The priests were kidnapped on their way to celebrating the tenth anniversary of being ordained in Nigeria’s southern Delta State when gunmen suspected to be Muslim Fulani herdsman held them hostage on November 6. After three days in captivity, Father Victor Adigboluja of Ijebu Ode diocese, Father Anthony Otegbola of Abeokuta diocese, Father Joseph Ediae of Benin archdiocese, and Emmanuel Obadjere of Warri diocese, were released but details on why they were freed have not been revealed. The priests were taken to Benin City hospital for medical attention immediately after their release.

Nigeria Police Delta Command confirmed on Saturday the priests were rescued near Abraka, Ethiope East Local Government Area of the state.

Police Commissioner of Delta, Muhammad Mustafa, said: “We are on the trail of the other suspects. We do not encourage ransom, so no ransom was paid.”

One suspect has been arrested and police are continuing to search for more.

No suspects have been named yet.


Four priests were held hostage for three days (Image: getty)

The priests were travelling to a meeting in Edo State, around three-hours by car inland from Delta, when the gunmen reportedly opened fire at their vehicle before taking them hostage, according to The News Agency of Nigeria.

The captors demanded N4 million, the equivalent of $11,000 (£8, 561), for their release.

Nigerian officials are condemning the attack and the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, said the abduction was “barbaric, dehumanising and shameful”.

In an announcement yesterday, Mr Ortom called for citizens living in the Agatu Local Government Area, in the Benue State, to support security agents deployed to sustain peace in the area. 

The Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Benin, Fr. Mike Oyanoafoh also commented on the priest’s release: “To God be the glory.

“I am happy to announce to you that Fr Joseph Ediae and three other priests of Warri, Ijebu Ode and Abeokuta Dioceses have been released.”

Nigeria’s population of almost 186 million people is almost equally split between Christians and Muslims.

The Middle Belt region stretches across central Nigeria and defines the area where the Muslim-north meets the Christian-south.

fulani herdsmen

A still image taken from a video shot June 25 shows people on the back of a truck fleeing violence (Image: CNS)

Here, ethnic and religious-based violence is prevalent, with the Muslim Fulani herdsmen frequently targeting Christians.

For Christians, October was one of the most brutal months this year for attacks by Fulani herdsmen which saw 260 Christians slaughtered, according to Emeka Umeagbalasi, board chair of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law. 

The society, which monitors regime and policing atrocities, noted in its October report: “The senseless killings mostly took place in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria particularly in the States of Kaduna (Southern part), Plateau, Adamawa, Benue and Borno (Northeast) and were perpetrated by state actor and non-state actor Jihadists. The killings, perpetrated in the name of ‘Islam,’ are done with reckless abandon despite heavy presence and deployment of soldiers in all the 36 States of Nigeria.

“The continuation and escalation of the killings mostly targeted at members of the Nigerian Christian faith are also politically motivated whereby those perpetrating them and their backers in the corridors of power who brazenly aid and abet them are hailed among largely illiterate Muslim population in the North as the ‘true defenders of Allah and Islamic Faith’ capable of robotically galloping their electoral popularity among the illiterate Muslim population in the north ahead of the country’s presidential poll in February 2019.”  

Meanwhile, militant groups are active across the Niger Delta area and there’s a high risk of armed robbery, criminal activity and kidnap in the area.

Conflict in the region erupted in the 1990s when minority ethnic groups in the Niger Delta felt they were being exploited by foreign oil corporations, leading to the militarisation of the area by ethnic militia groups, Nigerian military and police forces.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers State in Nigeria, among others.

Date published: 15/11/2018
Written by: Lila Randall
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