A painter, Gabriel Oluwagbenga, whose car was allegedly stolen at the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Keffi, Nasarawa State, while attending a programme organised by the church on November 12, 2022.
In a chat with The Punch tells OPEYEMI ADEFEMI how the loss has affected him
Where are you from?
I am from Abeokuta, Ogun State, but I live in Abuja.
How did your car get stolen?
It happened on Saturday, November 12, 2022. I attended a church programme at the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God at Keffi (Nasarawa State). I went there on Friday and parked my car as usual. After the programme the next morning, I went to the place where I parked my car so I could leave but it was nowhere to be found. The car had been stolen.
Where exactly did you park your car? Was it at the Church’s official parking lot or within the premises?
I parked the car outside the church. The programme is one that usually has plenty of attendees, so there was no space to accommodate every car. It was opposite the gate and there were many cars parked there as well. I parked behind a coastal bus and there were other cars parked behind me as well. There were police officers in their vehicles around the church. Apart from the church engaging the police, there were several security men outside the church to maintain order.
Did you see any signs warning that vehicles were parked at the owner’s risk where you parked your car?
People parked on both sides. It was even the church’s volunteer security guards that directed me to park there. There was light and there were many cars parked there. No, there were no warning signs.
Did you see any sign that the car was broken into?
When I got to where I parked it the previous day, there was no sign that a thief broke the car’s glass and my car key was with me. I could not understand how the person was able to move the car without so much effort.
What was your next line of action?
I lodged a complaint at the security office of the church and I proceeded to Goshen Police Station to lay a formal complaint. That same morning, I went to the police headquarters in Abuja too. I was told to write my name and the details of the car but I have not gotten any response from them (the police). The church’s security (unit) told me that I shouldn’t have parked outside but inside the church. I was just surprised because I was not the only one that parked there and that had been the place where I parked each time I attended the programme. I tried getting the General Overseer’s number so I could file a complaint but it was not given to me.
Were there eyewitnesses? What did they say about it?
There was a man who told me he saw another man driving the car away and he thought that the man was the owner of the car as there was no struggle to move the car. The man even followed me to the police (station).
Were you the only person whose vehicle was stolen on that day?
Yes, I think so because when I went to the Keffi police station to make a formal complaint, I was told that there had not been a similar complaint. Even in the church, no one had such a story to tell.
What valuables did you have in the stolen car?
The valuables included three automatic teller machine cards, car particulars, the Bible, sandals, printing samples, Christian books, flash drives, and over N10,000 cash in the car. My car’s fuel tank was filled too.
Do you think something similar has ever happened in that area before?
It was on that day that I was told that there had been such an occurrence. It (the RCCG programme) is a yearly event. I was told that the stealing of cars has been happening over the years. That car has been of help to me and my family. Before receiving my monthly salary, I used it for a ride-hailing and, sometimes, on my way to the office, I pick up passengers. I also did that on my way from work in the evening. When I didn’t have anything to do at the office, I used the car as a taxi. It was a means of getting extra cash to take care of my family. I have never experienced this (car theft) before.
Have you gotten any leads from the police?
I went to Galadima (in Abuja) to get a police report but I was told to come back on another day. When I returned to the place, I was told that I could not get a police report until I went back to where the theft happened. On getting there (the place the theft happened), I discovered that no formal complaint had been filed as I expected. I went there with a police report and headed to court for an affidavit. I have yet to hear anything from them.
Have you received any calls from anyone concerning your car since it was stolen?
No, I have not received any calls concerning the stolen car.
How has this loss affected you?
It affected my wife more. As a man, if I am to look at the situation, it’s depressing but I am holding onto my faith in the Lord so that I don’t become depressed and discouraged. As I mentioned earlier, I also used the car for commercial purposes so that I could get extra cash to cater for my family. The car was what we had been using to avoid begging for food. My employer does not usually owe me as we all know one’s salary is not usually enough for one’s family. So, I used the car to support the petty things my family needed.
How did your wife react when you told her that the car had been stolen since it was an added means of livelihood to the family?
She has been down. Sometimes, she cries. She is just down. I am also weak but it’s just my faith that keeps me going. I will keep some of the money I made and use some of it for my children’s school fees and even stock up on food in my house.
Do you feel that the RCCG authorities showed enough concern?
They didn’t show concern and their reaction to the incident wasn’t encouraging. It was only my pastor who even tried to inform the provincial pastor. The provincial pastor sent the contact number of the regional security officer. I called him and he asked if I had made an official report to the police. I told him I had done that. I asked him whether he wanted me to forward the information about my stolen car to him and he said I shouldn’t bother since I had made an official report. There was no concern from them (RCCG).
Do you regret going to the campground in your car?
I am disappointed at the way the whole situation turned out but I do not regret attending the programme. The way the church handled the situation is discouraging.
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