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Delta: Return of the bad boys

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Delta: Return of the bad boys

Who will lead the priests and nuns, popularly called Reverend Fathers and Sisters by Catholic faithful, to conquer the fortresses of kidnappers and bring religious men and women in the church face to face with peace in Delta State? Criminal organisations in their mantle of irresponsibility have returned to the state and they are currently giving unsuspecting members of the public and the congregation of God’s faithful sleepless nights across the state.

Their Kidnapping for Ransom spree has caused passionate expression of grief among Archbishops and Bishops, Venerable and Vicars, General-Overseers and their Pastors, who now sleepwalk, gasp and pant and gnash their teeth over the desecration of the consecrated servants of God by mere mortals. For over three years, kidnapping of traditional rulers, captains of industries, business moguls and political leaders, which was initially the order of the day in the state abruptly seized but their return three months ago to the state had taken a toll on Catholic Church in the state. In the past three months, priests and religious of the Issele-Uku Diocese in Delta North Senatorial District and Warri Archdiocese at Delta Central axis of Delta State, have formed greater percentage of preys to the teeth of men of the underworld.

The gangsterism with which armed kidnappers quit the state and returned to unleash terror on their churchmen in the state shows that they are unperturbed that the priests and nuns, who live in a cloistered community under the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for the sake of the kingdom of God, and other high profile leaders, deserve no pity, even in their lowlylifestyle. Ironically, while the kidnappers believe that the nefarious act is lucrative, the Catholic Church (worldwide) believes that each time a priest is abducted or made to face persecutions, millions of angels in heaven rejoice over their predicament even as the perpetrators bear the burden of multitude of sins. No wonder the message by the Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) stated clearly that the Church would neither pay ransom nor encourage the payment of ransom to free any kidnapped workers, be it a priest, a nun or catechist.

The message must have informed why the two Asaba-based Catholic priests, namely, Rev. Fr. Franklyn Odiaka, the Parish Priest of Catholic Church of Assumption, nicknamed Zappa Parish, and Rev. Fr. Moses Nwanochei, who were waylaid and abducted at Obior in Aniocha North Local Government Area of the state, when they were returning from a ceremony in honour of their Bishop, Most Rev. (Dr.) Michael Odogwu Elue of Issele-Uku Diocese, were released unhurt and without ransom paid. South South Focus recalls that it was along the same Obior road that the monarch of Ubulu-Uku Kingdom, HRM Akaeze Edward, Ofulue III, was kidnapped and killed by suspected kidnappers over three years ago.

The unsuspecting monarch was cruising in his Toyota Land Cruiser SUV from Obior end towards Igbodo Kingdom when the suspects waylaid him when his driver slowed down to negotiate a bad portion of the road. The hoodlums, numbering six, came out of the bush on sighting his SUV, shot sporadically into the air, which allegedly caused panic in the driver and made him to get stuck in a ditch while attempting to make a brisk u-turn before bullets hit them.

They captured the king and his driver and led them into the bush. His car was later recovered from the spot where he was abducted by a combined team of police men that were despatched from Divisional Police Headquarters and local vigilante from Igbodo and Obior communities. Today, the rest is history about the monarch as his decomposing body was discovered few weeks after at a boundary bush between Delta and Edo State. Although, the abductors of the clergymen (Fathers Franklyn and Moses), did not waste time to open negotiation with some colleagues of the abducted priests in the Diocese, demanding for a hefty N100 million for them to be released unhurt, it was certain that a dime did not exchange before they were freed.

Their release came 24 hours after the then Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Celestina Kalu, lamented that the Catholic church authority in Isselu-Uku Diocese, that initially joined issues with the police command over land allocation for their church building at the premises of the command headquarters, failed to lodge a formal complaint, saying, “Up till now, the police command has not received a formal or official report from the Catholic Church”.

While the church refused to pay the N100 million, parishioners at the Church of Assumption, Zappa Parish, Asaba, where the priests are serving, said they sustained an intensive spiritual exercise for God’s miraculous intervention on their lives, before the priests were released unconditionally after spending few days in the den of the kidnappers. Even though, the occurrence triggered panic within the rank and file of the Orthodox church, thereby making bishops and other top ecclesiastical dignitaries of the church and their colleagues in Pentecostal churches to deeply engage in retreats, outreaches and vigilkeeping to avert the feeling of fear befalling the church, the hoodlums have not stopped to subject their victims to humiliation by declaring ‘by fire-by fire’ against their prelates.

Prior to the last week kidnap when fully armed kidnappers abducted five Catholic nuns of the Order of the Missionary of Martha and Mary (MMM) at Agbor in Ika South Local Government Area of the state in one fell swoop, two priests of the church were also kidnapped in a mysterious circumstance in Warri axis of the state. The kidnap of the priests came barely few hours after a 100-yearold Catholic Church – St. Pauls, collapsed at Ugolo-Adagbrasa in Okpe Local Government Area of the state, and killed an 11-year-old boy. The nuns were said to be returning from a burial ceremony in the Eastern part of the country when the hoodlums struck around the defunct Railway Line, near Agbor, and sandwiched them to an unknown destination. The hoodlums allegedly intercepted the congregational vehicle of the nuns on the night of Thursday, October 25 , shot at them, injured the legs of two of the nuns, before escaping with the other five.

While their abductors have failed to establish immediate contact with either their families or their Diocesan heads, a priest in the district, names withheld, in a text message confirmed the incidence, stating “Please pray for the release of five MMM Sisters kidnapped on Thursday, October 25, 2018 at Agbor, and two other MMM Sisters in the same vehicle shot at the leg region.

The Sisters were on their way from the East where they went for a funeral.” The Police Public Relations Officer of the command, DSP Andrew Aniamaka, ignored all the calls put across to his cell phone. But the Commissioner of Police in the state, Muhammad Mustafa, confirmed their kidnap. The Commissioner said the victims were in a private vehicle when the hoodlums attacked them. He added that the identity of the victims were yet to be ascertained.

The CP said: “The occupants of the vehicle were more than five as at the time of the attack by the hoodlums who shot sporadically into the air to scare away any form of resistance. The command has already mobilised its operatives. They are now on the trail of the kidnappers to possibly rescue the victims unhurt.”

Mustafa said the command had reactivated its two most important principles in crime prevention – the assurance of arrest and severity of punishment, maintaining that “from now on, the criminals and the victims will hear the sound of our voices, and both will know that the game is all over for the criminal organisations and freedom for the victims.”

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