A Catholic archdiocese in Nigeria on Wednesday announced the death of a priest who was kidnapped in March.

The Archdiocese of Kaduna said on May 11 that Father Joseph Akete Bako died more than a month after he was seized on March 8, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

Father Christian Okewu Emmanuel, chancellor of the archdiocese, said: “It is with a heavy heart, but with total submission to the will of God, that we announce the death of Rev. Fr. Joseph Aketeh Bako, which took place in the hands of his abductors between 18th and 20th of April 2022.”

“The fact of the circumstances leading to his death and the date of the incident have been carefully verified, hence this communication at this time.”

Bako, 48, was kidnapped by bandits following an attack on St. John’s Catholic Parish, where he served as pastor.

Before the archdiocese’s announcement, there were conflicting reports about the priest’s fate, with some sources indicating that Bako, who suffered from ill health, was tortured to death.

Father Emmanuel Anyanwu, the assistant pastor at St. John’s Catholic Parish, told the charity Aid to the Church in Need in April that Bako “suffered greatly before his death.”

“He was tortured because they were forcing him to pay a huge amount of ransom for his release. In this case, there was physical torture and beatings which caused him huge amounts of pain and agony,” Anyanwu said.

He added: “Because of his fragile health challenges, he couldn’t survive the torture.”

More in Middle East - Africa

But Father Anthony Shawuya, deputy director of the Catholic Media Service Centre in the Archdiocese of Kaduna, told ACI Africa in a May 4 interview that he had not received an update on the priest’s condition.

“There were negotiations and efforts for his release but no news as to what has happened to him,” Shawuya said.

In an interview with ACI Africa shortly after the kidnapping, a priest who asked to remain anonymous provided details of the incident.

“Father Joseph Akete was abducted with his younger brother who visited him. The kidnapping happened around 1:30 a.m. Sadly, his security guard was killed,” the priest said in the March 8 interview.

In his May 11 statement, the chancellor of the Kaduna archdiocese conveyed the “deepest sympathies” of Archbishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso to Bako’s family.

The funeral arrangements will be announced “as soon as they are ready,” Father Okewu said.

He added: “Kindly continue to pray for his peaceful repose, and for the consolation of the bereaved Christian community in the Archdiocese of Kaduna.”

(Story continues below)

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, written by Agnes Aineah. It has been adapted by CNA.