One of the four seminarians kidnapped from their seminary in Nigeria last month has reportedly been killed by his abductors.
Michael Nnadi (18), the youngest member of the group, was separated from the others and murdered, with his body being formally identified at the weekend.
“With a very heavy heart, I wish to inform you that our dear son, Michael was murdered by the bandits on a date we cannot confirm,” said Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria.
First year philosophy student Mr Nnadi along with Pius Kanwai (19) Peter Umenukor (23) and Stephen Amos (23) were taken by gunmen from Good Shepard Seminary in Kaduna on January 8.
The gunmen, disguised in military uniform, broke through the fence surrounding the Catholic seminary campus, which houses 270 seminarians, and began shooting sporadically. They stole laptops and phones before kidnapping the four young men.
On January 20, one of the abducted seminarians had reportedly been freed by his kidnappers following 10 days in captivity. He was dumped along the highway with extensive injuries, which are believed to have been sustained during the kidnapping.
Eleven days later on January 31, an official at Good Shephard Seminary announced two more seminarians had been released. At the time it was reported that one seminary – Mr Nnadi – was still in captivity.
In his February 1 statement, Bishop Kukah said he had to delay the announcement of Mr Nnadi’s death until his mother was informed.
“We have broken the news to her and I will be with her,” he said. “The Lord knows best. Let’s remain strong and pray for the repose of his soul.”
Kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have multiplied in recent months, which has prompted Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and to call on the government to prioritise the security of its citizens.
In the past year, several priests and seminarians, along with pastors from other Christian denominations, have been kidnapped in Nigeria, some for ranson, and some by Islamist militant and terrorist groups.
“The security situation in Nigeria is appalling,” said Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International. “Criminal gangs are further exploiting the chaotic situation and making matters still worse.”
He compared the situation in Nigeria to that of Iraq prior to the Islamic State’s invasion: “Already at that stage, Christians were being abducted, robbed and murdered because there was no protection by the state. This must not be allowed to happen to the Christians of Nigeria. The government must act now, before it is too late.”