This priest who is a member of a Religious Order in Nigeria was kidnapped by unknown people on Tuesday, December 15 on his way to his father’s burial, the leadership of his Religious Congregation has said.
Nigerian-born Fr. Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, a member of the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy (SMMM) Congregation based in Nigeria’s Umuahia Diocese was kidnapped December 15 morning (around 8.00 a.m. local time) while driving within the country’s Imo State, Fr. Goodluck C. Ajacro, the Secretary-General of SMMM has said in a December 15 statement obtained by ACI Africa.
“According to an eye witness who was driving in a bus behind him, four armed men came out from the bush in a bad spot at Umulolo, Arondizuegu, and forced him to the back of the car and sped off,” Fr. Ajacro says in the one-page statement in reference to Fr. Ezeagu’s kidnapping.
Fr. Ezeagu was on his way to neighboring Anambra State, Southeastern Nigeria to participate in the burial of his father set for Thursday, December 17. A Vigil Mass for his father has been scheduled to take place Wednesday, December 16.
“We call for fervent prayers for his immediate release,” the Secretary-General of the 50-year-old Congregation adds in reference to his kidnapped confrere.
“May Almighty God protects and safeguards his Priest from any harm,” the leadership of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia implores in a Facebook post. The kidnapping of Fr. Ezeagu comes just over three weeks after the kidnapping of Fr. Matthew Dajo, a Priest of the Archdiocese of Abuja, who was released after ten days in captivity.
Fr. Matthew was kidnapped on November 22 after armed bandits raided the community of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Yangoji Parish of Abuja Archdiocese and shot sporadically for about 30 minutes before scaling the fence of the Priest’s house and “whisking him away from his bedroom.”
On December 15, the Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Ignatius Kaigama expressed concerns over multiple cases of kidnappings in the country saying, “Events of recent months have shown it will only take a combination of efforts and strategies to frontally address the underlying causes of the kidnappings and banditry in the country.”
In the December 15 statement published on his Facebook page, Archbishop Kaigama says, “The level of incidents and the apparent impunity have become unacceptable and cannot be excused, for whatever reason.”
“The incidents of killings and kidnapping currently going on in Nigeria is now posing a significant threat to all the citizens,” the Archbishop said in a December 15 statement obtained by ACI Africa.
Nigeria has been experiencing insecurity since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency began targeted attacks with the aim of turning Africa’s most populous nation into an Islamic state.
Since then, the group, one of the largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been orchestrating indiscriminate terrorist attacks on various targets including religious and political groups as well as civilians.
The insecurity situation in the West African nation has further been complicated by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also referred to as the Fulani Militia, who have been clashing frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land.
Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have repeatedly called on the government to put in place strict measures to protect its citizens.
“It is just unimaginable and inconceivable to celebrate Nigeria at 60 when our roads are not safe; our people are kidnapped, and they sell their properties to pay ransom to criminals,” members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) said in a collective statement on October 1.
They added, “Nigerians are experiencing an invasion of their farmlands by armed Fulani-herdsmen; a group well organized and already designated as the fourth deadliest terrorists group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index.”
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