Nov 15, 2023

Nigeria: Catholic bishops sound alarm over kidnapping and killing of clergy

Amid the continuing sectarian conflict in Nigeria, members of the clergy are being singled out for attack by Islamist and criminal groups, according to church leaders. An analysis of media reports reveals that tens of priests and pastors have been abducted or killed this year.

Isaac Achi. Diocese of Minna

Father Isaac Achi died when his parish residence was set on fire. Diocese of Minna


Nigeria’s Catholic bishops have warned that the Nigerian church is threatened by the plague of kidnappings in the country. Kidnapping for ransom is continuing unabated, and Catholic priests are frequently the victims, being seen as “soft targets.” 

At a plenary meeting, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference accused the security forces of looking the other way as Christians are attacked.  

“The failure of the government to tackle the issue of killing of priests has further contributed to emboldening other criminals to do the same,” the Bishops’ Conference was quoted as saying.  

Impoverished by insecurity 

This year at least 13 members of the Christian clergy have been kidnapped and subsequently released, reports Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). Others remain in captivity. 

Kidnappers frequently demand high ransoms for their captives. The bishop of Sokoto, in northwestern Nigeria, Matthew Hassan Kukah, recently lamented the fact that the church was being impoverished by the insecurity in the country.  

“I have lost a seminarian, I’ve lost a priest; we have spent over 30 million naira [about $37,200], which we don’t have, to rescue our pastoral agents from kidnappers,” Kukah told ACI Africa 

Killings of clergy 

While criminal gangs are motivated by financial gain, jihadist elements follow a more strategic approach when targeting priests and pastors for abduction and killing, says Franklyne Ogbunwezeh. The senior researcher for Subsaharan Africa at CSI says their motivation is to establish an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria through a demographic displacement of Christians, especially in the Middle Belt of the country.  

“They kidnap and murder Christian leaders who have a high standing in their communities, sometimes even killing them after ransoms have been paid. This is to detach the community from its center, making it easier to destroy those Christian communities. 

Attacks expected before Christmas

“Most of the priests that have been killed in the Middle Belt, like Father Isaac Achi, were not only parish priests but commanded an influence that extended into surrounding communities,” said Ogbunwezeh, pointing out that Achi was the local chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, an umbrella organization. 

Plateau State-based human rights lawyer Solomon Mwantiri is warning that attacks targeting clergy in the Middle Belt are likely in the coming weeks. Mwantiri told CSI that, according to reliable intelligence, Fulani militias want to eliminate key local figures before invading Christian communities in the run-up to Christmas. 

14 clergymen killed 

CSI research has identified 14 members of the clergy (listed below) who have been killed this year. The majority of the attacks were in Middle Belt states where jihadist Fulani militants are most active.  

  1. Father Isaac Achi was burned to death early on the morning of Sunday January 15 when a group of assailants set fire to the parish residence of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Kafin-Koro, Niger State. Another priest, Father Collins Omeh, was shot and wounded. 
  2. Pastor Jerry Hinjari of Christ Nation International church was abducted from his home in Yola, Adamawa State, at around midnight on January 25. His body was found on a roadside the next day.  
  3. Pastor Musa Hyok Mang and his two adult sons were shot dead by suspected Fulani militiamen who invaded his residence in Ganawuri, Plateau State, at midnight on March 3. No other houses in the village were attacked, leading to the assumption that the pastor was targeted. 
  4. Rev. Musa Mairimi of the Evangelical Church Winning All in Buda 2 village, Kaduna was killed in his home by Fulani militiamen on March 23. His wife was abducted at gunpoint. 
  5. Pastor Yakubu Shuaibu of the Church of the Brethren in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, was killed on April 4 by Islamic State West Africa Province jihadists who reportedly broke into his house. 
  6. Rev. Daniel Danbeki of the Evangelical Church Winning All, his wife and 41 other people were killed by Fulani militiamen on May 11 in an overnight attack on two predominantly Christian villages, Takalafia and Gwanja, in Nasarawa State. 
  7. Rev. Shedrack Ayuaba died ijust after midnight on May 24 when Fulani militias attacked Nting village, Plateau State. 
  8. Father Charles Onomhoale Igechi, a priest of the Archdiocese of Benin City in southern Nigeria, was killed by gunmen in Ikpoba Okha, Edo State, on June 7. 
  9. Rev. Nichodemus Kim of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) was shot by militiamen in Gana-Ropp, Plateau State on June 11. 
  10. Pastor Kayode Oluwakemi of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in southwest Nigeria’s Ogun State killed when gunmen stormed the parish building during a church vigil on July 1. 
  11. Rev. Jeremiah Mayau, pastor of Tawaliu Baptist Church in Ungwan Mission, in Kaduna State, was shot to death by gunmen on his farm on August 23. 
  12. Na’aman Danlami, a young Catholic seminarian, was burned to death when assailants set fire to the rectory of St. Raphael’s Catholic church in Fadan Kamantan, southern Kaduna State on September 7. He was killed in a failed attempt to kidnap the parish priest and his assistant. 
  13. Reverend Jeremiah Wayo was shot and killed in September at his farm in Kujama in Kaduna State. 
  14. Brother Godwin Eze was killed on October 12, one day after being kidnapped by Fulani militiamen from a Benedictine monastery in Eruku, Kwara State. Two other novices kidnapped with him were released. 
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