Michael Nnadi, one of four Catholic seminarians abducted by armed men from the Good Shepherd Major Seminary in Kaduna state on 8 January, has been murdered by his captors. The death of the 18 year-old philosophy student was announced in a statement issued by the Good Shepherd Major Seminary on 1 February.
Mr Nnadi was abducted along with Pius Kanwai, 19, Peter Umenukor, 23, and Stephen Amos, 23, by men dressed in military fatigues who invaded the seminary at around 10pm on 8 January, forced their way into the student dormitory and stole valuables. The assailants reportedly spent 30 minutes ransacking the premises before absconding with the first year philosophy students.
The first seminarian to be released had fallen gravely ill due to injuries sustained from a severe beating he had received for attempting to resist his kidnappers. The unnamed student was dumped on the side of the Kaduna-Abuja Highway on 18 January in a critical condition, and was later admitted to St Gerard’s Catholic Hospital in Kaduna.
A statement issued on 31 January and signed by the seminary’s registrar, Reverend Fr. Dr Joel Usman, confirmed the release of two more seminarians, and called for continuing prayer for the “the remaining one and all those who are still in the hands of kidnappers.” However, a further statement was released on the following day announcing that Mr Nnadi had been “found dead.”
On the same day, 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, was found in the bush along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway. According to a statement attributed to Catholic Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto, Mrs Ataga and Mr Nnadi had been “arbitrarily separated [from other hostages] and killed.” The kidnappers are reportedly demanding N20 million (around £42,000) for the release of the couple’s daughters, Christabel, 8, and Jasmine, 3.
Kidnapping for ransom has increased exponentially in Kaduna state. According to the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), in a four day campaign that began on 6 January 2020, militiamen of Fulani origin raided 10 Gbagyi communities in the Chikun and Birnin Gwari Local Government Areas (LGAs), killing at least 35 people. 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.
Also in Kaduna, a man was arrested on 3 February after depositing a bag seemingly containing an explosive device inside the Sabon Tasha branch of Living Faith Church (aka Winner’s Chapel). 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. Moreover, questions have arisen regarding the lack of bomb disposal experts amongst the security officials who attended the incident, and 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,” called by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in protest at “the gruesome murder of the Chairman of CAN Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev. Lawan Andimi, 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 said: “We extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends, and loved ones of Michael Nnadi and Mrs Ataga, and are praying 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, which we urge to do everything in its power to assist Nigeria in combatting violence and extremism and protecting vulnerable communities across the country. We also call on the government of Nigeria to review and reform the nation’s security apparatus as a matter of urgency, and to ensure 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.”