, 03 March, 2020 / 11:55 PM
Nigerian priest Fr. David Echioda who was abducted by gunmen in Nigeria’s Benue State Sunday, March 1 has been freed, sources in Nigerian told ACI Africa Tuesday, March 3.
“I have been reliably informed that Fr. David Echioda has been released by his abductors,” a message from Nigeria’s diocese of Otukpo addressed to Catholic clerics in Nigeria reads.
“Thank you for your prayers and support during this trying time,” the Tuesday March 3 message, which Fr. Anthony Bruno Shawuya, the Deputy Director at Media Service Center of Nigeria's Kaduna Ecclesiastical Province, shared with ACI Africa further reads.
A cleric of Nigeria’s Otukpo diocese and a staff at diocese’s minor seminary in Ochobo, Fr. Echioda had been kidnapped by gunmen along Alla-Akpa road while driving back from his missionary outreach of Sunday Mass at Utonkon, Ado in Benue State, central Nigeria, the Nigerian Tribune reported.
“It is true, he was returning from Alla-Akpa road when he was kidnapped. Unfortunately, the people (abductors) are yet to contact the family or anyone," the Director of Communications in Otukpo diocese, Fr. John Okopopu had been quoted as confirming the abduction and revealing the abductors’ trend to seek ransom for the release of those the abductees.
The details of Fr. Echioda’s release are yet to be given from the diocese of Otukpo, with the Local Ordinary participating in the weeklong Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria that will conclude Friday, March 6.
Fr. Echioda’s kidnapping, the latest in a series of abductions targeting Christians in the West African nation, took place the very day Catholic Bishops in the country were leading a march in the capital city, Abuja, peacefully protesting against the persecution of Christians in Africa’s most populous nation.
Our protest “is part of our religious obligation to speak prophetically against whatever is against God’s commandment,” the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze told the protestors who included Bishops, priests, religious men and women and black-clad lay faithful.
“The killing of God’s children is evil. The failure to protect innocent people from relentless attacks is evil. The lack of prosecution of terrorists is evil,” Archbishop Akubeze added.
He described as “far below average” the response to terrorist attacks by President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
“There have been too many mass burials. Too many kidnappings of school children, of travelers, invasion of peoples’ homes, invasion of sacred places like Churches, mosques, seminary, etc.,” the Nigerian Prelate lamented, probing “why the Government is not able to secure the release of the rest of the Chibok girls, the release of Leah Sharibu and others still being held.”
Addressing the hundreds of protestors who joined the Bishops on Sunday, Archbishop Akubeze went on to bemoan the seeming unwillingness of the Nigerian government to prosecute the perpetrators behind the beheading of Reverend Lawan Andimi, and those behind the murder of 18-year-old Seminarian Michael Nnadi.
“We are protesting against the brutal killings of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram, and terrorists’ herdsmen who are invading people’s farmlands forcefully. We are gathered here to register our protest against the kidnapping for ransom in every part of Nigeria,” the Archbishop said and added, “We are gathered to mourn the women, children, babies, and men who have been killed by the terrorists.”
He called on the West to condemn the atrocities committed by the jihadist terrorist organization in the country saying, “Western Journalists and Western Political Leaders should give Boko Haram the attention they give to other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, and ISSIS.”
“If the Western media give comprehensive steadfast coverage to the atrocities happening in Nigeria, they will discover that people are dying daily in Nigeria from the hands of Boko Haram about the same way people are dying in Syria,” the head of the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria explained.
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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