Last week four Roman Catholic priest were kidnapped by armed gunmen in the Delta State of Nigeria. On Friday, November 9th four days after they were kidnapped they were freed, ICC reports. The police commissioner, Muhammad Mustafa said:
“They were rescued on Friday, Nov. 9 and we are on the trail of the other suspects. We do not encourage ransom, so no ransom was paid.” Once freed the clergymen were taken to Benin City for medical treatment.
The Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Benin, Fr. Mike Oyanoafoh announced the priest’s release and said in a statement: “To God be the glory.
“I am happy to announce to you that Fr Joseph Ediae and three other priests of Warri, Ijebu Ode and Abeokuta Dioceses have been released.”
According to the Delta state Police Commissioner, Mr Muhhammad Mustafa arrests suspects have already been arrested. No details have been given on the priest’s health or what led to their release.
The four clergy men abducted, Fr Joseph Ediae, Fr Victor Adigboluja, Fr Anthony Otegbola and Fr Obadjere Emmanuel, were returning from a meeting held in Warri, Delta State when armed men stopped the convoy of cars they were being driven in. Four other priests managed to escape.
The group had been on their way to All Saints seminary – their Alma Mater in Edo State, where they planned to celebrate their tenth year of priesthood. The four priest were coming home from a class and heading to an event when the gunmen reportedly abused them, spraying their vehicles with bullets, and kidnapping the four men.
The captors had demanded the equivalent of $11,000 for the release. Nigerian officials are condemning the kidnapping and Benue State Gov. Samuel Ortom said that the abduction was “barbaric, dehumanizing, and shameful.” The governor speculates that the kidnappers could be Fulani herdsman, who have attacked many areas in the “Middle Belt” of Nigeria but are also active further south.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all but essential travel to Abia State and non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States. Militant groups are active across the Niger Delta area and there’s a high risk of armed robbery, criminality and criminal kidnapping in the area.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with nearly 186 million people – nearly equally divided between Christians and Muslims. Nigeria’s Middle Belt is where the Muslim north meets the Christian south. The Fulani herdsmen are Muslim, and their victims are mostly Christian – the violence has religious and ethnic undertones. Earlier this year, two priests and 17 worshipers were killed by the Fulani herdsmen in Mbalom, Benue state, in the Middle Belt.
According to Emeka Umeagbalasi, board chair of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, October was one of the deadliest months of the year for attacks by Fulani herdsmen, resulting in the deaths of 260 Christians.
“The senseless killings mostly took place in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria particularly in the States of Kaduna (Southern part), Plateau, Adamawa, Benue and Borno (Northeast) and were perpetrated by state actor and non-state actor Jihadists. The killings, perpetrated in the name of ‘Islam,’ are done with reckless abandon despite heavy presence and deployment of soldiers in all the 36 States of Nigeria,” the monitoring group said in its October report.
“The continuation and escalation of the killings mostly targeted at members of the Nigerian Christian faith are also politically motivated whereby those perpetrating them and their backers in the corridors of power who brazenly aid and abet them are hailed among largely illiterate Muslim population in the North as the ‘true defenders of Allah and Islamic Faith’ capable of robotically galloping their electoral popularity among the illiterate Muslim population in the north ahead of the country’s presidential poll in February 2019,” the report continued.
The Global Terrorism Index says that Fulani herdsmen have killed as many as 60,000 people – mostly Christians – since 2001.
“What we have is genocide,” says international human rights attorney Emmanuel Ogebe.