AFRICA/NIGERIA - The kidnapping of a priest of the diocese of Okigwe is just the latest in a long line

Monday, 22 May 2023 kidnappings   priests  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - On May 19, Father Kingsley Maduka, parish priest of the Catholic parish of Christ the King, Ezinnachi-Ugwaku, Okigwe L.G.A., in Imo State, southeast Nigeria, was kidnapped. According to the chancellor of the Okigwe diocese, Father Iwuanyanwu, the priest was kidnapped while visiting the newly built chapel for Eucharistic adoration in the Ogii village of Okigwe.
On April 15 of this year, another priest belonging to the clergy of the Okigwe diocese was kidnapped. We are talking about Father Michael Ifeanyi Asomugha, parish priest of the church of St Paul in Osu, who was kidnapped on the Oriagu-Obowo highway, in the state of Imo, when he was returning from a diaconal ordination. The kidnappers placed a huge rock on the road to block the car in which the priest was traveling. When he got out of the car to remove the big stone, 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 later released after a few days, thanks to his family's interest. Kidnapping along the highways is one of the most common tactics used by kidnappers in Nigeria (see Fides, 29/3/2023).
According to data reported to Fides by the Church in Nigeria, between 2021 and 2022, five priests were kidnapped in the diocese of Okigwe.
The case of Father Fidelis Ekemgba, parish priest of Saint Peter's Church in Umunohu Amakaohia, Ihitte/Uboma local government area, who was abducted on September 12, 2021 and later released, caused a stir because, according to the Nigerian police, was kidnapped by a gang led by Izuchukwu Anoloba, pastor of the Apostolic Church of Christ in Lagos. After his arrest, he declared that he "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, such as four nuns from the diocesan congregation Sisters of Jesus the Savior who were kidnapped on their way to mass on August 21, 2022. The nuns, Johannes Nwodo, Christabel Echemazu, Liberata Mbamalu and Benita Agu were later released.
The plague of kidnapping for extortion purposes is widespread in much of Nigeria (see Fides 29/4/2023). As for Imo State, where the diocese of Okigwe is located, the Enugu-Port Harcourt road axis, along the section between Enugu and Okigwe, is one of the areas where motorist kidnappings occur with some frequency.
As for the kidnappers, in addition to local bandits, in Imo state, gangs of Fulani herders are also accused, who, however, are not native to the state, but seem to move freely, avoiding the controls of the authorities. This raises questions about whether they can enjoy local complicity.
(L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 22/5/2023)