Another Catholic priest kidnapped in Nigeria – Bishops’ rebuke President

“If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graves that our country has become.”
– Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria

In the aftermath of a second kidnapping of a Catholic priest in Nigeria during the month of July 2018, the Catholic Bishops’ conference of Nigeria has issued a stinging rebuke of President Muhammadu Buhari. The statement read:

“If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graves that our country has become.”

Reference to killing fields and mass graves comes in the wake of increasing attacks throughout 2018 on Christian communities, including Catholic congregations, by Muslim Fulani herdsmen and a growing sense that Buhari, a Fulani, is turning a blind eye on developments.

While the kidnappings have not been linked to the Fulani/Christian attacks, the most recent abduction of a Catholic priest from the Nigerian town of Obajana by unknown gunmen is yet another worrying development for the Nigerian Catholic hierarchy and community.

Father Peter Adinoyi, Lokoja diocesan chancellor told media that Father Leo Michael, the parish priest of St. Michael Catholic Church in Obajana had been kidnapped by unknown gunmen.

Father Michael was returning to Obajana from Okene when he was kidnapped near a village.

Fr. Leo Michael, kidnapped by unknown gunmen

Following Fr. Michael’s abduction local police were promptly alerted and the army and the Directorate of the State Security were also made aware of the development.

Father Adinoyi said that the kidnappers on July 25 called some members of the parish to demand a 50 million naira ransom (US$137,320) for the release of their priest.

However, kidnappers later reduced the ransom to 20 million naira and then again further reduced it to 8 million.

Parishioners were told to pay up or face the consequences.

Concern for Father Michael’s safety is heightened by the memory of the abduction of Father John Adeyi, the vicar-general of the Otukpo diocese, on 24 April 2016, who was murdered by his abductors.

Father Adinoyi said that the diocese is unable to meet the ransom demanded, calling on the security agents to assist in rescuing the priest.

The priest decried the kidnapping of local people for ransom and criticized the lack of security.

Priests are often the targets of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria. On July 4 Father Paulinus Udewangu of St. Marks Catholic Church in Nsude was kidnapped.

Abductors demanded US$275,000 to release him. The priest was released unharmed after intervention by the local police.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria in a July 3 statement called on President Muhammadu Buhari to do more to protect the people of the country.

“If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graves that our country has become,” the bishops said.