, 17 December, 2020 / 3:30 PM
The Nigerian Religious Cleric abducted earlier this week on his way to his dad’s funeral has been “unconditionally released,” the leadership of his Religious Congregation has announced.
The member of the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy (SMMM) was kidnapped by unknown people the morning of December 15 in Nigeria’s Imo State en route to the neighboring Anambra State, Southeastern Nigeria.
“I write to notify the public that our brother priest, Fr. Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, who was kidnapped yesterday, Tuesday 15th of December, 2020 at about 8:00 am at Umulolo Arondizuogu has been unconditionally released today Wednesday, 16th of December 2020,” the Secretary General of SMMM, Fr. Goodluck C. Ajacro has announced in his December 16 statement published on Facebook.
Fr. Ajacro recounts the December 15 abduction of his confrere as reported by an eye witness saying, “Four armed men came out from the bush in a bad spot at Umulolo, Arondizuogu, and forced him to the back of the car and sped off.”
In the December 16 statement, the leadership of the Religious Order based in Nigeria’s Umuahia Diocese expresses gratitude to “God who touched the hearts of the kidnappers to release our brother.”
SMMM leadership attributes Fr. Ezeagu’s unconditional release to the “ever reliable intercession of Mary our Mother of Mercy” and thank members of the Clergy, Religious men and women, and Christ’s faithful who offered prayers for Fr. Ezeagu.
In the notification message, SMMM Secretary General implores God “for the conversion of the kidnappers and all those that are in various forms of crime.”
In the message posted on Facebook page of Nigeria’s Diocese of Ekwulobia, SMMM leadership also calls on the government of the West African nation to “invest more in securing the lives and property of citizens as well as provide job opportunities and the enabling environment so that our teaming youths will be meaningfully engaged.”
Last week, the U.S. has listed Nigeria among the worst countries for religious freedom, described by the State Department as “country of particular concern (CPC),” which is a formal designation reserved for nations where the worst violations of religious freedom are taking place, including China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
The action by the U.S. State Department has been lauded by the leadership of Knights of Columbus, with the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson saying Wednesday, December 16, "Nigeria's Christians have suffered grievously at the hands of Boko Haram and other groups."
The murders and kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria now “verge on genocide,” Anderson added December 16.
“The Christians of Nigeria, both Catholic and Protestant, deserve attention, recognition and relief now,” Anderson further said and continued, “Nigeria's Christians should be able to live in peace and practice their faith without fear."
Fr. Ezeagu’s December 15 kidnapping was the latest in a series of abductions that seem to target members of the Clergy in Nigeria. Three weeks ago, Fr. Matthew Dajo, a Priest of the Archdiocese of Abuja, was kidnapped and released after ten days in captivity.
Fr. Dajo 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.”
According to a special report released by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) in March, “no fewer than 20 clergymen including at least eight Catholic Priests/Seminarians were hacked to death in the past 57 months and not less than 50 abducted or kidnapped.”
Catholic Bishops in the country have repeatedly called on Muhammadu Buhari-led government to put in place strict measures to protect her 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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