Kidnappers of Nigerian priests demand ‘huge’ ransom

Nigeria is grappling with a wave of killings and kidnappings by armed gangs as well as Islamist militants

The kidnappers of two Catholic priests who were abducted in northern Nigeria on Friday have demanded a huge ransom, according to the chairman of the Kaduna state branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev John Joseph Hayab.

The two men – Rev John Mark Cheitnum and Rev Donatus Cleopas – were seized at gunpoint at a rectory in the village of Yadin Garu in Kaduna after having travelled there for a church event.

Kaduna’s commissioner of police, Ayoku Yekini, told the BBC a rescue operation was under way with security forces ‘‘on the trail’’ of the kidnappers.

It is not yet clear who kidnapped the priests.

Rev Hayab said the local church could not afford the ransom being demanded. It was initially set at 50m naira (US $120,000; £100,000), but had been negotiated down to 40m naira.

Since May, around a dozen Christian clerics – most of them Roman Catholics – have been abducted by gunmen across Nigeria.

At least two of them have been killed by their captors.

Hostages are usually released after ransom payments.

Reverend Hayab decried the increasing spate of kidnappings of clerics saying the “kidnappers think Church leaders have a lot of money. That’s a wrong impression.”

He added that the priesthood is a work of “sacrifice” without big pay.

Nigeria is grappling with a wave of killings and kidnappings by armed gangs as well as Islamist militants. They mainly target people travelling on the roads and in unprotected rural communities.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is facing increasing criticism for failing to tackle the widespread insecurity despite the deployment of thousands of troops.

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