Reports from Nigeria say that a priest from the Diocese of Sokoto has been murdered by kidnappers who are continuing to hold his family. According to the reports, Anthony Idris Jata’u was abducted on Thursday night by kidnappers who also took his wife, three children and two sisters-in-law. His body was found by the side of the road on Saturday.
There has been no official confirmation of the reports; but various blogs and social media channels have reported the kidnapping – several of them showing a photo of the body. An anonymous source from the Diocese of Sokoto told Nigeria’s Punch newspaper that the kidnappers have demanded a ransom of ₦10 million Nigerian Naira (approximately £21,500 GBP) for the release of his family.
“Everybody is sad at the moment and afraid for the lives of his family members still in the custody of the bandits”, Punch quoted the source as saying. “The church doesn’t have such money but it’s hoping to raise a substantial sum to secure the release of the victims.
“The abductors separated the kids into different locations as it was glaring when they called and asked them to speak with the person whose mobile telephone the victims gave them.
“There is panic among worshippers as time is ticking and no one knows what their next line of action will be. Security agencies are aware of the case but there is nothing yet.”
The reports say that Jata’u, from South Kaduna, had studied at the Crowther Graduate Theological Seminary in Abeokuta, in Ogun State, prior to ordination. He was on his way to a new posting in Katsina State when gunman opened fire on the car in Zamfara state, forcing it to skid off the road.
The reports also say that Jata’u had survived a previous kidnapping, in September 2006, while serving at St Andrew’s Church in the Diocese of Nnewi.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told the Anglican Communion News Service that he was “deeply distressed and saddened” by the news.
“My prayers and those of the whole community at Lambeth Palace are with the family of the Reverend Anthony Idris Jata’u, who grieve even as they continue to be held in captivity and great danger”, he said. “May God draw near them in comfort, and bring the freedom and justice that are so urgently needed.
“We pray too for the church led by the Reverend Jata’u, for all those suffering persecution for their faith, and for the whole nation of Nigeria, that Jesus Christ would light the path away from violence and towards peace.”
Kidnapping is a regular occurrence in Nigeria. In December, the Bishop of Ahoada, Clement Ekpeye, was kidnapped when abductors forced their way into his home in Rivers State. He was released after five days in captivity.