Paschal Emeka, Abuja
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) on Monday slammed the Federal Government and security agencies over the rising kidnapping and killing of Catholic priests who are now endangered species as they have become soft targets for suspected Fulani bandits who are growing their kidnap-for-ransom business.
HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, called on the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council to speak up loudly and condemn the persecution of Catholics in the country.
The group said it is becoming unbecoming the slaughtering and kidnapping of Catholic priests in the country by bandits who have been identified as Fulani on numerous occasions by abducted Catholic priests freed upon the payment of ransom.
Recall that gunmen last Friday kidnapped a Catholic priest and the Deputy Registrar of Spiritan University Nneochi, Fr. Chinedu Nwadike. The Imo indigene was kidnapped on Umunnochi-Ihube road by the Enugu-Okigwe road alongside a seminarian, Emmanuel Nwafor.
Their abductors had since established contact with their relations and placed N50m ransom on them just as an unconfirmed report indicates that they have been released after 24 hours.
Reacting, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The recurring killings and kidnappings of Catholic priests all over the country is another loud sign of the failure of the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
“This latest kidnap-for-ransom happened at the checkpoint of soldiers and is exactly this same nexus between these kidnappers and soldiers that emerged from the disclosure of Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria who was recently kidnapped and freed upon payment of N100 million ransom but the President did nothing to arrest the soldiers involved in these daredevil crimes of kidnap-for-ransom and this is why the Igbo youth, who volunteered to protect Igboland under the auspices of the Eastern Security Network were crushed by soldiers only for soldiers to actively connive with armed Fulani herdsmen to kidnap travelers along the Lokpanta Highway and the Okigwe/Enugu Federal Highway.
“It is worrisome that despite the killing of over 12 Catholic priests in 2022 and the abduction of scores of Catholic priests all over the country, the present regime, and security agencies have left the ugly trend to continue.
“Aside from the latest abduction of Fr. Chinedu Nwadike, Rev. Fr. John Mark Chietnum of Kafanchan Diocese at the parish rectory of Christ the King Catholic Church, in Kaduna State was abducted and killed in July after bandits abducted him and other priests.
“Bandits have also kidnapped and killed the Chaplain of the Catholic community of the Kaduna State Polytechnic and chairman of the Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, Kaduna State Chapter, Vitus Borogo.
“In March, Reverend Father Joseph Bako of the St John Catholic Church, Kudenda in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State was kidnapped and he died in the kidnappers’ den.
“Rev. Fr. Alphonsus Uboh of St. Pius X Parish Ikot Abasi in the Mkpat Enin Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State was also kidnapped.
“Two reverend fathers and their domestic staff were also hijacked from the rectory of their Parish in Katsina under Sokoto Diocese which is headed by Right Reverend Doctor Mathew Hassan-Kukah who has recently come under massive verbal threats by Islamists.
“Earlier, bandits kidnapped the Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence, Samuel Kanu Uche, and he wasn’t released until he paid a ransom of N100m. In fact, he revealed the identity of his kidnappers as “Fulani herdsmen” whose “cattle were very close” to where he was kept. He also indicted the military when he said where he was kept wasn’t far from a military checkpoint.
“Terrorists killed over 40 Catholics during a Sunday service in Owo, Ondo State, in June. Scores of others were injured in the ambush, which is one of the gruesome terrorist attacks on Catholics in the country.
“HURIWA calls on security agencies in the internal security institutions all headed by Muslims to be guided by conscience and put an end to the targeted persecution of Catholics in the country.
“The Nigeria Inter-Religious Council must also rise to the occasion and collectively condemn the heinous action. Muslim clerics must not keep quiet but must speak out and condemn the massacre of Catholics by Fulani bandits.
“Conscience and love for humanity should be above religious sentiments. Crime is crime and should not be deodorized.
“HURIWA will today send out a petition to the Roman Catholic Pontiff Pope Francis and World leaders for the umpteenth time to intervene to stop the persecution of Christians in Nigeria by armed Jihadists kidnappers.”