Nigeria: Prayers and protests after another priest is murdered, others abducted

  • Claire Bergin

Father Paul Offu

Father Paul Offu

Bishop Callisto Onaga concelebrated at a special Mass at the cathedral of Enugu in Nigeria on Sunday, to pray for peace and security for the diocese and for the whole region after another Catholic priest was killed last week.

An official statement from the diocese of Enugu describes "a state of anarchy, total breakdown of law and order," in which "an alarming number of our people - including Priests and government officials - have been killed by these murderers."

"For fear of being raped, our women can no longer carry out their regular activities in the villages, particular their farming and other businesses." The statement asks the government to "flush out bad Fulanis from our state", and "effectively equip the vigilante groups to provide protection and security for their various localities."

Father Paul Offu, parish priest in Ugbawka, was killed on the evening of Thursday, 1 August. He fell under a hail of bullets fired by a group of armed people described as 'Fulani shepherds' while he was driving along the Ihe-Agbudu Road in Awgu.

In a separate incident, on the same day, five Pentecostal pastors from the Redeemed Christian Church of God were abducted outside of Lagos.

Fr Offu's murder comes about five months after the body of Fr Clement Ugwu from St Mark Catholic Church in the Ezeagu local government area was found after a one-week search.

Another Catholic priest, Fr Paulinus Ikechukwu Ilo is still recovering in hospital after he was shot on 19 June, on the Numeh-Nenwe road in Nkanu East local government area, the Nation newspaper reports.

"All is not well in Enugu State," Bishop Callistus Onaga said at the time. "We should not continue to pretend about it while our people are killed every day. Enugu State is not secure again. Criminals have shifted to Enugu State from Anambra."

On Friday, dozens of priests from Enugu Diocese protested in a procession to the Enugu State Government House. They appealed for the government to do more to protect Christians.

Nigeria now ranks as the 12th-worst nation in the world for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2019 World Watch List.

Fulani radicals are believed to have killed at least 2,400 people in predominantly Christian farming communities in 2018, according to data compiled by the NGO International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law.

The Jubilee Campaign, another international human rights NGO, has submitted research and data to the International Criminal Court in an attempt to show that the standard for genocide has been reached in Nigeria.

Tags: Nigeria, Fulani, Father Paul Offu, Bishop Callisto Onaga, Fr Paulinus Ikechukwu Ilo

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