It has been discovered that a man killed and claimed by the Nigerian Army to be a senior militant in the Niger Delta region was actually a pastor who had been kidnapped days before.

Pastor Andrew Anthony killed by Nigerian Army In Niger Delta
Pastor Andrew Anthony | PremiumTimes

The pastor, Andrew Anthony was killed late August when soldiers raided a hideout of militants in Rivers State ahead of the formal launch of “Operation Crocodile Smile”.

But investigation showed that soldiers who went for the operation knew Mr. Anthony was a kidnap victim, yet the Army, in its official statement, circulated his photograph to the media as one of five top militants killed in the area.

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Mr. Anthony was abducted by gunmen outside his home at Ada George Road in Port Harcourt on August 18 and his family had contacted PREMIUM TIMES to investigate the case.

The pastor was returning to his residence after a church programme when he was attacked by gunmen, his family said.

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Armed men swooped on the pastor as he waited for his wife to open the gate to his residence. The assailants bundled him into the trunk of a waiting vehicle and drove off into the night. The time was about 7:00 p.m.

Everything happened within seconds,” his wife, Becky Anthony, told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview. “I couldn’t even say where they emerged from.”

Mr. Anthony’s twin brother, John Anthony, said the family reported the matter the same night at the police divisional headquarters along Ada George Road. They also filed a complaint at the Port Harcourt field office of the State Security Service, SSS, where officials promised action.

Working alongside the family, the detectives established the first contact with Mr. Anthony’s captors three days after. The kidnappers demanded ₦10 million, but the family offered ₦3 million.

The kidnappers promised to revert after considering the offer. Then, things went silent for another three days, leaving the family wondering what might have gone wrong.

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On August 28, Mr. Anthony received a phone call on August 28 from a relative who asked him to return the call immediately.

Felicia Obi, his in-law, said she had seen a photo showing Mr. Anthony’s body on the internet.

Direct quotes from the Army statement, which was signed by its spokesman, Sani Usman, read:

“The 133 Special Forces Battalion of Nigerian Army troops have carried out a precursor operation to Exercise CROCODILE SMILE aimed at getting rid of all forms of criminal activities in the Niger Delta geo-political region of Nigeria.

“In the course of the operation, five militants that attacked the troops were killed in action, while numerous others were injured and 23 suspects were arrested,” Mr. Usman, a colonel, said.

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While the statement did not mention the names of militants killed in the operation, Ms. Obi immediately recognised Mr. Anthony’s body, published alongside the statement, as one of the militants.

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“I knew him very well and was aware that the family had been looking for him since he was kidnapped,” Ms. Obi said

After waiting for about an hour with little progress, he contacted a friend, a senior military official, to assist.
“He was the one who then put me through to the commandant at the Air Force Base along Aba Road, Port Harcourt,” Mr. Anthony said.

Pastor Andrew Anthony with his kids

“When I got there, a female flying officer met me at the entrance and took me straight to see the commandant. I narrated my story and showed him the news printout; he was shocked.”

It was at the base that Mr. Anthony learnt for the first time that the operation was jointly carried out by the Army and the Air Force.

“He told me it was a joint operation by the Army and the Air Force,” he said.

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