The vehicle of the 53-year-old Bishop “was later returned to Assumpta roundabout, while the occupants were believed to have been taken to an unknown destination,” according to The Sun, a Nigerian online publication.
“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 further reported, making reference to Isaac Akinmoyede, the Police Commissioner of Nigeria’s Imo State.
In a press release circulated under the title, “SAD EVENT FROM OWERRI,” the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) where the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) is headquartered reported the Bishop’s abduction adding, “Up to this moment, there has been no communication from the kidnappers.”
“Trusting in the maternal assistance of Blessed Virgin Mary, we pray for his safety and quick release,” CSN Secretary General, Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso Samjumi said in the press release shared with ACI Africa December 28.
Nigeria has been experiencing insecurity since 2009 when 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 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 country 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.
The abduction of the Auxiliary Bishop of Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese is the latest in a series of kidnappings that have targeted Clergy in the country, the previous abductions involving Catholic Priests.
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.