On March 15, 2007 when operatives of Federal Anti-Robbery Squad, FSARS invaded the house of David Godfrey to arrest him for allegedly robbing a man along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, the 43-year-old indigene of Mbube, Egbe Community, in Ogoja Local Government Area of Cross River State was sure the operatives were in the wrong house.
Five years before the FSARS invasion, Godfrey was a member of a notorious armed robbery gang terrorising travellers along the Lagos-Benin Expressway. He also engaged in many terrible crimes. But those were in his past, as Pastor Godfrey told Encounter that he vowed in 2002 after a fierce gun duel with the police after a robbery operation never to return to crime .
Past Criminal Life
Narrating to Encounter some of his past criminal exploits, Pastor Godfrey said: “One of my friends back then introduced me into armed robbery. We specialized in robbing luxury buses along the Lagos Benin Expressway. I was a good driver so anytime the gang hijacked a luxury bus; I would take over the steering. The security men at the bus parks would always search passengers including us but two of our men who pretended to be selling biscuit and other items at the park would pass guns to us through the window pretending to be selling something to us.
“Most of our operations were always successful but whenever I got home after any operation, I would be sad. We went for one operation and my gang member killed a passenger. Immediately, I parked the bus and refused to drive because the plan was not to kill anyone. I left them there and wept throughout the night when I returned home. I also took part in a bank robbery operation in the Southeast. After a fierce gun duel with the police during a robbery operation in 2002, I made a vow never to return to crime again.”
Arrested for wrong crime
Continuing his narrative, Pastor Godfrey said he kept to his vow and began to earn a living through commercial bus driving. Having turned a new leaf, he stated that it was a big shock to him, when in 2007, FSARS operatives invaded his house over a crime he knew nothing about. He said: “On March 15, 2007, one of my kinsmen who was part of my former gang led FSARS operatives to arrest me. He committed a crime along with someone else at Oke-Afo along Lagos Badagry Expressway but because he didn’t know the house of his partner, he led the operatives to my house. By the time they took me to the man he robbed, the victim said I wasn’t among those that robbed him.
“The police still refused to let me go despite the fact that the victim said I wasn’t among the people that robbed him. I spent seven months in FSARS and was seriously tortured. They beat me until I began to even confess to the things I didn’t do. They hang me upside down and inserted needle inside my penis. They insisted that I should take them to my gang but I told them that I didn’t have a gang again.
Search for gang members
Pastor Godfrey said that when the beating became severe in FSARS cell, he had to take the operatives to parks where he used to smoke Indian hemp.
He said: “I first took them to Oshodi garage and when we got to the bus stop, the area boys who knew me as a bus driver began to hail me. From there, we moved to Cele Bus Stop and further to Mile 2 where another set of Area boys who also knew me, began to hail me while I was inside the Police van. The FSARS operatives were shocked at my popularity in all the parks they took me to. They asked me again where my gang members were and I told them I had none. By the time we got to Ojo police station, some of the policemen whom I sometimes helped to collect money at bus parks were shocked that I was arrested for armed robbery. They tried to make case for me but the FSARS men refused and insisted that I must be charged for the crime.”
Arraignment for wrong crime
“I was in FSARS cell for seven months before I was arraigned in court and later remanded in prison custody. After five months, the DPP advice came out that my kinsman and I had a case to answer. Surprisingly during the trial, the victim who had initially said I was not among those that robbed him, in his testimony before the court, said I was the person that pointed gun at him.”
Encounter with Christ
While in prison and during the course of the trial, Pastor Godfrey gave his life to Christ, an experience that marked a turning point in his life. “On September 30, 2011, judgment was delivered in the case and my brother and I were sentenced to death by hanging. Because I was already a born again Christian, I told God that I believe he allowed the judgment for a purpose since I didn’t commit the crime for which I was tried for. I refused to deny my faith and decided that if I would die that way, so be it. We were taken to Kirikiri Maximum prisons death row cell,” he said.
Experience in death row cell
Despite being born again, things didn’t become all rosy for Pastor Godfrey in the death row cell. Describing his experience in death row cell, he said: “Death row is hell on earth because the cell is very hot. We were about ten inmates in the small cell. We did everything in the small cell including urinating, defecating and eating. You can be eating and someone beside you will be defecating. The heat inside the cell was terrible. We always looked forward to the morning opening, where we will be allowed to come outside and receive fresh air and take part in some activities in the prison yard.
“We were always hoping that one day, we will be pardoned, but when Adams Oshiomohle signed the first execution in 2013, everybody in death row began to pray fervently. We began to hold vigil and crusade. Even those who were not Christians joined our prayer sessions. Those you assumed didn’t know the scripture suddenly began to quote Bible.”
Discovery of God’s purpose in Prison
In the mix of all the hardship in the prison, Pastor Godfrey said he discovered God’s purpose for his life there saying that indeed he gained real freedom inside the prison.
“When I later discovered the purpose of God for my life, I knew God didn’t want me to come out of the prison immediately. I believe there was a greater purpose for my life inside the prison. I began to read the Mountain of Fire and Miracles, MFM bulletins and was greatly motivated by them. Churches and NGO often think that what inmates need most is food, but from my experience Christian tracks and Bible have done great things for inmates in the prison.
“Not everybody will change but there are some people that a pamphlet will transform their lives. Truly prisoners need food but what they really need most are Bibles, Christian literatures and tracks. In their solitary moment, those are the things that God uses to minister to them.”
On how his death sentence judgment was miraculously reversed, Pastor Godfrey said; “I started studying my Bible deeply after I discovered that God had a purpose for me in prison. With time, I also began to receive revelations from God and seeing myself with popular men of God. I always told God that I know it was not time for him to release me, but that I don’t want to serve life imprisonment or spend 21 years in prison. That was my request to God. I was surprised when a lawyer Andrew Igbokwe in 2013 decided to take up my appeal pro bono to the Supreme Court. Eventually, the Supreme Court reversed my conviction and ordered a retrial. After that, I was never arraigned before any court. Even the lawyer handling the case could not find the case file in DPP’s office or at the Court of Appeal. The only institution that had my case file and judgment was the prison service. He made a copy of the prison file and used it to apply for my bail. From 2013 when the Supreme Court ordered for a retrial, no court took up the case. So the lawyer eventually secured my bail in 2021 and I was released from the prisons.
Ordination as Pastor
According to Pastor Godfrey, a crisis in the prison Christian Fellowship eventually led to his ordination as a Pastor. “In 2019, there was a crisis in the church in the prison after the former pastor left. A new pastor was ordained but after one month, he left. Prison Fellowship Nigeria PFN waded into the matter and decided to pick some names for intercession on who should be the new pastor. Finally, after some weeks, they came back and said God had chosen me to lead the church in the prisons. Before then, I used to run for Pastorial work because I know that the greater the responsibility, the greater the punishment but I had to accept the will of God.
“After I became pastor in 2019, by 2020 it seemed that the heavens were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. NGOs and churches were no longer visiting and everywhere seemed deserted. I asked God why this should be happening during my tenure and He responded that that was my time to prepare for his work. Immediately, I started crusades and revivals in the prison and many inmates gave their lives to God.
Encounter with Prophet Genesis
On his encounter with Prophet Genesis, He said: “In November 18, 2020 God brought Prophet Isreal Oladele popularly known as Genesis into the prisons as an inmate. I don’t know what really happened in his case but there were some dangerous prayers we used to pray then that ‘God should force our helper(s) to come and help us’. When Prophet eventually settled down in the prison, I went to introduce myself to him as the resident pastor and begged him to join us in ministration.
“I told him the prisoners needed new anointing but his response was that God brought him to the prison to rest. I told him there is no time to rest and that indeed he can start his preaching in the prison. I reminded him that God had a purpose of bringing him into the prison. After a while, he began to join our service and by the following month, almost 60 inmates were released from the prison through his intervention. He also started a revival series every Wednesday called mercy day and many glorious things happened during the programme. He did a lot of things that I cannot mention here including paying hospital bills for many inmates with serious ailments, buying mattresses for the prsion, paying the bail sum for many who were being detained for not meeting their bail conditions. I can tell you that he facilitated the release of over 82 inmates. Together with him, we found a praying corner in the prison called Mercyland and till today miracles and deliverance are still happening in that place.
Genesis was eventually released in April 2021 but with a promise that he would help me get out of the prison. Before he left, he paid the lawyer handling my case and a church also supported me. When the bail for my retrial was fixed at N500,000, he also paid the money. On October 18, 2021 I was eventually released from the prison. His support for me continued after my release as he got me accommodation and a car.
What Prison thought me
“I give God the glory for the time I spent in prison because I got my freedom in the prison. I thank God because, while in prison, I dropped many things like anger, smoking, lying and so many vices that I can’t even mention here.”
Appeal to Nigerians
“I will appreciate whatever anyone out there can do to support me to attend a proper ministerial school so that I can start my own ministry.”
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