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Nigerian priest released after kidnapping

A priest kidnapped Sunday afternoon in southeastern Nigeria was released Thursday, according to the Diocese of Enugu. 

Fr. Marcellinus Obioma Okide. Courtesy photo.

The priest, Fr. Marcellinus Obioma Okide, was released at approximately 8:00 pm on Sept. 21, after his diocese paid an unspecified ransom, according to a diocesan official who spoke with The Pillar Saturday.

Okide was kidnapped as he returned to his parish Sunday afternoon, when he was stopped by gunmen at about 5:00 pm along the region’s Eke-Egede-Affa Road, the Enugu diocese said last week. 

He was taken into custody by an armed gang, along with three people who were traveling with him, all of whom are believed to have been released. 

After the priest’s release, chancellor Fr. Wilfred Agubuchie said the Enugu diocese was grateful for Catholics who had prayed and offered Masses for Okide’s return.

The priest urged prayers for the intercession of Our Lady Help of Christians, for peace in Nigeria, and for safety from escalating violence in the country. 

Across Nigeria, the commercial kidnapping of clerics is on the rise — 30 priests were kidnapped in Nigeria in 2022, while at least 40 were killed in the same year.

Earlier this year, Fr. Stephen Ojapah, a Nigerian priest who was held captive for 33 days in 2022, launched an organization to help Nigerians receive mental health care to cope with the trauma of terrorism in their country.

Ojapah noted that his own month-long experience of being kidnapped “has left me and others with deep trauma.”

He pointed to the experience of post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD, which can affect kidnapping victims.

“Many are in dire need,” he said in August.

A year after gaining his freedom, the 39-year-old priest is now working to build O-Trauma Victims Initiative (OTVI), a project he explained is “for Nigerians help us deal with the trauma that comes with banditry and other forms of violence.”

To respond to these needs, OTVI offers medical care, trauma counseling, and legal aid to victims of kidnapping in Nigeria. It also provides vocational training and economic programs to help kidnapping victims recover financially. 

Southeastern Nigeria has seen a rise in commercial kidnapping in recent years. Violence in the region is also fueled by the Biafra separatist movement, a group which has pushed to see the area become an independent republic.

This summer, Biafra separatists announced a “sit-at-home” order for the region, in which locals were directed to remain in their homes at the threat of violence, as a sign of the movement’s political and military power.

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