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Kidnapped Kaduna Catholic Priest Ransomed Out and in Hospital

Endured ‘Merciless Beatings’ by Kidnappers

By Luka Binniyat

(Kaduna) – Reverend Father Gabriel Ukeh, kidnapped on Sunday (June 9, 2024) from his official residence at St. Paul Catholic Church, Zamandabo, Atyap Chiefdom, Zangon Kataf county, about 130 miles South of Kaduna metropolis, has been released by his abductors.

Official and local sources confirmed that  the 44-year-old priest was released and found his was to Zamandabo village around 9 pm Monday to the jubilation of the 3,000 residents of the farming community who are chiefly Catholics.

A statement from Rev. Fr. Okafor Gabriel Tochukwu, Director of Communications, Kafanchan Catholic Diocese, Tuesday (June 11)  reads:

“With gratitude to God, we announce the safe release of our Brother and Priest, Rev Fr Gabriel Ukeh, who was abducted from the Rectory of St Thomas Parish, Zaman Dabo, Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, where he shepherds.

“Fr Gabriel was happily welcomed home to his parish community at about 9:00 pm, Monday, 10th June 2024.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the kind and prayerful support of all and sundry who worked round the clock to make this a reality,” according to the statement.

The statement did not mention where Father Ukeh was taken to; whether he was rescued, or ransom was paid.

However, a source from Zamandabo who does not want his name mentioned, said that Father Ukeh was kidnapped by armed men made up of Hausa and Fulani criminals and taken on foot to Zangon Kataf town – the only exclusive Muslim Hausa-Fulani community in Atyap Chiefdom, Southern Kaduna.

“They walked him silently, avoiding local security and making it to Zangon Kataf, which is about 5 miles from Zamandabo.

“From there, they forced him into a car and drove across a bridge in Bakin Kogi market town and to Mariri, in Kauru county some 30 miles north of Zamandabo.

“They kept him in a safe House in Mariri until ransom was paid. That was what he told some of us when he came back.

“They beat him mercilessly. And he has now been taken to a hospital and he is recuperating,” he said.

According to him, a sum of $832 dollars (N1.07 million naira) was paid against the $1000 dollars (N1.3 million Naira) initially demanded from the terrorists.

Kaduna state, most dangerous place to be a Catholic priest in Nigeria.

According to a 2023 report compiled by SB Morgen, a risk assessment organization, titled “The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry 2023 Update,” reported by The Whistler, Kaduna State was judged to be the most dangerous place to be a Catholic priest in Nigeria.

“Kaduna State has been judged by security experts as a vulnerable place for catholic priests considering the number of abducted clerics between July 2022 and June 2023, in the state,” reports The Whistler.

“The report said Catholic priests had become a notable demographic among the kidnap targets, and no fewer than 21 Catholic priests were abducted in Nigeria in the period under review.

“A breakdown of the data showed that at least five Catholic priests were abducted in Kaduna and three in Benue, Edo, and Anambra States,” says The Whistler.

Below are the names of kidnapped Catholic priests in Kaduna State and their times of abduction as compiled by TruthNigeria.

1.   Reverend Father Gabriel Ukeh: Kidnapped: June 9, 2024, from St. Thomas Church, Zango Kataf county. Released. Ransom paid.

2.   Father Oliver Buba –  Kidnapped: May 21, 2024. Released. Ransom paid.

3.   Rev Fr Emmanuel Silas: July 4, 2022, from St. Charles Catholic Church, Zambina. Released after ransom payment.

4.   Father Vitus Borogo: killed by bandits at on his Kaduna farm after a failed kidnap bid on June 25, 2022

5.   Father John Mark Cheitnum: July 15, 2022, from Christ the King Catholic Church, Kafanchan. Killed after ransom payment

6.   Father Donatus Cleopas: July 15, 2022, from Christ the King Catholic Church, Kafanchan. Released. Not known if ransom was paid.

7.   Father Abraham Kunat: November 8, 2022. Released after ransom was paid.

8.   Father Sylvester Okechukwu: December 20, 2022, from St Anthony’s Parish, Zaria Diocese. Released.

9.   Father Joseph Aketeh Bako: March 8, 2022 from St. John Catholic Parish, Kaduna. Killed a month later after ransom payment

Luka Binniyat is a veteran Journalist and conflict reporter for Truth Nigeria based in Kaduna, Nigeria.

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