A Catholic priest kidnapped last week in Nigeria has been released unharmed after the intervention of the local police.
Father Paulinus Udewangu of St. Marks Catholic Church in Nsude was kidnapped on July 4 while jogging. Nsude is in Nigeria’s south-eastern Enugu State.
Police issued a statement on Tuesday saying the priest was released on July 7 “following intensive pressure and search mounted by the operatives of the command.”
“The intensive pressure and search mounted by the operatives forced his abductors who were earlier demanding [$275,000] to abandon him, just as police operatives acting on intelligence information were closing up on them,’’ said the statement.
“The abducted Enugu Catholic priest has regained his freedom without payment of ransom as being demanded by his abductors,” it continued.
One person has been arrested for the crime, and the police said he is cooperating with the authorities.
Clergy are often the targets of kidnapping for ransom, both by local criminal gangs and Fulani herdsmen.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with nearly 186 million people – nearly equally divided between Christians and Muslims.
Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” is where the Muslim north meets the Christian south. The Fulani herdsmen are Muslim and often attack farmers, who are mostly Christian – the violence has religious and ethnic undertones. This year alone, the Fulani have been responsible for hundreds of deaths.
Enugu State is predominantly Christian, but the Fulani herdsmen have been known to act in the area.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria issued the statement July 3, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to do more to protect the people of the country.
“If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graves that our country has become,” the bishops said.