Fr. John Gbakaan is latest victim of bandits, who have become major security issue.
In Nigeria, where kidnapping for ransom has become a major security issue, three Catholic priests since November have kidnapped and released within days.
Fr. John Gbakaan was not so fortunate. The parish priest of St. Anthony Church in Gulu, in the Diocese of Minna, was kidnapped and murdered on January 15, along the road from Lambata to Lapai in the state of Niger, Fides Agency reported.
A parish priest in Madala, Fr. John Jatau, announced that Fr. Gbakaan, together with his brother and another priest, had gone to Makurdi in the state of Benue on January 14 to visit his mother, reported Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
“On January 15, the priest and his brother were ambushed by armed men on their way back along the road from Lambata to Lapai,” Fides said. “The attack took place around 9 p.m. near the village of Tufa. The two brothers were abducted by armed men who turned to the diocese of Minna with a ransom demand on Saturday, January 16.”
The kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of 30 million naira ($70,000), but later reduced it to 5 million naira ($12,000).
Media reports did not say whether the ransom was paid, but the priest’s lifeless body was found near the site of the kidnapping. Fr. Gbakaan was “allegedly executed with a machete in such a brutal manner that identification was hardly possible,” Fides said. The Toyota Venza that the priest was traveling in was also found in the bush. There is still no news of his brother, who is said to be still in the hands of the kidnappers.
The Christian Association of Nigeria has asked the federal government to put an end to the abduction and killing of religious leaders by bandits in the country. A CAN representative, Rev. John Hayab, said insecurity in the North of the country had taken on alarming dimensions.
“Today in Northern Nigeria many people are living in fear and many young people are afraid to become pastors because pastors’ lives are in great danger,” Hayab said. “When bandits or kidnappers realize that their victim is a priest or a pastor it seems a violent spirit [takes] over their heart to demand more ransom and in some cases go to the extent of killing the victim.”
Said Hayab, “We are simply pleading with the Federal Government and all security agencies to do whatever it will take to bring this evil to a stop.”