Residents of Elijiji in Rumurolu, in the Woji area of Port Harcourt are currently at a loss over what could cause a cleric to take his life in a gruesome manner without any form of provocation. Pastor Chris Woriji, a 46-year-old ex-military man, set himself ablaze after stockpiling his room with petrol and sprinkling the highly inflammable liquid inside and around the family house.
We learnt that the deceased passed through a normal process of becoming a cleric before he was ordained by one of the new generation churches as a pastor. He was said to have voluntarily resigned from the Nigerian Army, having served in the security outfit for 12 years. Before graduating as a pastor, Chris was said to have secured a teaching job in a government secondary school.
Chris, the eldest among the Woriji family declared Friday, October 26, 2018, ‘hell fire day’ for his family and tenants as he shouted and tagged everybody he saw a witch. As if he was possessed by another more powerful force, Chris, who had kept a 75- litre jerrycan of petrol inside his sitting room, sprinkled it on cushion chairs, beds and some appliances in the 10-room building.
It was gathered that he even deliberately splashed a full bowl of petrol on the body of a lady simply identified as one of the tenants in the family house. Terrified at the man’s sudden change of attitude, the lady was said to have fled her room before the enraged pastor came back with lighter, splashed more fuel in the tenant’s room before setting it ablaze.
An account of a tenant, Michel, “I was in my room when I had fire, fire and I had to save some of my valuables by carrying them out. It was someone that caused the fire; my late landlord’s son. I don’t know what came over him. We only heard him saying ‘today is hell fire day’. He went in, brought out petrol and began to sprinkle the entire place with it. He poured some of the fuel on a lady (tenant), but she managed to escape before he could get a lighter.
“A few seconds later, we saw fire in one of the rooms in the building. The guys around, with God’s help, were able to quench it. I then left with the belief that everything had ended there. I went inside to eat, but when I came out, I heard people shouting fire, fire again. This time, the fire was more than the other one that was put out initially. We had to carry some things that our hand could immediately reach and then we ran out of the house. The fire killed the person (Pastor Chris). I learnt he committed suicide. I think he was an evangelist.”
The deceased mother said, “We saw fire in the house. People gathered to quench the fire. That was some minutes to eight in the morning on Friday. When I asked from the tenants what caused the fire, they told me it was my son who poured petrol on them and tried to set them on fire.
“That was when we began to call his brothers and sister. He burnt the first room before locking himself inside. His brothers, sister and I began to beg him to come out. As I was begging him, he poured fuel from inside on my body, struck a match and threw it at me.
“My body was on fire and I had to roll inside the water on the ground that was used to quench the first fire he ignited. I was shouting blood of Jesus all through before the fire went out.
“I now went to the backyard. It was not long when I heard the heavy sound of an explosion coming from where my son was hiding himself. It was the fuel that he stored inside the rubber can that exploded and that was the one that killed him. I began to shout and people gathered and helped to force the door open.”
She added, “Fire fighters came hours after people had earlier called them to come and save the situation. But the people told them to go because they had already put out the inferno caused by the explosion. People later forced the door open and saw his corpse on the ground.
“I gave them one of my wrappers to cover his body. Others came to the compound to record the incident with their phones. His father died nine years ago. The truth is that he has not been well; I have treated him thrice (through prayers) and he was okay and got a job. He was teaching in a government secondary school,” Mrs. Woriji added.