A prominent Nigerian bishop has reportedly been ordered in for questioning by a state security agency, after the prelate criticized Nigeria’s government for complicity in the face of kidnappings and other persecution of the country’s Christians.
Bishop Matthew Kukah, who leads the Sokoto diocese in Nigeria’s northwestern corner, released a Christmas message in which he said the government, led by president Muhammadu Buhari, seems to have left the fate of Nigerians in the hands of “evil men.”
Kukah decried the fact that over 100 girls abducted by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram have yet to be found, as well as “hundreds of other children whose captures were less dramatic,” ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner, reported Dec. 28.
“Now, we are fully in the grip of evil. Today, a feeling of vindication only saddens me as I have watched the north break into a cacophony of quarrelsome blame games over our tragic situation,” Bishop Kukah wrote.
He continued, “A catalogue of unprecedented cruelty has been unleashed on innocent citizens across the Northern states. In their sleep, on their farmlands, in their markets, or even on the highway, innocent citizens have been mowed down and turned into burnt offerings to gods of evil.”
Despite this not being the first time Kukah has spoken publicly against the government, the SSS, a federal secret police, reportedly took notice of his remarks and ordered him to present himself for questioning, according to a source cited by the People’s Gazette.
CNA reached out to Bishop Kukah for comment and is awaiting a response.
In Nigeria as a whole, at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades. An estimated 3,462 Christians were killed in Nigeria in the first 200 days of 2021, or 17 per day, according to a new study.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and the demographics overall are almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Nigeria's Christians, especially in the northern part of the country, have for the past several decades been subjected to brutal property destruction, killings, and kidnappings, often at the hands of Islamic extremist groups.
Part of the problem, Nigerian Christians have told CNA, is that the Muslim-controlled government has largely responded slowly, inadequately, or not at all to the problem of Christian persecution.
Fulani herdsmen, a Muslim ethnic group, have been responsible for the most killings as of late, having murdered an estimated 1,909 Christians in the first 200 days of 2021.
“The silence of the federal government only feeds the ugly beast of complicity in the deeds of these evil people who have suspended the future of entire generations of our children,” Kukah wrote in his Christmas message.
“Every day, we hear of failure of intelligence, yet, those experts who provide intelligence claim that they have always done their duty diligently and efficiently. Does the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not believe that he owes parents and citizens answers as to where our children are and when they are coming home? Does the President of Nigeria not owe us an explanation and answers as to when the abductions, kidnappings, brutality, senseless, and endless massacres of our citizens will end?”
In February 2020, Kukah celebrated Mass for the funeral of Michael Nnadi, an 18-year-old seminarian who was kidnapped, held for ransom, and ultimately killed by Muslim gunmen. According to one of his kidnappers, Nnadi was not afraid to proclaim his Catholic faith to them, and would not stop telling the kidnappers that they needed to repent of their evil ways.
During Nnadi’s funeral, Kukah decried the insecurity and violence that has taken place under Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, and expressed the hope that Michael’s death would become a turning point for Christian persecution in Africa’s most populous nation.
He said he hopes Michael’s example, and his martyrdom, will inspire an army of young people to follow in his footsteps.
Kukah said at the time: “We will march on with the cross of Christ entrusted to us, not in agony or pain, because our salvation lies in your cross. We have no vengeance or bitterness in our hearts. We have no drop of sorrow inside us. We are honored that our son has been summoned to receive the crown of martyrdom at the infancy of his journey to the priesthood.”
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and assistant podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and in the past has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer.
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One of four Nigerian seminarians kidnapped last month has been killed, reportedly by his abductors. The three seminarians kidnapped along with him were released in the weeks following their kidnapping.