Why Catholic priests are kidnappers’ favourite targets

• 21 Rev. Fathers abducted in one year

• Kidnappers attracted by huge ransom payments
• “Kaduna most dangerous place to be catholic priest”

Catholic priests have become endangered species in the country no thanks to the rising
incidents of their being kidnapped at will by those commonly described as terrorists, bandits or
unknown gun men across the country.

In the last one year, about 3,620 people were reported to have been kidnapped in 582 kidnap-
related incidents in Nigeria. The catholic church alone has more than 30 of her priests
kidnapped not to talk of worshipers that were brutally murdered while praying to their God
during service hours in Kaduna, Taraba, Ekiti, Anambra, Edo, Rivers, Ondo, Abuja, Niger, Imo,
Benue and several other parts of the country.

Out of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal capital territory Abuja, Kaduna State has
been adjudged by security experts as a vulnerable place for catholic priests considering the
number of abducted clerics between July 2022 and June 2023, in the state.

A report by SB Morgen, a risk assessment organisation, titled “The Economics of Nigeria’s
Kidnap Industry 2023 Update”, released yesterday, Thursday showed that Catholic priests had
become a notable demographic among the kidnap targets and no fewer than 21 Catholic priests
were abducted in Nigeria in the period under review.

A breakdown of the data showed that at least five Catholic priests were abducted in Kaduna
and three in Benue, Edo, and Anambra States.

Two were further abducted in Imo, Delta, and one each from Enugu, Ekiti, and Taraba.
“In the past, such abductions were mostly carried out on the roads. However, kidnappers have
become bolder in going after priests during services. Kaduna was the most dangerous state to
be a Catholic priest in Nigeria this year,” the report said.

It noted that previous reports revealed that kidnappers demanded N50 million ransom for
abducted Catholic priests, but “this year, however, it has been impossible to know if that price
has changed”, the report said.

SB Morgen gave reasons to include those churches had majorly stopped announcing the
abduction of their clergymen; If there was any contact by the kidnappers in cases where an
abduction had occurred and the amount demanded or subsequently paid to the abductors.

“This shift in transparency is likely driven by the concern that disclosing such details might
exacerbate the vulnerability of priests to further attacks. Catholic priests have consistently been
singled out as targets due to their perceived premium ransom value.

“Kidnappers have recognised that abducting clergymen from the Catholic Church is more
profitable than targeting an average citizen because the Church would readily release her
resources for the former,” the report said.

“Kidnappers requested at least N5 billion as ransom but got N302 million, according to ransom
payments disclosed by victims and family members.

“This amounts to six percent of the ransom demanded. We believe these numbers could be far
higher than reported.

“This is because victims’ families and the police often choose not to state whether or not a
ransom was paid to procure the release of the abducted, and in the few cases when ransom
payments are acknowledged, the fees are hardly disclosed,” the report said.

Other reasons, according to the report, revealed that the police hardly pressure communities to
conceal ransom payments, unlike in single incidents.

“Another factor contributing to the variance between the ransom demanded and ransom paid
is that most times, kidnappers, while disregarding the net worth of their victims, prefer to begin
with the highest values, which are often negotiated to an acceptable sum between victims’
families and kidnappers”.

SB Morgen said the eventual sum is often reached through a combination of resources from the
family and friends of the victims.

Techrectory, Williams Orji.

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