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Gratitude as Nigerian Bishop is Freed “unhurt, without ransom” after five-Day Captivity

Bishop Moses Chikwe, Auxiliary Bishop of Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese freed alongside his driver on 1 January 2021 after five days in captivity.

The Nigerian Bishop and his driver who were abducted December 27 have been freed.

The news of the safe release of the duo was initially announced through a Facebook post on the official page of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri during the early hours of Saturday, January 2.

“The Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri Archdiocese, Most Rev. Moses Chikwe with his driver Mr. Ndubuisi Robert has been released from their abductors unhurt and without ransom,” the leadership of Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese posted on Facebook, adding, “More details to come. To GOD be the glory.”

Hours later, the Archbishop of Owerri announced the safe release of his Auxiliary, Bishop Chikwe and the driver, Mr. Ndubuisi, expressing his gratitude to God and the people of God across the globe for “fervent prayers and supplication.”

“With gratitude to God, I hereby inform all Christ’s faithful and People of Goodwill everywhere that at about 10.00pm on the first day of January 2021, His Lordship, Most Rev. Moses Chikwe and Mr. Ndubuisi Robert, his driver, who were abducted in the evening of Sunday the 27th December, 2020 were finally released,” Archbishop Anthony J.V. Obinna has announced in a letter shared with ACI Africa.

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The Archbishop adds, “I personally visited and saw Bishop Chikwe in his residence at about 10.45pm looking and feeling very weak from the traumatic experience. Nevertheless, we continue to thank the Almighty God for His goodness to us.”

In the letter circulated Saturday, January 2, Archbishop Obinna says that Mr. Ndubuisi who was abducted alongside Bishop Chikwe had to be “speedily taken to the hospital for treatment of a deep cut he received on his hand from the kidnappers.”

Bishop Chikwe and his driver were abducted December 27 at about 8 p.m. local time along Port Harcourt road in Owerri, The Sun, a Nigerian online publication reported, 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 further reported, making reference to Isaac Akinmoyede, the Police Commissioner of Nigeria’s Imo State.

In his January 2 letter, Archbishop Obinna who had, on December 29 asked “all Christ's faithful and people of goodwill at large to disregard the purported news feed by one Useni Yusuf at AI Press on the killing of” Bishop Chikwe, recognizes the “combined” efforts made by various security agencies to secure the safe release of Bishop Chikwe and his driver.

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“I gratefully acknowledge that the Imo State Government through the Directorate of the Security Services and the anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Nigeria Police Force and the Anambra State Government through the Chief Security Office of the State, combined their efforts to attain the release of Bishop Chikwe and Mr. Ndubuisi Robert, his driver,” Archbishop Obinna says.

The Nigerian Archbishop goes on to “sincerely thank the Holy Father, Pope Francis for mentioning the captivity of Bishop Moses Chikwe and Mr. Ndubuisi Robert and praying for their release at his New Year Angelus Message at the Vatican just hours before they regained their freedom.”

He also expresses his gratitude “to the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio G. Filipazzi, for keeping in touch with me and the Vatican authorities during this painful saga.”

“To all the Cardinals, Catholic Bishops, Priests, Religious and Laity in Nigeria and across the world, I say immense thanks for your fervent prayers and supplication,” Archbishop Obinna further says.

He adds, “I equally thank other Christians and People of Goodwill for their spiritual and humane solidarity during this painful period.”

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

Mid December 2020, Fr. Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, a member of the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy (SMMM) was kidnapped in Imo State on his way to his father’s funeral in the neighboring Anambra State, Southeastern Nigeria. He was “unconditionally released” the following day.

In November 2020, Fr. Matthew Dajo, a Nigerian Cleric of the Archdiocese of Abuja, was kidnapped and released after ten days in captivity.

Following Bishop Chikwe’s abduction, Priests and parishioners in the U.S. who had ties with him offered prayers for his safe release.  

Ordained a Priest of Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese in July 1996, Bishop Chikwe had moved to the U.S. at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where he completed his Master's degree in educational administration, and later his Ph.D. in education at UCLA.

For six years, he served as a priest in residence at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in downtown San Diego and at the VA Hospital in La Jolla as chaplain; he also frequently said Mass at St. Mark's parish in San Marcos, CA.

He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri Archdiocese in October 2019and assigned the Titular church of Flumenzer. He was ordained a Bishop on 12 December 2019.