Unidentified gunmen yesterday kidnapped four Catholic priests, wounding others in a brazen broad day attack that has sent shivers down the spine of the survivors who were lucky to escape.
The abducted priests include Rev. Fr. Victor Adigboluja of Ijebu Ode Diocese, Rev. Fr. Anthony Otegbola, Abeokuta Diocese, Rev. Fr. Joseph Idiaye, Benin Archdiocese and Rev. Fr. Obadjere Emmanuel of the Diocese of Warri.
Speaking with The Guardian on the condition of anonymity, one of the priests who escaped, said they were all returning from their annual class meeting that held in Warri between Monday, November 5 and Tuesday November 6, which incidentally marked their 10th year priestly anniversary.
“Thereafter, we moved over to the Seminary Of All Saints, Uhiele-Ekpoma, our Alma Mater, to celebrate with the Seminary community as part of the alumni events for this year. After the successful completion of the meeting in Warri on Tuesday evening and while we were going back to Ekpoma between Agbor and Umutu in Delta State, these fierce-looking and heavily armed men suddenly burst out of the bush and started firing at our bus. While some managed to escape from their evil clutches, unfortunately, four of our brothers were whisked away to an unknown location.”
He went on to ask everyone to pray for their safe and timely release, adding that attacks of this nature against the Catholic church have become one too many. The priest said the abductors were yet to make contact, reminding, however, that the Catholic Church does not encourage payment of ransom to free kidnapped victims.
He expressed worries that the clergy has become endangered species as innocent and harmless priests and nuns have become ready targets for men of the underworld.
This latest kidnap is coming a week after four reverend sisters were kidnapped along the Benin expressway as they were returning from a burial in the east. Till date, the church has refused to disclose how much was paid to secure their release.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Delta State command, DSP Andrew Aniamaka, confirmed the kidnap but could not give further details. Aniamaka said it was not yet ascertained if the victims were kidnapped in Delta State or at Urhonigbe in neighbouring Edo State, adding however that investigation was in progress to unravel the circumstances of the kidnap and bring the perpetrators to book.
Meanwhile, the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, has condemned the kidnaping of the four priests. Ortom, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, described the abduction as barbaric, dehumanizing and shameful.
While unconfirmed reports claim the victims were abducted by suspected herdsmen, the governor wondered why armed herdsmen have chosen to make harmless clergymen targets of attacks, and stressed that the motive of the perpetrators is clearly beyond mere grazing of cattle.
According to the governor, the people of Benue are still mourning the killing of two Catholic priests and 17 worshippers by herdsmen in Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area of the state earlier this year.
He urged security agencies to act swiftly to ensure the release of the kidnapped priests and called on other Nigerians to rise in condemnation of persistent attacks on innocent people, particularly the current spate of violence against the clergy.