No fewer than 39 priests of the Catholic Church were killed in Nigeria by gunmen in 2022, while 30 others were abducted.
A report by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence released on Monday also said 145 attacks on Catholic priests were recorded in the year under review.
The killings of Catholic priests have continued in the new year as terrorists on January 15 killed and burnt Isaac Achi, a priest of St. Peters and Paul Catholic Church in Kafin-Koro, Paikoro Local Government Area (LGA) of Niger State.
SBM Intelligence, a research organisation which compiles and analyses data about happenings in Nigeria said in the report that the North-Central region was the worst hit with 12 killings, while the North-West recorded nine deaths.
Similarly, it said the South East and South-South regions recorded five deaths each, while the North East and North West regions had four deaths each.
The report said that of the attacks, 28 were perpetuated by kidnappers, three by herdsmen, two by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), two by Boko Haram, and one each by bandits and mob violence.
For instance, in June 2022, Christopher Onotu, a Catholic priest, was abducted by gunmen in Obangede, Okehi Local Government Area (LGA) of Kogi State.
The gunmen reportedly broke into the priest’s rectory on a Saturday night before whisking him away leaving the congregation to know about the priest’s abduction on Sunday morning when they went to attend morning mass.
In November 2022, a Catholic priest, identified as “Father Kunat” was also abducted in Kaduna metropolis following an invasion of his residence.
A month later, gunmen abducted Mark Ojotu, a Catholic priest of Otukpo diocese in Benue State.
Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, had in its reactions to the kidnap and killings of the priests, expressed concern over the spate of attacks on Christian clerics in the country.
The association described the country as a “killing field” and called on its members to adopt self-defence against future attacks.
“The continuous killing, as well as kidnapping of Christian clerics in Nigeria, is alarming. This has to be stopped at all costs.
“Nigeria is becoming a killing field where Christian clerics and its members are slaughtered like chicken.
“The Christian community must rise up and come together to put to an end this insult. They should take up arms and defend themselves legitimately,” CAN had said.
The SBM read: “2022 was an awful year for the clergy. None in that group suffered more than Catholic priests, who at a point, were subjected to near-daily abductions with ransom demands set at an average of N50 million per priest.
“Although there were quite genuine fears that these abductions were targeted persecution of the Christian faith, the financial imperative in a holy abduction has somewhat eclipsed such concerns.”