Catholic priest kidnapped in Nigeria
Father Jude Kingsley Maduka of the Diocese Okigwe, Imo State, was kidnapped on May 19, while visiting a newly built chapel.
According to the Fides Agency by the Church in Nigeria, five priests were kidnapped in the diocese of Okigwe in 2021-2022. When Father Fidelis Ekemgba, parish priest of Saint Peter’s Church in Umunohu Amakaohia, Ihitte/Uboma local government area, was abducted on September 12, 2021 and later released, Nigerian police claimed that he had been kidnapped by a gang led by Izuchukwu Anoloba, pastor of the Apostolic Church of Christ in Lagos. This statement caused an upset in Christian communities. After his arrest, Anoloba stated “I repented for my actions, because now I am a disgrace to the body of Christ and to my family”.
In addition to priests, nuns are also victims of kidnappings. Four nuns from the diocesan congregation Sisters of Jesus the Savior were abducted on their way to mass on August 21, 2022. The nuns, Johannes Nwodo, Christabel Echemazu, Liberata Mbamalu and Benita Agu were later released.
Father Michael Ifeanyi Asomugha, parish priest of the church of St Paul in Osu was kidnapped on the 15th of April 2023. Kidnappers attacked him on the Oriagu-Obowo highway, in the state of Imo, when he was returning from a diaconal ordination. The perpetrators placed a huge rock on the road to block Father Asomugha’s car. When he got out of the car to remove the obstacle, he was attacked by bandits. The brother priest who was in the driver’s seat managed to escape and raised the alarm. Father Asomugha was released a few days later.
Kidnapping along the highways is one of the most frequent tactics used in Nigeria. Most violators are local motorist bandits, but gangs of Fulani herders also target Church personnel and Nigerian citizens. These people move freely within the state and manage to avoid standard checks of the authorities.
Aid to the Church in Need, released a statement expressing “strong concern for this criminal phenomenon which, despite reassurances from authorities, continues to proliferate with no serious effective action to stem it.”
Kidnapping has become a considerable security challenge in Nigeria for the past decade. With the uprising of Boko Haram ideology, churches, Christians, Muslim critics as well as State institutions have been targeted. The terrorist group’s primary aim is to overthrow Nigeria’s secular government and establish a strictly Islamic state. Due to the influence of this extremist organization, more than 35,000 people have been killed and nearly 2 million have been displaced in northern Nigeria.