, 31 October, 2019 / 12:54 AM
A couple of days since unknown gunmen “whisked away” Nigerian Fr. Arinze Madu, a diocesan Catholic priest serving at Nigeria’s Queen of Apostles Spiritual Year Seminary, Enugu diocese, there are concerns about the priest’s whereabouts as kidnappings targeting Church leaders seem to multiply in Africa’s most populous country, a source in Enugu diocese has told ACI Africa.
“Fr Madu was accosted by a band of gunmen as he was driving out of the seminary gate on Monday evening,” the Director of Communications in Nigeria’s Enugu diocese, Fr. Benjamin Achi told ACI Africa Wednesday, October 30 in reference to the October 28 occurrence outside the gate of the Queen of Apostles Spiritual Year Seminary.
“The priest upon sighting the men had wanted to make a quick U-turn back into the seminary but his car tyres incidentally got stuck in a ditch (and) the gunmen capitalized on that and whisked him away,” Fr. Achi narrated.
Since then, there are concerns about the whereabouts of the kidnapped Nigerian cleric.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have confirmed the abduction of Fr. Madu on their Facebook page where the Prelates quote the Public Relations officer of Enugu State police, Ebere Amaraizu as saying, “It was gathered that the priest was allegedly abducted on October 28 at about 5.50pm near the gate of the seminary located at Imezi Owa as he was driving out of the seminary premises after suspected hoodlums had allegedly fired sporadically.”
In an October 29 news report about the Monday incident, Fr. Achi is quoted describing the kidnapping of Fr. Madu as “terrifying”.
During the Wednesday, October 30 telephone interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Achi confirmed this worrisome trend saying, “It has been a terrible situation, we have had several cases like this.”
The latest abduction of Fr. Madu who is the Vice Rector of the Seminary where he was taken away, Fr. Achi narrated, “is coming barely two months after another priest of the diocese, Rev. Fr. Paul Offu was attacked and killed as he was on his way to celebrate a funeral Mass in a parish he once served as a pastor.”
He continued, “Earlier in March of this year, another priest, Rev. Fr. Clement Ugwu was abducted in his parish, St Mark's Parish, Obinofia Ndiuno and his decomposing corpse found in the bush a week after.”
“There have been two other separate attacks on two other priests, Rev. Frs. Paulinus Ilo and Patrick Chimezie Ani by men suspected to be Fulani herdsmen. While the latter escaped by the skin of his teeth with his car riddled with bullets, the former wasn't that lucky as he was shot in the ankle and has just recently been discharged after several weeks in the hospital,” Fr. Achi shared with ACI Africa.
“Everybody is asking why priests have become the target,” he queried and added, “It’s getting to the extreme.”
Fr. Achi told ACI Africa that his West African country has been experiencing abductions and killings, which “started in the North East of Nigeria by the Boko Haram, and is now moving to the South.”
“These incidences seem to be against Christians, targeting leaders and instilling fear to the followers,” Fr. Achi lamented and added, “When the shepherd is struck, the sheep scatters.”
The Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have quoted Enugu State Government terming the abduction as an “unfortunate incident” and promising “that no stone would be left unturned to make sure that he (Fr. Madu) regained his freedom.”
“The government at all levels have continued to pledge its commitment to see to the protection of the lives and properties of the citizens and to stem the tide of this spate of insecurity in the land,” Fr. Achi told ACI Africa.
“We keep praying and hope for the best in the wake of the present incident,” Fr. Achi concluded.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa