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February 21, 2017

Abuja Archdiocese wants missing priest back, 16 months after kidnap

Rev. Fr. Gabriel Oyaka, 40, a Spiritan priest of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost,  who was kidnapped by yet unidentified persons 16 months ago, along the Lokoja-Okene-Auchi highway as he was travelling to Onitsha, Anambra State.

Since then, nothing has been heard about him, nor whether he is dead or alive.

Oyaka was kidnapped on September 7, 2016, as travelled in his blue Toyota Corolla car. He was alleged to have suddenly found himself blocked by some armed bandits, who searched the long queue of vehicles, until they identified him.

He was also said to have been dragged into the bush by his abductors, abandoning his car, phone and other valuables on the scene. No demand for ransom was made from any quarters, which sparked speculations that he may have been the target of a premeditated attack.

When the news got to the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Daily Sun learnt that a search team was immediately dispatched to Kogi State, where they worked with some priests from the state and the security agencies to find the missing priest. The search party combed the bushes even towards the Edo State axis, to no avail.

Three police commands, Kogi, Edo and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), were said to have been duly contacted, since his last place of assignment was the Holy Ghost Congregation of Fathers, Katampe, Abuja, where he was the financial secretary.

All the efforts to find him have been futile, with more questions than answers: why would anyone go after a priest?

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It was a solemn and emotive assembly penultimate Thursday when parishioners turned out in large numbers to honour their former priest at a votive Mass held by the archdiocese, in collaboration with the Holy Ghost Congregation of Fathers, who sent a delegation from their headquarters in Rome.

The Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, in his sermon, noted that the kidnap of Fr. Oyaka has remained a very painful experience to his family, the Congregation of Holy Ghost Fathers and the archdiocese of Abuja.

He consoled all affected by the disappearance of the priest, saying that the church would continue to pray for him to be found.

Shortly after the Mass, the Congregation of Holy Ghost Fathers addressed a press conference, where they gave details of efforts in the past 16 months in search of Fr. Oyaka, all to no avail.

The Provincial Superior of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers in Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Ayodele Ayeni, said they were speaking out now because the system has failed them.

He stated that they had cooperated with the police who at every point assured them that the situation was under control, “but the institution has failed, that’s why we called this press conference.”

On his part, the Assistant Superior-General of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost in Rome, Rev. Fr. Bede Ukwuije, said they were informed that the Nigerian security system had failed to find the whereabouts of their missing colleague.

He urged Nigerians, irrespective of their religion, to embrace dialogue, adding that what was needed was for all religious leaders to come together and decide how to hold political leaders accountable.

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Daily Sun gathered that about 20 Catholic priests were kidnapped in various parts of the country in 2016 alone.



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