Kidnappers, bandits zeroing in on clerics, religious bodies

Recent events in Nigeria indicate that nefarious acts of kidnappers and bandits are being channelled against religious bodies, especially the clergy.

It is disturbing the numbers of Christians and churches that have been attacked, worshippers abducted, and killed within the first six months of 2022.

The Saint Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, attack where the blood of 38 innocent worshippers was made to flow in cold blood murder is still fresh in our minds.

How long shall we be patient while we see our people killed without any iota of concern from the people we entrusted power to protect and defend us. We unequivocally state here that this is inhuman and should not be allowed to continue

As if there is an ongoing gang-up against the religious community in Nigeria, a few days before the Owo incident, suspected militants killed 32 Christians in an Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) parish in Kajuru, Kaduna State.

After the attack, the church members could not attend service due to the trauma. The attackers reportedly arrived and left on inconspicuous motorcycles.

In Plateau State, which borders the southern part of Kaduna State, two Christian students were killed after Sunday service when suspected terrorists visited the school hostel at night and killed the two male students.

Some days after, 11 Christians were murdered in Benue State’s Igama community in Okpokwu Local Government Area in what many consider as religious persecution.

The kidnap and N100million ransom made for the freedom of Samuel Kalu Uche, the prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, and two of his acolytes are no longer news.

The congregation, the Methodist Church Nigeria of nearly two million people were forced to mobilise and raise the N100 million ransom for their release.

Four days before the abduction of the prelate and his group, armed men broke into a church in Katsina State and kidnapped a Catholic priest and his assistant, Fr. Stephen Ojapa, MSP, and Fr. Oliver Okpara, respectively.

Their abductors also took away two boys who were in the church worshipping. It is yet not clear where they have been taken to and what their condition is.

In March, we likewise saw a spate of kidnappings where clerics were soft targets. Rev. Father Leo Raphael Ozigi, parish priest of St Mary’s Church, Sarakin Pawa Village, Niger State, was abducted on March 27 and later released, and Father Felix Zakari Fidson of Zaria Diocese, was also kidnapped on March 24.

In the face of these worrisome attacks on Christians and Christianity and the Nigerian communities in general, the Federal Government and its agencies seem so docile to even come up with approaches to curb this ugly menace.

The best we could get from President Muhammadu Buhari who himself is an ex-military commander, who we were told by his party in 2015 was coming to arrest terrorism was an appeal to remain united against perpetrators of attacks on churches, adding that “it is clear that there is a design by wicked people to put the country under religious stress.”

How long shall we be patient while we see our people killed without any iota of concern from the people we entrusted power to protect and defend us. We unequivocally state here that this is inhuman and should not be allowed to continue.

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The president promised to track down these kidnappers and their sponsors with the help of the country’s formidable security and intelligence forces at his disposal.

We know like Hilary Clinton once said, “talk is cheap” the Federal Government should instead of making promises take convincing actions to prove that the presidency is not for and against some others.

This is purely a government of some people, against some people and by some people. It is unfortunate how President Buhari suddenly forgot his inaugural speech in 2015, when he stated, “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.”

We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to make true this pledge of his that he belongs to everybody and to nobody by using the power of his office to put to an end this incessant harassment, kidnapping, and killing of Christians in Nigeria.

Posterity will never forgive him if he continues to keep quiet over wanton murder, torture, and harassment of a sect of a religious group in a country where people have the right to religious worship.

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