By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Michael Nnadi, one of four Catholic seminarians kidnapped by armed men from the Good Shepherd Major Seminary in Nigeria’s troubled
Kaduna state has been killed, several Catholic sources confirmed. “With immense sorrow, we must inform you that the last seminarian, Michael, in the hands of the kidnappers, was murdered,” said the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The death of the 18-year-old philosophy student was also announced in a statement issued by the Good Shepherd Major Seminary on February 1. He and the other seminarians were abducted by suspected Islamic militants on January 8. The other three seminarians had been released in the previous days and are now receiving medical care, church sources said.
One of them was released after falling gravely ill due to injuries sustained from a severe beating he had received for attempting to resist his kidnappers, Christians said. The unnamed student was reportedly dumped on the side of the Kaduna-Abuja Highway last month in a critical condition and was later admitted to St Gerard’s Catholic Hospital in Kaduna. Two other seminarians were also released.
The last seminarian held was murdered shortly after his seminary had appealed for prayers. ACN confirmed that that the director of the seminary carried out the recognition of his body. The killing came amid broader concerns in parts of Nigeria about rising Islamic militancy. Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, of Benin and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria noted strong insecurity “throughout the country”.
Archbishop Aukbeze complained that although seminars in Nigeria have protective walls, “they are not sufficient” to stop the attacks of Islamic groups such as Boko Haram”.
The Islamic extremists killed some 35,000 people in their ongoing insurgency in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states as well as other parts of Nigeria since 2009, according to the United Nations. “If all the seminaries, monasteries and convents that host religious people had cameras, it would be useful, at least, to capture some terrorists,” Archbishop Aukbez said.
However, ACN added, the resources of the Catholic Church and other groups are limited. Some parishes are even forced to pay for police protection during Sunday masses.
Christians also confirmed fiding the body of the wife of medical practitioner Dr. Philip Ataga, who had been abducted for ransom from her home in Juji, Chikun Local Government Area (LGA) during the early hours of 25 January along with two of her three children. She was found in the bushes along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway, according to church sources.
Catholic Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto, said that Mrs. Ataga and Mr. Nnadi had been “arbitrarily separated [from other hostages] and killed.” The kidnappers are reportedly demanding N20 million (around $55,000) for the release of the couple’s daughters, Christabel, 8, and Jasmine, 3.
Kidnapping for ransom by Islamists has increased exponentially in Kaduna state. Some 35 people were reportedly killed within four days in January when militiamen of Fulani origin raided 10 Gbagyi communities in the Chikun and Birnin Gwari Local Government Areas.
In addition, 58 people were abducted, and their captors are demanding a ransom of over N100 million (around US$276,000) to secure their release, Christians said.
Also in Kaduna, a man was reportedly detained this week after depositing a bag seemingly containing an explosive device inside the Sabon Tasha branch of Living Faith Church. When questioned at the church, the man reportedly said his name was Mohamed Sani, and that he was a Hausa Fulani.
However, once in police detention he allegedly claimed his name was Nathaniel Tanko. “Questions have arisen about the lack of bomb disposal experts among security officials who attended the incident,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) advocacy group. It also questioned the “casual manner with which police handled the undiffused explosive device.”
News of the attempted bombing came as churches across the country participated in peaceful prayer walks to round up three days of “Special Fasting and Prayer.” The special days were called by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in protest at “the gruesome murder” of its chairman in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Lawan Andimi.
CAN also protest against the abduction and killings of “many Christians recently and the continuous incarceration of Leah Sharibu and other prisoners of faith.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife in a statement that his group has urged Nigeria’s government “to review and reform the nation’s security apparatus as a matter of urgency.” He said it was crucial “to ensure that the armed forces have sufficient
resources to combat the threats posed by both factions of Boko Haram, the Fulani militia, and other armed criminal groups.”
He also said that his group extends its “deepest condolences” to the loved ones of those who died and that it prays for the safe return of the Ataga children and of all others held hostage by armed groups. “The level of bloodshed we are witnessing in northern Nigeria is heart-breaking. Ensuring an adequate response to the unprecedented levels of violence afflicting this pivotal west African state should be of utmost priority to the international community.”
He appealed to the international community “to do everything in its power to assist Nigeria in combatting violence and extremism and protecting vulnerable communities across the country.”