JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Two Nigerian pastors have been abducted this month in Kogi state, as kidnapping cartels that have plagued the central state the past three years directed their aim at Christian leaders.
In a departure from numerous kidnappings of high-profile business and government leaders in Kogi state since 2013, gunmen abducted pastor David Onubedo of Deeper Life Bible Church on Monday night (Jan. 25) in Okene after a Bible study, according to local reports. In the same state in Emi-Oworo village, U.S. missionary Phyllis Sortor was kidnapped on Feb. 23, 2015, and not released until March 6.
Onubedo’s captors are reported to have contacted his wife and the leadership of the church to demand 50 million naira (US$249,000) for his release.
“Pastor David Onubedo is a serving minister at a parish of the church in the city of Kebbi, northwest Nigeria, and was only visiting his hometown of Okene when he was kidnapped yesterday as he was returning to his home after attending evening Bible studies in the church here in Okene at about 9 p.m.,” a church member who requested anonymity told Morning Star News.
In Lokoja, capital of Kogi state, gunmen on Jan. 10 kidnapped pastor Ayo Raphael during a worship service of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Resurrection parish, sources said. Masked gunmen disrupted the service and took the pastor away at gunpoint, a member of the congregation told Morning Star News on condition of anonymity.
“The gunmen attacked the church while Pastor Ayo was preaching,” the member said. “They ordered us to lie down and close our eyes as they shot into the air and dragged our pastor away at gunpoint.”
The kidnappers of the Pentecostal pastor are also demanding 50 million naira (US$249,000) for his release, the source said.
William Aya, spokesman for the Kogi State Police Command, confirmed the kidnapping of the pastor to Morning Star News.
In the Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria, gunmen on Sunday (Jan. 24) shot and wounded a pastor during an Anglican church service in the course of kidnapping a member of the congregation, sources said.
The Rev. Obata Ezekiel was delivering a sermon at the church in Igbedi, Bayelsa state, when the gunmen stormed the service at about 12:40 p.m., shot him and kidnapped engineer Dunkan Eke.
“Our parish priest, the Rev. Obata, is currently in the hospital where he’s being treated for bullet wounds,” a member of the parish told Morning Star News by phone.
Asinim Butswat, spokesman for the Bayelsa State Police Command, confirmed the shooting of the Anglican priest and the kidnapping of the parishioner.
“We are on the trail of the unknown gunmen, and we are assuring the public that we shall try to ensure that those who carried out this attack are arrested and brought to book,” Butswat told Morning Star News in a text message. “The injured victim is responding to treatment at a clinic in Polaku. Efforts have been intensified to rescue the victim and arrest the abductors.”
Organized crime syndicates carried out numerous kidnappings in oil-rich Bayelsa state in 2015, where widespread poverty is a stark backdrop to well-off people involved in drilling and other oil-production activities. Many kidnappings are aimed at those in the industry.
Regarding the kidnapping of Onubedo in Kogi state, the Deeper Life Bible Church sent a text message throughout Nigeria urging fervent prayer for his release.
“Please, begin to pray and send prayer request to others for the release of Pastor Onubedo, a state overseer in Deeper Life Ministry who was reportedly kidnapped at his residence immediately after the Bible Study tonight [Monday],” the message reads. “The pastor wants us to immediately enter prayer closets both as individuals, families and in groups for his immediate and safe release.”