ACI Africa, Dec 5, 2023 / 13:06 pm
A priest from the Diocese of Okigwe in Nigeria was kidnapped Nov. 30 while traveling to administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to a parishioner.
The diocese announced Dec. 1 that Father Kingsley Eze, who serves as the parish priest of St. Michael’s Umuekebi Catholic Church in Nigeria’s Imo state, was kidnapped at approximately 8 p.m. that evening and his whereabouts are unknown.
In a statement sent to ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, the chancellor of the diocese, Father Princewill Iwuanyanwu, confirmed the kidnapping and asked for prayers for the safe release of Eze.
“We solicit your fervent prayers that he may come back to us safe and sound,” Iwuanyanwu said.
Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, gathered witness accounts of the kidnapping, indicating that gunmen attacked the priest, known locally as “Father Ichie,” along with another person, Uchenna Newman, as they got out of their car at an intersection to do some shopping during a stop while responding to a sick call.
The bandits are said to have first robbed the street vendors, shooting indiscriminately and wounding a passerby, and then forced the priest and his companion to follow them.
St. Michael’s Parish serves parts of Imo state in southern Nigeria, which has been the center of massive attacks that mostly target Christians.
Earlier, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) shared with ACI Africa a report indicating that from January 2021 to May of this year, security forces and “allied militias” killed 900 unarmed citizens, wounded 700, and arrested 3,500 people, most of them innocent Christians in Imo state.
The report compiled in May also indicates that 1,400 people were extorted and 300 others forced to disappear, meaning they were likely abducted and their whereabouts are unknown.
Additionally, 1,200 civilian houses were burned down across the Nigerian state, displacing approximately 30,000 people.
The Intersociety report further indicates that attacks across Imo state also forced 500,000 citizens “in active age brackets” to flee from the state and had sought refuge in neighboring urban residences located in Umuahia, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Aba, Enugu, Onitsha, and Nnewi.
In the report, Intersociety petitioned for the prosecution of more than 30 top government officials in Nigeria for killings of Christians in the West African country’s state.
Among those Intersociety brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague was Gov. Hope Uzodinma and other government officials of Imo state whom the research entity has directly linked to the killings and mass displacements of Christians in the state.
This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.
Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a master of arts degree in digital journalism from the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications and a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, media, and communications from Kenya’s Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.