Suspecting corrupt police and accusing the Nigerian government of failing to contain a rash of kidnappings, Christian leaders announced that a pastor abducted last week was freed on Wednesday (Aug. 9).
The Rev. Jen Tivkaa Moses, kidnapped by young Fulani men on Friday (Aug. 4) on the highway from Jos to Abuja in Plateau state, was brought back to Jos at about 1 a.m. on Wednesday, according to a statement from leaders of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA).
The church leaders would not say whether a ransom was paid to the kidnappers, who had demanded 1 million naira (US2,730), but church sources told Morning Star News a payment was made to secure his release.
The Rev. Ishaku Yaro, a pastor at ECWA headquarters in Jos, wrote a Facebook post on Wednesday excitedly announcing the release of the pastor, adding that special prayers were held for him at the residence of the general secretary of the ECWA in Jos.
"Praise God we arrived in Jos safely with our CE [Christian Education] Director at about 1 a.m. on the 9th August 2017," Yaro stated. "Special prayers took place at the ECWA GS house, and he was reunited with his wife. Please allow him to rest ... Presently, he will be somewhere resting for at least 3 days before coming back home."
Pastor Moses was kidnapped by armed gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen while he and his driver were on their way to attend a church leadership seminar set for Saturday; the event was cancelled as a result of the kidnapping.
The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Gado, president of the ECWA, and the Rev. Yunusa S. Madu, ECWA general secretary, suggested "bad egg" police were allowing Christians to be kidnapped.
"Considering the short distance between the police checkpoint and the spot in which the pastor and other passengers were attacked by the kidnappers, one would have expected a swift response by the police to rescue them, but unfortunately they were helplessly abandoned in the hands of the kidnappers," they said in the statement. "This scenario, like many others as have been attested to by many residents along Abuja-Kaduna road, lends credence to the possible collaboration of some bad egg police and other security personnel in the increasing crime of kidnapping and armed robbery along that highway, or how do you explain the fact that for all the period our pastor was in the hands of the kidnappers, they neither changed position nor mobile number, and yet the security agents were not able to apprehend or track them."
In recent days other ECWA pastors and members, including heavily pregnant women and children, have been kidnapped by young Fulani men along the Abuja-Kaduna road and subjected to various degrees of trauma before being released after payment of ransoms, they said.
"Very recently, one of our pastors who had just regained his freedom was held hostage for 5 days by some daredevil young Fulani kidnappers who seized him along Jere-Bwari road, just 200 meters away from a major police checkpoint on the curve bridge after shooting the driver of the vehicle in which he was travelling," they said. "We therefore use this opportunity to call on the federal government to do the needful in strengthening security of lives and property in the country, especially in the country's highways, through which many Nigerians ply in search of their daily bread."
They urged the Nigerian government to step up its effort to secure lives and property.
"The Evangelical Church Winning All is seriously worried about the growing spate of insecurity and criminality in Nigeria which appears to have overwhelmed the government and its security agencies, as nowhere, either in home, marketplaces, workplaces, worship places and our highways, are now safe," they said. "Like many other Nigerians, members of the ECWA are suffering the brunt of insecurity on our highways, which have been taken over by armed robbers and kidnappers who kill, maim, torture, rape, steal and extort outrageous ransoms from their helpless poor victims while security agents look away."
The situation is alarming, they said, alleging that cases of kidnapping and armed robbery continue throughout the country on an hourly basis against already impoverished citizens on the highways and in their homes.
"The federal government should do more to closely monitor the activities of security personnel on the highways and fish out bad eggs among them who metamorphose into criminals on the roads," they said. "We recommend that the federal government should consider the payment of ransom for kidnap victims where it failed to protect the people."
Pastor Moses' driver, Yohanna Maina, sustained a gunshot to his thigh when the assailants shot into the windshield of the car as he neared a police checkpoint. The captors released him late that night on the highway.
The ECWA leaders said they will remain committed to praying for the government "and all those in authority, for wisdom to lead justly in accordance with God's will."
Predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen have launched numerous attacks on Christians in northern and central Nigeria. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria's population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranks 12th on Open Doors' World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.