Priests as endangered species – The Sun Nigeria – Daily Sun

By Job Osazuwa

There is no doubt that Nigeria is  in trouble. Gun-toting kidnappers are running riot across the country, seizing and killing people with reckless abandon.

But recently, the kidnap-for-ransom terrorists seem to have fallen in love with priests, ignoring the biblical injunction, “touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm.”

In the last couple of weeks many clerics, cutting across denominations, have been kidnapped, robbed, brutalized and killed. The trend has become worrisome, attracting condemnation from Nigerians and non-Nigerians within and outside the country.

In fact, it could be said that clerics have become endangered species in Nigeria. Some analysts have tagged the development as an attack on the Church.

On July 5, gunmen stormed the residence of Rev. Daniel Umaru of the EYN Church Njairi, Mubi Local Government Area (LGA ) of Adamawa State, killing his two sons and abducting his 13-year-old daughter.

The incident happened hours after the convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari’s advance team to Daura in Katsina State was attacked and Kuje Prison in Abuja was raided, with over 800 inmates on the run.

Umaru, who was shot in the incident, was rushed to the hospital, while his wife who witnessed the attack, went into coma.

Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State condemned the attack on the cleric and described it as shocking and barbaric, even as he directed security agencies to scale up intelligence and fish out the criminals.

Similarly, on July 6, the parish priest of Holy Ghost Parish, Eke-Olengbeche, Rev. Father Peter Amodu, was reportedly kidnapped by armed men along Otukpo-Ugbokolo Road, Okpokwu Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State.

It was gathered that Father Amodu, who is a priest of the Holy Ghost Congregation in the Catholic Dioceses of Otukpo, was abducted while on his way to celebrate the Holy Mass at Okwungaga, Ugbokolo in Okpokwu LGA.

Announcing the kidnap, the Diocesan Chancellor, Rev. Father Joseph Aboyi Itodo, said: “We write to notify you of the kidnap of Reverend Father Peter Amodu, a priest of the Holy Ghost Congregation, who is working in the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo as Parish Priest of Holy Ghost Parish, Eke-Olengbeche.

“The Local Ordinary, Most Rev. Michael Apochi, has called on all Christ’s faithful in the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo and beyond to earnestly pray for his quick and safe release as they intensify efforts to ensure his release.

“On June 26, gunmen killed the priest in charge of St. Michael Catholic Church, Ikabigbo, in the Etsako West LGA of Edo State, Rev. Fr Christopher Odia.”

It was learnt that Odia was abducted from his residence by gunmen while he prepared for Sunday mass.

“The kidnappers came with sophisticated weapons and took away the reverend father while he was preparing for the morning mass. It was sad. One of the boys who tried to look for the cleric was shot and he is currently in hospital,” a source said.

All efforts by vigilantes and the security forces to secure the release of the priest proved abortive. The two local security men who went after the hoodlums were killed.

Later that day, the director of Social Communications, Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Rev. Fr. Peter Egielewa, confirmed the killing of the cleric.

According to the statement, “with heavy hearts but with total submission to the will` of God, we announce the death of our priest Rev. Fr. Odia, who was killed by his abductors after being kidnapped this morning, June 26, 2022, around 6.30am in his rectory while coming out to go for Sunday mass at St. Michael Catholic Church Ikabigbo, Uzairue.”

Just a day earlier, June 25, gunmen, suspected to be terrorists, killed a Kaduna State-based Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Vitus Borogo.

The incident occurred on that fateful Saturday at the Prison Farm, Kujama, along the Kaduna-Kachia Road.

The Chancellor of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna, Rev. Fr. Christian Emmanuel, in a statement, said the 50-year-old was the chaplain of the Catholic community in Kaduna State.

“It is with a heavy heart, but with total submission to the will of God that we announce the death of Rev. Fr. Borogo, which sad event took place at Prison Farm, Kujama, along Kaduna-Kachia Road, after a raid on the farm by terrorists,” he added.

On June 13, gunmen abducted Rev. Fr. James Kantoma of St Anthony Catholic Parish, Angware, Jos East Local Council of Plateau State.

Kantoma, who is also the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Jos East, was abducted from his house in the morning of that fateful day.

The state chairman of CAN, Polycarp Lubo, described the incident as unfortunate.

Also, the Kogi State coordinator of Children Evangelism Ministry (CEM), Charles Esho, said the three missionaries, who resided in Lokoja, were kidnapped on June 10, at Ejule in Ofu area of the state

This came as the bandits that abducted three church leaders along Ochadamu–Okele–Ejule road in Ofu Local Council of Kogi State were demanding N80 million for their freedom.

Among the victims were Sunday Abbah from Olamaboro Local Council, a resident in Lokoja. Others are Peter Adigidzi and Mike Baba.

The victims were reportedly on their way from Lokoja to minister at a crusade in Kogi East when the gunmen flagged down their car around Ochadamu-Okele-Ejule settlements and carried them into the bush.

Also, the Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence Samuel Kalu Uche, and two of his colleagues were abducted by gunmen. His congregation and friends reportedly quickly mobilized over N100 million for their release.

In five bags, the representatives of the church stashed local currencies to the tune of N20 million each and dropped off at a designated place which the kidnappers picked up later in a truck without a number plate.

The money was the price to free the three clerics who were taken at Umunneochi in Abia State while on their way to catch a flight to Lagos.

Relieving his traumatic experience, Kanu-Uche alleged collusion of Fulani marauders and soldiers in his ordeal. However, the military denied complicity.

Four days before Kalu-Uche was abducted, armed men broke into a church in Katsina State and kidnapped two Catholic priests and Fr. Stephen Ojapa and Fr. Oliver Okpara. Their abductors also took away two boys who were in the church worshipping.

On June 4, armed herdsmen struck in Abia, abducted a pastor and his wife and also stabbed another person.

Similarly, a Catholic priest, Reverend Father Christopher Onotu, was kidnapped by gunmen at Obangede, Okehi LGA of Kogi State, on June 5. The priest was whisked away from his room when the criminal elements invaded the church area at about 9pm.

The St. Mary Catholic Church, Owukpa, in Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State, was also attacked recently when suspected herdsmen invaded the church premises to kidnap the priest.

Luckily, on July 4, the police in Edo State rescued an Italian priest, identified as Reverend Father Luigi Brena of Somascan Father’s community.

The Deputy Public Relations Officer of the Edo State Police Command, Jennifer Iwegbu, disclosed this in Benin City, the state capital.

She revealed that 64-year-old Brena was kidnapped on Sunday evening by hoodlums suspected to be kidnappers along Ogunwenyi through Usen community in Ovia South-West Local Government Area (LGA) of the state.

A day to Brena’s abduction, gunmen kidnapped two Catholic priests around Ehor and Iruekpen communities along the Benin-Auchi Expressway.

The abducted clergymen were Reverend Father Udo Peter of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Uromi, and Reverend Father Philemon Oboh of St. Joseph Retreat Centre, Ugboha in Esan South East LGA of the state.

Also, On June 19, gunmen were said to have attacked Catholic and Baptist churches, killed four and abducted 44. Their clerics were, however, not the direct victims in the two attacks.

Worried by the unhealthy trend, the Catholic Communicators in Nigeria under the auspices of SIGNIS condemned in very strong terms the incessant killings of priests and other innocent Nigerians by bandits, kidnappers and terrorists.

They said the increased attacks on Catholic churches in recent times which have led to the loss of several lives, including that of priests could spiral into an orgy of violence that may have grave consequences on the peace and unity of the country.

The Catholic Communicators expressed more concern over the seeming silence of the Buhari led administration and the Federal Government in the face of these attacks now.

They noted that the seeming silence the government does not in any way reassure Nigerians that they were on top of the situation.

In a release signed by the President of the association, Very Rev. Fr. Patrick Alumuku, and the General Secretary, Mr. Tony Agbugba, the group noted that the time has come for all Nigerians irrespective of their religious inclination to be more security conscious. They particularly implored all churches and mosques to put in place stringent security measures that would enable them to defend the clergy, the worshippers, and the facilities henceforth.

Reacting to the recent killings of two Catholic priests, Rev Frs. Christopher Odia of Auchi Dioceses and Bitrus Borigo of Kaduna Archdiocese, including the killing of over 40 worshippers at Owo, Ondo State, respectively, the group wondered why the bandits have suddenly picked interest in harassing, and killing harmless clergy and innocent worshippers who pose no danger or obstacle to anyone, rather than their desire to draw nearer their creator.

They implored the security agencies at the federal and state levels and across all formations to intensify efforts to bring the killers to book, while also intensifying efforts to safeguard the lives of the citizens.

SIGNIS Nigeria equally challenged the legislative arm of government across all levels to explore the possibility of enacting a law that would enable Nigerians to own arms to defend themselves and their families against arbitrary attacks by gunmen.

In the same vein, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has expressed worry over rising attacks on churches and Christian communities in the country.

The CAN chairman, Kaduna State chapter, Rev. John Joseph Hayab, in a statement made available to journalists in Kaduna, said the situation called for serious concerns.

“Bandits are now hardened and brutal, they are killing without mercy and the rate at which they have turned on the Church in Kaduna State and Nigeria is alarming and worrisome.

“CAN has cried, complained and protested but to a deaf government. The bandits know and understand that the government will only talk but cannot act or cause them any threat that is why they are advancing more against our people.

“The last three weekends have all been periods of mourning and anguish from our communities to the church.”

While condemning the killing of Rev Fr Vitus Borogo, he called on the church, Christian leaders, and any community that is exposed to the threat of the bandits to sleep no more and be awake and alert with what to defend themselves.

“The killings are too much and the lack of concern by the government is disappointing and disgraceful,” he said.

Hayab, therefore, urged all Christians to continue to pray with one eye open and with their object for defence in their hands.

Also, leaders of the Southern and Middle-Belt regions of Nigeria have condemned the continuous targeted terrorist attack on churches as well as the kidnapping of church leaders across the country.

In his reaction, the CAN spokesman, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, stated, “The church is helpless, and only praying to God that whoever succeeds President Buhari will not continue what he is doing and that is the more reason why we are against the Muslim-Muslim ticket; they are in charge of the security and political thugs.”

Also decrying the killing of clerics, the Association of Papal Knights and Medalists in Nigeria, has lamented what it described as the “seeming silence” of the Federal Government in the face of the incessant attack on churches, clerics and worshippers in the country.

The association, in a statement by its national president, Esther Uduehi, held that “the increased” abduction and murder of Catholic priests was alarming and frightening.


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