Kidnapped head of Methodist Church Nigeria has been freed

Concerns have been raised about spiralling insecurity in Nigeria after the head of the Methodist Church there was kidnapped on Sunday before being freed the following day.  

The Methodist Church in Britain had issued a statement on Monday expressing its "deep shock and concern" at the abduction of the Most Rev Dr Samuel Kanu.

The BBC reported late on Monday night that the prelate had been freed, although it was unclear how he had been released.

Dr Kanu was kidnapped by gunmen on Sunday along with the Bishop of Owerri, the Rt Rev Dennis Mark, and the Prelate's Chaplain, the Very Rev Jeremiah Shittu. 

The kidnapping happened in Abia state, south-east Nigeria, after the Church leaders had attended an event. 

It is not clear who was responsible for the abductions.

In a joint statement, the President of the Methodist Conference of Great Britain, Rev Sonia Hicks, and Vice President Barbara Easton, had asked for prayers and for Nigeria "where kidnappings, violent extremist attacks and murders by armed groups, are frequent occurrences, and many live in fear".

Responding to the abduction, Open Doors, a charity supporting persecuted Christians worldwide, said that thousands of people have been kidnapped in Nigeria by extremist Islamic groups like Boko Haram, radicalised Fulani herdsmen and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). 

The country ranks 7th in the Open Doors World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most extreme persecution. 

Open Doors' expert on sub-Saharan Africa, Illia Djadi said there was a lot of money to be made from kidnappings.

"This is the latest in a series of kidnappings which have become an epidemic in Nigeria," he said. 

"The issue of security is the central issue for Nigerians. People from all walks of life from army officers to young children can be abducted.

"Ahead of elections in February next year, political candidates are putting security at the top of their agendas.

"Because of widespread poverty, extremist groups are making the most of the lucrative business in kidnappings, demanding ransom payments as a shortcut for easy money."