Eight members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God who were abducted by gunmen last month while traveling on a bus to a church program in the Kaduna state of northwest Nigeria have been freed.
“Today I got the exciting news that our brethren who were in captivity of kidnappers have all been released and taken to the hospital for check-up and tests,” RCCG General Overseer Pastor Enoch Adeboye announced on Twitter.
“Glory be to Jesus. We pray for lasting peace in all troubled regions of the country in Jesus name.”
On March 26, the Christians were traveling to prepare for the church’s “Let’s Go a Fishing” Easter program in the Kafanchan area when gunmen removed them from their bus and took them away in a vehicle, a church spokesperson told The Punch after the abduction.
A user reportedly posted a picture on Facebook of the victims’ empty church bus and reported that all passengers were kidnapped along Kachia Road.
The church bus features a banner that states, “The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Region 30, Trinity Sanctuary, Kaduna.”
Vanguard daily newspaper reported at the time that the abductors demanded a ransom payment from the church.
It is unknown whether a ransom was paid for their release, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reports.
It is also unclear who abducted the church members.
According to ICC, the Kaduna state government had recently given a statement forbidding citizens to negotiate with bandits on the government’s behalf.
“The position of the Kaduna State Government remains the same: the Government will not negotiate with or pay ransoms to bandits,” The Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan said in a statement.
The abduction of the eight Christians was the latest in a series of mass abductions committed in Nigeria.
In February, gunmen kidnapped about 279 girls between the ages of 11 and 17 from Government Girls Science School in the Jangebe area of Zamfara state. They were released days later. One of the girls who was released reported that a ransom had been paid for their release.
“I am elated. We thank God. We thank God,” Habib Abdullahi, whose three daughters were kidnapped, was quoted as saying at the time.
On Dec. 11, gunmen captured hundreds of boarding school students from Kankara Government Science Secondary School in Katsina state. Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest Islamic terror groups based in northeast Nigeria, claimed responsibility.
The terrorists released a six-minute ransom video featuring Boko Haram's black-and-white flag. The footage showed a large crowd of boys surrounded by gunmen. Later that month, security forces rescued 344 of the kidnapped students.
In 2014, 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted from a school in Chibok. The abduction gained international attention and sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. About 112 of the Chibok schoolgirls remain missing.
Nigeria ranks as the ninth-worst country globally for Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch List.
In addition to the rise of Islamic extremist violence in the northeast and the rise of attacks by Fulani radicals in the Middle Belt, kidnapping for ransom has become lucrative for criminal outfits in Nigeria.
The U.S. State Department recognizes Nigeria as a "country of particular concern" for engaging in or tolerating egregious religious liberty violations.