Residence of Catholic Priests in Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese Attacked, Two Priests Abducted

ACI AFRICA. Published with permission.

By Magdalene Kahiu

Sokoto, 25 May, 2022 / 9:25 pm (ACI Africa).

Two Catholic Priests serving in Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese have been abducted after gunmen attacked their residence during the early hours of Wednesday, May 25.

In a message shared with ACI Africa May 25, the Communications Director of Sokoto Diocese, confirms the attack on St. Patrick’s Catholic Parish of Sokoto Diocese and the abduction of two Priests and two boys who were in the Parish house. 

“As at midnight of today, 25th May, 2022, gunmen broke into the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Gidan Maikambo, Kafur LGA of Katsina State. The parish priest and his assistant Rev. Frs. Stephen Ojapah, MSP, and Oliver Okpara and two boys in the house were kidnapped,” Fr. Chris Omotosho says in the May 25 message. 

The leadership of Sokoto Diocese does not yet have any information about the whereabouts of the four who were kidnapped, the member of the Missionary Society of Saint Paul of Nigeria (MSP) adds, and appeals for prayers “for their safety and release”.

The abduction of Fr. Ojapah and Fr. Okpara is the latest incident in a series of attacks that have reportedly targeted church institutions and personalities in Africa’s most populous country. 

On May 14, Muslim youths vandalized various Catholic Church premises including the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral of Sokoto Diocese, St. Kevin’s Catholic Church Gidan Dere, Bishop Lawton Secretariat, and St. Bakhita Centre located along Aliyu Jodi Road where they burnt down a bus.

The irate youths were protesting the arrest of Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunci who were apprehended in connection with the stoning to death of Deborah Yakubu at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto on May 12.

Deborah who had reportedly testified that Jesus Christ helped her pass exams was accused of making blasphemous statements about the Prophet Muhammad.

The Rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris in France condemned Deborah’s murder and described the May 12 incident as one of the heinous crimes that joins “a series of anti-Christian acts” in Nigeria.

In a statement circulated May 20, Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Makurdi said he has been unable to visit a number of pastoral areas under his care owing to widespread terrorism by Islamist Fulani herdsmen in Benue State.

Bishop Anagbe who has been at the helm of Makurdi Diocese since March 2015 said life has come to a standstill in the once vibrant Benue State, and that pastoral agents are unable to reach the people as Islamists expand their territories in the villages.

The Nigerian Catholic Bishop regretted the fact that the Nigerian government continues to remain silent amid persistent attacks in the West African nation.

He said that the behavior on the side of the government “says it all: complicity.” In his view, Nigerian authorities may be colluding with militants to mete suffering to defenseless locals.

Bishop Angabe also decried the silence of the international community amid the suffering in Nigeria. He said, “Sadly, we continue to draw the attention of the outside world to the plan by Islamists to Islamize Christian territories countless times with little or no attention paid to our cry and call for help. Sometimes it appears we have been abandoned to the mercy of the jihadists.”

SOURCE ACI AFRICA. Published with permission.