Mixed Signals as Nigerian Catholic Archdiocese Disputes Abducted Priest Murder Allegations

Fr.Joseph Akete Bako. Credit: Father Emmanuel Anyanwu

Conflicting reports have emerged describing the fate of a Catholic Priest who was kidnapped in Nigeria’s Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna, with some sources alleging that the Priest has been tortured to death in captivity.

A source in Nigeria told Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) United Kingdom, that Fr. Joseph Akete Bako who was taken away following a March 8 attack on St. John’s Catholic Church where he served as Parish Priest before the kidnapping has died.

The charity foundation, which provides support to the people of God in countries experiencing extremism spoke to Fr. Emmanuel Anyanwu, the Assistant Parish Priest of St. John’s Catholic Church, who said that Fr. Bako “suffered greatly before his death.”

“He (Fr. Bako) was tortured because they were forcing him to pay a huge amount of ransom for his release. In this case, there was physical torture and beatings which caused him huge amounts of pain and agony,” Fr. Anyanwu was quoted as saying in the April 29 ACN United Kingdom report.

He added in reference to Fr. Bako, the kidnapped Priest, “Because of his fragile health challenges, he couldn’t survive the torture.”


ACN United Kingdom has reported that Fr. Anyanwu announced the alleged death of Fr. Bako officially during the April 24 Sunday Mass “and informed the diocese” of the fate of his senior.

Fr. Anyanwu who was kidnapped alongside the Parish Priest had managed to escape.

Asked to comment on the death allegations during a Wednesday, May 4 interview with ACI Africa, however, Fr. Anthony Shawuya, the Deputy Director of Media Service Centre in the Archdiocese of Kaduna, said that he had not received any update on the situation of the missing Priest.

“(There is) no official statement from the Archdiocese in that regard,” Fr. Shawuya said.

He added, in reference to the efforts of the Archdiocese of Kaduna to secure the release of Fr. Bako, “There were negotiations and efforts for his release but no news as to what has happened to him.”

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In the April 29 report, ACN United Kingdom indicated that despite the fact that the family of Fr. Bako received reports that he was alive on April 22, reports had emerged a week later, through a Church announcement, that the Priest had been killed.

Fr. Anyanwu told the Pontifical foundation that the body of Fr. Bako “has not been released yet by the bandits.”

ACN United Kingdom reports that there had been rumors of Fr. Bako’s death “for several weeks”, adding that a number of contrary reports suggested he was still alive.

In an interview with ACI Africa shortly after the kidnapping of Fr. Bako, a Catholic Priest who preferred to stay anonymous provided details of the kidnapping that had, at that point, not been confirmed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna.

“Fr. Joseph Akete was abducted with his younger brother who visited him. The kidnapping happened around 1:30 a.m. Sadly, his security guard was killed,” the Catholic Priest told ACI Africa during the March 8 interview.


The Priest added, “The security guard, identified as Mr. Luka, was killed but the assistant (Parish Priest) was able to escape… The Archdiocese of Kaduna is yet to give any official statement.”

Last month saw a spate of kidnappings in Nigeria, with Fr. Felix Zakari Fidson, of Zaria Diocese, kidnapped on March 24 and released on May 3.

Fr. Anyanwu told ACN United Kingdom that the kidnappings were part of a concerted effort by extremists to curtail the growth of Christianity in the West African country.

Speaking about the wider Islamist threat, he said, “Boko Haram sees Christianity and Western education as ‘haram’, forbidden, so now they target Christians and especially Catholic Priests who are spreading the Gospel of Christ to the interior parts of Northern Nigeria and beyond.”

He added, “They intend to achieve the caliphate of Boko Haram and total Islamic government in Nigeria.”

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The Catholic Priest was also critical of the Nigerian government’s response to the kidnappings.

He said, “The Nigerian government has done nothing in the past five years on this issue. Bishop Kukah of Sokoto was attacked because he spoke against the evils of this present government. There is also an Islamic agenda to Islamize Christians in Nigeria.”

“The government has never condemned these atrocities or made any progress towards the release of Priests when they are kidnapped,” he said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.