A Nigerian pastor was reportedly killed and his wife was abducted while traveling on a dreaded and notorious stretch of highway where hundreds have been held hostage by criminals in recent months.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has condemned the killing of Kaduna pastor Jeremiah Omolara of Living Faith Church, who was said to have been killed by gunmen while traveling with his wife and son on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway Sunday evening.
A source told The Punch that gunmen opened fire on the family's vehicle and killed Omolara. Although the son was able to escape, the same cannot be said for Omolara and his wife.
It's been alleged that captors are demanding as a ransom equivalent to about $137,500.
The incident was confirmed by Joseph Hayab, who chairs CAN's Kaduna chapter. However, police and authorities have not confirmed the killing despite calls from news organizations.
In speaking with reporters, Hayab also announced that a pastor in the Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru local government area was attacked by gunmen at his residence. A security guard was killed as a result of the attack while the pastor escaped.
Additionally, Hayab declared that a 13-year-old daughter of a pastor was also kidnapped in Kasuwan Magani by gunmen who have demanded a ransom.
"Now the Living Faith Church pastor was killed along Kaduna-Abuja in the presence of his wife, who was later abducted," Hayab stated, according to the Daily Post Nigeria. "That tells you that the new trend is to attack us in our homes or in our churches or on the roads. We are just not safe anywhere and we are asking the same question we have been asking: 'where are our security agencies?'"
“Are we being told tactically that we should defend ourselves?" Hayab asked. "If we start defending ourselves, it means that we no longer have security or we no longer have government. Or is this government only for those they love and they don’t care about others?"
Hayab called on the federal government, specifically the inspector general of police, to do something about the attacks carried out against Christians and others in Kaduna. He criticized Kaduna Gov. Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, saying that he "does not listen and feels he knows everything."
"You are not helping to stop the attack. So we are really concerned that people, especially clergies in Kaduna are no longer safe," Hayab said. “We don’t want a situation where we will be forced to think of how to protect ourselves, we believe that government is there to protect us.”
The killing of Omolara comes as many across Nigeria have been either held hostage, killed or somehow attacked by armed bandits, causing increased concern in public safety throughout the country. In Kaduna state, bandits have taken control of the Kaduna-Abuja highway and rendered it unsafe for most motorists.
"Traveling on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway has become an unspeakable nightmare for Nigerians, thus highlighting the deteriorating state of security in the country," an op-ed from The Punch editorial board reads. "Last Monday, dare-devil gunmen kidnapped the Chairman, Universal Basic Education Commission, Muhammad Abubakar and his daughter; they also shot his driver dead. Many others have been declared missing."
In addition to bandits, Christian farming communities in Kaduna have this year faced a series of attacks carried about by Fulani radicals.
Across Nigeria, thousands have been killed in the last few years as a result of Fulani attacks against predominantly Christian farming communities in the Middle Belt and southern Nigeria. Fulani attacks have increased in severity and number in recent years as whole towns have reportedly been destroyed and villages displaced.
Last week, it was reported that suspected Fulani radicals killed Catholic priest Paul Offu in Enugu. The killing inspired dozens of priests to protest in the streets of Enugu to call on the state and federal government to protect them. Offu's death came about five months after fellow priest Clement Ugwu was killed.
Nigeria ranks as the 12th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2019 World Watch List.
Last month, the international human rights organization Jubilee Campaign sent a report to the International Criminal Court contending that the standard for genocide has been reached when it comes to the violence facing Christians in the country.