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Government silent over killing of Priest and kidnapped family

West & Central Africa

Government silent over killing of Priest and kidnapped family

Anthony Idris Jatau, a Priest from the Diocese of Sokoto has been murdered on Thursday night 7 February, while on his way to Katsina State, north western Nigeria, with his family, to report to his new posting as a priest, when gunman opened fire on the car in Zamfara state, about an hour from Katsina. “The bandits shot at the car he was driving and dragged him and the occupants out as the vehicle skidded off the road. His body was recovered two days later, but his family members were taken away,” A source told Punch Newspaper.

The gunmen took away his wife, three children and two sisters-in-law and have demandeda ransom of ₦10 million Naira, about £21,500 GBP, for their release.  

“Everybody is sad at the moment and afraid for the lives of his family members still in the custody of the bandits. The church doesn’t have such money but it’s hoping to raise a substantial sum to secure the release of the victims. The abductors separated the kids into different locations as it was glaring when they called and asked them to speak with the person whose mobile telephone the victims gave them,” the source who is a member of the church said. “There is panic among worshippers as time is ticking and no one knows what their next line of action will be. Security agencies are aware of the case but there is nothing yet.”

Rev. Idris Jatau and his wife

The murder and kidnap have not been mentioned in most Nigerian news media and the Nigerian government has said nothing about the killing and abduction so far.

Jatau, who had survived a previous kidnapping, in September 2006, while serving at St Andrew’s Church in the Diocese of Nnewi, had studied at the Crowther Graduate Theological Seminary in Abeokuta, in Ogun State, prior to ordination and was on his way to report at his new posting when he was murdered.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, “deeply distressed and saddened” by the news said, “my prayers and those of the whole community at Lambeth Palace are with the family of the Reverend Anthony Idris Jatau, who grieve even as they continue to be held in captivity and great danger”, he said. “May God draw near them in comfort and bring the freedom and justice that are so urgently needed.” Welby also prayed“for the church led by the Reverend Jatau, for all those suffering persecution for their faith, and for the whole nation of Nigeria, that Jesus Christ would light the path away from violence and towards peace.”

Zamfara is notorious for kidnappings and attacks by Islamist Fulani cattle herdsmen militia groups who have terrorized villages for about two years now mostly in banditry and cattle rustling. 

Kidnapping has become endemic and a lucrative venture in Nigeria over the years beginning from the Niger Delta region in the south, where youths abducted oil workers and the rich, it has spread to the northern parts of the country with Fulani herdsmencarrying sophisticated automatic weapons in the guise of protecting their cattle from the crises in the northand rustlers, herdsmen, who started attacking communities in the central and middle belt regionof the country, have now turned up north to robbing vehicles on the highways and attacking villages to rustle cows. In 2018 the Fulani herdsmen have killed nearly 2000people according to the Global Terrorism Index, yet President Buhari had rejected the callto tag the Fulani militia a terrorist group.

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