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Nigerian Bishop Abducted, Church Leadership Praying for His “safety, quick release”

Bishop Moses Chikwe, Auxiliary Bishop of Nigeria’s Archdiocese of Owerri kidnapped by unknown gunmen Sunday, December 27.

Prayers are being sought for the “safety and quick release” of a Nigerian Catholic Bishop who was abducted December 27 in the capital of Nigeria’s Imo State, Owerri.

Bishop Moses Chikwe “is said to have been kidnapped in the night of Sunday 27th December 2020,” the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), which is the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has reported.

Bishop Chikwe is the Auxiliary Bishop of Nigeria’s Archdiocese of Owerri.

In his press release addressed to CBCN members, CSN Secretary General, Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso Samjumi makes reference to the Local Ordinary of Owerri saying, “His Grace, Archbishop (Anthony John Valentine) Obinna has announced the kidnap of his Auxiliary Bishop, Most Rev. Moses Chikwe.”

“Up to this moment, there has been no communication from the kidnappers,” Fr. Samjumi says in his press release shared with ACI Africa Monday, December 28.

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“Trusting in the maternal assistance of Blessed Virgin Mary, we pray for his safety and quick release,” the CSN Secretary General adds in his press release circulated under the headline: “SAD EVENT FROM OWERRI.”

Various sources have confirmed to ACI Africa about the abduction of 53-year-old Nigerian Bishop, all indicating that the Bishop’s whereabouts remain unknown.

“I spoke with the Archbishop yesterday evening and asked him to let me know if any new thing occurs. Nothing yet,” a Catholic Bishop in Nigeria told ACI Africa Tuesday, December 29, making reference to Archbishop Obinna of Owerri Archdiocese.

“The news was out yesterday in the evening,” a Nigerian Catholic Priest told ACI Africa December 29, confirming the abduction.

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Another Nigerian Catholic Cleric confirmed the lack of information since the December 27 kidnapping incident telling ACI Africa, “That has remained the situation. We are yet to get further information on the issue. We keep praying and hoping for the best.”

According to The Sun, a Nigerian online publication, the kidnapping occurred along Port Harcourt road in Owerri at about 8 p.m. local time.

Bishop Chikwe “was kidnapped alongside his driver in his official car,” The Sun reported, citing eyewitnesses adding that the Bishop’s vehicle “was later returned to Assumpta roundabout, while the occupants were believed to have been taken to an unknown destination.”

“The Commissioner of Police has activated the Command’s Quick Intervention Team (QUIT) and the Anti Kidnapping Unit (AKU), to move into the matter with a view to rescue the Bishop and possibly arrest the hoodlums,” The Sun has reported, making reference to Isaac Akinmoyede, the Police Commissioner of Nigeria’s Imo State.

Bishop Chikwe’s abduction is the latest in a series of kidnappings that have targeted Clergy in Nigeria, the previous abductions involving Catholic Priests.

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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.

“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.