Four Catholic nuns who were kidnapped in southeast Nigeria on 21 August have been released unharmed.
The four nuns, identified by Fides, information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, as Sisters Johannes Nwodo, Christabel Echemazu, Liberata Mbamalu and Benita Agu, members of the Sisters of Jesus the Saviour, were seized on Sunday while travelling to a Mass in a nearby state.
After two days, the Vatican News service reported their unconditional and safe return, announced by Sister Zita Ihedoro, secretary-general of the order.
The Nigerian order has more than 160 members, with formation houses in River and Abia states.
Sister Ihedoro said the four nuns had been abducted while traveling from Rivers state to Imo state for a thanksgiving Mass. She had asked for prayers for them, and the order had been praying 24 hour chain rosaries for the sisters' safe release.
Kidnappings for ransom have been common in north-western Nigeria, but are starting to spread to other areas of the country.
US-based National Public Radio reported that in June 2021 alone, about 45 people per day were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria.
In May, Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso of Kaduna, vice president of the bishops' conference, told an online forum:
“Banditry has taken a new dimension in the last three to four years as bandits now use sophisticated weapons to massively destroy villages and their properties, kidnapping for ransom during the day time and at night.”
He blamed the country's porous borders for the importation of increasingly sophisticated weapons that fuel growing insecurity. He also called on the government to control how arms and ammunition were being imported and to prosecute those found to possess arms and ammunition illegally.
The news comes a month after the body of a priest was discovered on 19 July, four days after he was abducted from a parish rectory in central Nigeria.
Father John Cheitnum, was one of two priests kidnapped by assailants on15 July from Christ the King Church in Lere, a town in the central state of Kaduna, Father Emnanuel Okolo, diocesan chancellor, said in a statement.
The second priest, Father Donatus Suleiman, was able to flee the abductors and is safe, the diocese said.
Father Cheitnum was killed by his abductors on the same day he was taken from the parish, Father Okolo said.
The diocesan chancellor called for prayers for Father Cheitnum and his family, and appealed for people not to take the law into their own hands in retaliating against the abductors should they be found.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned Father Cheitnum's murder, saying in a statement on 20 July that he was “deeply disturbed” by the death caused by “outlaws who seem to be bent on creating chaos and disorder in the country”.