On December 15, Fr. Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, a member of the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy (SMMM) was kidnapped in Imo State en route to his father’s funeral in the neighboring Anambra State, Southeastern Nigeria. He was “unconditionally released” the following day.
Last month, Fr. Matthew Dajo, a Nigerian Cleric of the Archdiocese of Abuja, was kidnapped and released after ten days in captivity. Multiple sources in Nigeria told ACI Africa about negotiations for ransom following Fr. Dajo’s November 22 kidnapping, some sources indicating abductors’ demand for hundreds of thousands of US Dollars.
Earlier this month, the U.S. has listed Nigeria among the worst countries for religious freedom, the U.S. State Department describing the West African nation as a “country of particular concern (CPC).” This is a formal designation reserved for nations where the worst violations of religious freedom are taking place, the other countries being China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
The action by the U.S. State Department was lauded by the leadership of Knights of Columbus, with the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson saying 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.
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“The Christians of Nigeria, both Catholic and Protestant, deserve attention, recognition and relief now,” Anderson further said, adding, “Nigeria's Christians should be able to live in peace and practice their faith without fear."
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 Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous nation, 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 CBCN said in a collective statement on October 1.