A popular Catholic priest in Nigeria, Father Ejike Mbaka, and some members of his church, assaulted a BBC team and two others at his complex in Emene town in south-eastern Enugu State on Wednesday evening.
BBC journalists Chioma Obianinwa and Nnamdi Agbanelo, as well as their driver, Ndubuisi Nwafor, were accompanied by another Catholic priest, Father Cajethan Obiekezie and his assistant, Solomon Orakam, to Father Mbaka’s Adoration Ministry at around 10:00 local time on Wednesday.
Father Obiekezie had facilitated an interview with Father Mbaka, but it could not be immediately held because he was preaching.
The BBC crew, led by Father Obiekezie, moved to Father Mbaka’s home after the church service to conduct the interview at around 17:00.
When Father Mbaka got home, the journalists, who were waiting in the car after Father Obiekezie went to talk to him, were suddenly surrounded by about 20 men.
According to Obianinwa, the men seized their equipment and threatened to kill them for writing “negative reports about Mbaka”.
“Mbaka asked us to wait until the end of the programme for the interview. The men outside his house said BBC Igbo writes negative things about Mbaka and started beating Nnamdi, Solomon and Ndubuisi. They gave them heavy blows on their heads and all over their body,” Obianinwa said.
The BBC reporter further said that Father Mbaka and Father Obiekezie came out of the house when they heard the noise and that Father Mbaka faced her and started poking his fingers in her face, calling her “satanic”.’
“This fired up the men to continue the attacks as Father Mbaka continued shouting and abusing us. He asked his men to seize our phones and cameras. They said they would kill us and nothing would happen. They removed my wig and tried to strangle Nnamdi. Father Obiekezie was telling them to stop but they attacked him too and seized his phone,” she said.
Obianinwa said the attacks stopped when she screamed that “the world would know that they were killed in Mbaka’s house”.
“At this point, Father Mbaka asked us to leave before his men killed us. He asked them to return our equipment and they chased us out of the compound. His men trailed us till we left the state to seek medical assurance and police help,” she said.
When the BBC called the number on Father Mbaka’s official Facebook page for his reaction, it was switched off.