Armed men kidnap four Catholic priests in Nigeria
Four Catholic priests, returning from an annual class meeting, last month have been kidnapped in Warri, Delta State, southern Nigeria.
The catholic priests; Rev. Fr. Anthony Otegbola of Abeokuta Diocese, Rev. Fr. Joseph Idiaye of Benin Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Victor Adigboluja of Ijebu Ode Diocese and Rev. Fr. Obadjere Emmanuel of the Diocese of Warri, “were going back to Ekpoma between Agbor and Umutu in Delta State, these fierce-looking and heavily armed men suddenly burst out of the bush and started firing at our bus… unfortunately, four of our brothers were whisked away to an unknown location,” according to a priest in the bus who asked to remain anonymous.
The Police in Delta state confirmed the kidnap but will not give any more details. There has not yet been any claim of responsibility or ransom demand for the clergy.
This kidnap of clergy is the second in two months. Christopher Ogaga, another priest at the Emmanuel Catholic Church, Oviri-Okpe in Okpe Council Area of Delta State was kidnapped early September in the state and his abductors had made a demand of 15 million Naira (over £30,000)
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, described the kidnapping of clergy as “barbaric, dehumanising and shameful.” He recalled that Benue State in central Nigeria is yet to recover from “the killing of two Catholic priests and 17 worshippers by herdsmen in Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area of the state earlier this year.”
The Governor called on, “Nigerians to rise in condemnation of persistent attacks on innocent people, particularly the current spate of violence against the clergy.”
Kidnapping of Christian clergy has become a lucrative business for gangs in southern Nigeria, especially between Delta and Edo and Kogi states of the southeastern and middle regions of the country. Churches and Christian organisations have been forced to pay millions of Naira in ransom. Some kidnap attempts have ended tragically with the deaths of pastors.
The continuous persecution of the Church and Christian communities both from radical Islamic groups like Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen continue to add the the challenges churches face in the country of about 200 million people with sharp divide between over 50 per cent of the population who are Christians mostly in the southern part of the country and 30 per cent Muslims in the north and animists making 20 per cent of the population
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos