A Catholic priest who was kidnapped in southern Nigeria has reportedly regained freedom. Father Christopher Ogaga was taken Saturday evening, September 1, 2018, as he traveled from Okpe to Warri, where he was scheduled to celebrate Mass at Mother of Redeem the following morning, according to Fides News Agency.
Vatican News said he was reportedly released by his captors on Wednesday. Speaking to “id to the Church in Need, Father Clement Abobo of Warri Diocese in southern Nigeria said father Ogaga is in good health and that no ransom was paid for his release.
The release also was reported September 6, 2018, by the Daily Nigerian, which said State Police Command officers rescued the abducted priest and arrested some suspects in connection with the alleged abduction of the cleric.
The kidnappers were reported to be asking for a ransom of over 15 million Naira (about $40,000).
Fr. Ogaga is also parish priest of St. Luke church and St. Jude church, both in Okpe area.
The kidnapping happened in the same district where a Catholic church collapsed on Sunday, 2 September, killing one person and injuring several others. This is the St. Paul Catholic Church in Okpe. The victim is an 11-year-old boy.
For years, priests and religious have been targets of kidnapping for ransom by criminal gangs in Nigeria, even in predominantly Christian areas like Delta State.
In January, the Nigerian Bishops denounced “the plague of kidnappings for ransom that has reached unimaginable proportions”. In a statement, they wrote that “day after day citizens are kidnapped, humiliated and traumatized by heavily armed gangs. The kidnappers are merciless. In their efforts to obtain large sums of money they subject their victims to unspeakable violence lasting weeks or even months”.
For years, the Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has issued a recommendation prohibiting the payment of ransoms for the release of priests and religious.