time under care of my in-laws in India.

‘‘Thankfully I had my passport which helped me to leave Nigeria and I am returning back to Deniliquin on May 23 and resume work on May 26.’’

Dr Paul’s wife, Priscilla, said she savoured the moment when she finally got to speak to her husband.

‘‘It’s only by God’s grace that they (Sydney, Kent and Pastor Josie) were saved,’’ she said.

‘‘Sydney said he wasn’t afraid at all; I guess in that situation the courage comes. It’s something you usually only see in movies and don’t think it’s going to happen to you.’’

Mrs Paul also thanked the community for its ‘‘concerns and prayers’’, saying the schools, churches and general public have been ‘‘very supportive’’.

Both Mrs Paul and Mrs Hodge said their thoughts and prayers were now with Mr Razack’s family in Nigeria.

‘‘Kent and I have known Emmanuel for 22 years; he was the head of the work we are doing there.

‘‘He was a husband and father of three kids, the youngest of which was only born in January.’’

Mrs Hodge, who has lived and worked in Nigeria doing missionary work with her husband for 28 years, believes it was a random attack by the militants.

‘‘These militants are a nomadic people and in their culture they have no value for anyone not of their culture,’’ she said.

‘‘It was a random attack; it was about money.

‘‘These particular militants have always been aggressive, but never more so than in the last five years after they got access to weapons.’’

Mrs Hodge said similar to Dr Paul, her husband wasn’t scared.

‘‘As a Christian, he knew he would be going to heaven,’’ she said.

‘‘If they didn’t have faith, they probably would be frightened.’’

She also said she had a terrible feeling something was wrong on Sunday before finding out about the ambush, saying her husband did not check in with her by text message.

‘‘There’s a nine-hour time difference and I had received a message from Kent saying they had left Abuja.

‘‘I was waiting for the message to say they had arrived in Jos, but it never came.

‘‘I knew something was wrong. I went on Facebook and saw a post from Emmanuel’s brother David, saying he had lost his brother.

‘‘In that time, Sydney had called home to a friend, who then called me and said they had been involved in an armed robbery, and that’s all we knew then.’’

Having hidden a phone in his sock, Mrs Hodge said was eventually able to get a number for Pastor Josie and make contact with her husband.

‘‘By that time, they were back in Abuja and they had taken Sydney straight to the airport,’’ she said.

‘‘He had his passport hidden in a bumbag and there was no point him staying, so they waited with him at the airport until he could get a ticket and then went back to a hotel.

‘‘The next morning, Kent and Pastor Josie went to the Australian High Commission for new passports before arranging Emmanuel’s transfer to Keffi.’’

Originally planning to be in Nigeria for six weeks, Mrs Hodge said she was now unsure when her husband would return home.

She said he has a lot of work to do now that the organisation’s leader had been killed.

Mrs Hodge said that while the majority of Nigerians are nice people, violence like this occurs on a regular basis.

She said many people involved in the Christian Faith Ministries had lost family members in ‘‘murders’’ and that she and her husband only just escaped being caught up in an armed robbery at their Nigerian home in December.

She said the Christian Faith Ministries’ work aims to help stop the violence by connecting communities.

‘‘The only way to solve this is to bring communities together, and that’s what we’re trying to do,’’ she said.

‘‘If we can bridge the gaps, we can hopefully wipe out the violence.’’

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