A member of a Nigerian highway gang that's responsible for murdering a kidnapped Catholic seminarian said they killed the aspiring priest because he wouldn't stop proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his captors.
Mustapha Mohammed, who is alleged to be the leader and mastermind behind the abduction of Good Shepherd Seminary student Michael Nnadi in Kaduna state, agreed to be interviewed The Daily Sun.
According to the Nigerian newspaper, Mohammed is a 26-year-old Fulani man who admitted to being part of a 45-man kidnapping gang that has attacked and abducted commuters traveling along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, the Kaduna-Jos road, and other roadways in the area.
Mustapha, who's now in police custody in Abuja, was quoted as saying that he's responsible for killing the 18-year-old. Nnadi’s body was discovered on Fab. 1 along with the remains of a local doctor's wife.
Nnadi was kidnapped on Jan. 8 alongside three other seminarians who were not killed. Mustapha said that from the first day they were kidnapped, Nnadi continued preaching about Jesus and would not allow his captors to have peace even though they did not share the same faith.
Mustapha told the newspaper that he didn't appreciate Nnadi's confidence and bravery and “decided to send him to an early grave.”
“He said the deceased kept preaching and told him to his face to change his evil ways or perish from the day he was abducted alongside his colleagues,” the report reads.
According to the suspect, his gang targeted the seminary because they thought they could make money by kidnapping people there. He said the gang got information on the seminary from one of its members who resides near Good Shepherd Seminary.
The report states that the gang member conducted five days of surveillance on the seminary before the gang followed through with the kidnapping operation.
Mustapha explained that after kidnapping the seminarian, they used his cell phone to contact the seminary to demand a ransom equivalent of $256,000. He said the ransom was later reduced to the equivalent of about $25,000.
According to the National Catholic Register, the kidnappers were dressed in military camouflage when they broke past a fence surrounding the seminary’s living quarters and began to open fire.
The attackers reportedly stole laptops and phones before kidnapping the four seminarians. The other three seminarians who were abducted but later released are Pius Kanwai, Peter Umenukor and Stephen Amos.
About 10 days after the abduction, one of the four seminarians was found wounded on a roadside, the National Catholic Register reported.
On Jan. 31, two more seminarians were released. The next day, Nnadi’s slain body was discovered.
Nnadi’s death was first announced by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria.
A member of the seminary staff told Aid to the Church in Need that Nnadi was a “young gifted seminarian” who was an “orphan brought up by his grandmother.”
Nnadi’s death comes attacks carried about terror groups, Fulani radicals and highway bandit gangs have become all too common in Nigeria. The country has been ranked as the 12th-worst country in the world for Christians to live, according to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List.
“Available statistics have shown that between 11,500 and 12,000 Christian deaths were recorded in the past 57 months or since June 2015 when the present central government of Nigeria came on board,” the Anambra-based nongovernmental organization International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law estimated in a March report. “Out of this figure, Jihadist Fulani herdsmen accounted for 7,400 Christian deaths, Boko Haram 4,000 and the ‘Highway Bandits’ 150-200.”
The U.S. State Department listed Nigeria on its “special watch list” of countries that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom” last December.