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January 23, 2021

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Nigerian pastor still in captivity three months after abduction

4 min read

Polycarp Zongo, a pastor at COCIN Wild Life Park Jos, Plateau State, was supposed to join Christians across the globe to celebrate Christmas and the new year, thanking God for witnessing the end of 2020, but that did not happen.

Mr Zongo celebrated these two festivals in captivity.

He, alongside two women, were abducted by the Boko Haram terrorists on October 19, 2020.

In a viral video released by the sect two weeks after the kidnap, the pastor explained how he and the two unnamed women were kidnapped while travelling from Jos to Gombe State.

According to him, he was heading to a church conference when their vehicle was stopped by the terrorists.

“On Monday, 19 October 2020, I was traveling to Gombe for a church conference when we encountered the caliphate’s armed men who captured me along the way; and right now I’m with them,” Pastor Zongo said in Hausa, seeking the help of Governor Simon Lalong, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and others.

He stated that the two women are with him as well.

“They too, captured two Christian women who are also here with me. I’m appealing that you all do all that is possible to secure our release from captivity.”

Nearly three months after the incident, Mr Zongo is yet to regain freedom nor has anything been heard of his whereabouts.

Trauma

When contacted on Sunday, his wife, Kaneng, who sounded devastated refused to speak to our correspondent, citing ill health.

“I’m not feeling well for now. I’ve been down. I can not speak on this for now,” she said via telephone.

PREMIUM TIMES recalls that the COCIN president, Dachollom Datiri, in one of the church’s meetings, said the church would not be able to afford the ransom being demanded by the terrorists, describing it as “huge”.

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“Very sadly, Rev Polycarp Zongo is right now into his fifth week in the hands of Khalifa troops. This has caused us so much trauma and distress and it is hard to imagine what is happening to him or what is going on in his mind,” Mr Datiri said but did not disclose the amount demanded.

He said that the federal government and the Nigerian Army have failed to address the precarious security challenges orchestrated by bandits and Boko Haram in the North-east.

Entreaties

Meanwhile, the Director-General, Centre for Justice on Religion and Ethnicity in Nigeria, Kallamu Dikwa, has demanded the release of Mr Zongo.

He said he became aware of the incident on October 24 when a member of a Non-Governmental Organisation drew his attention to it.

“Abubakar Mohammed Sani, a board member of Kalthum Foundation, called me on my mobile phone informing me of a video clip on Rev. Zongo who was abducted by a terrorist group,” Mr Dikwa told The Guardian newspapers.

Other groups such as Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON) have also demanded his release, charging the government to intensify efforts in tackling insecurity in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day church service at COCIN Headquarters in Jos, the state Governor, Simon Lalong, said the government is working to ensure Mr Zongo’s freedom.

“On the issue of our brother Rev. Polycarp Zongo who has been in captivity for months now, I want us to keep hope alive and never give up. The State and Federal Government is working with the Church to ensure that he regains his freedom. We cannot disclose everything here, but I urge you not to cease praying for him and all others who are in captivity,” he said.

The spokesperson of the police in Gombe State, Mary Malum, could not provide any update on the efforts to secure the clergyman’s release when PREMIUM TIMES reached out on Sunday.

But, Mrs Malum promised to update this newspaper when she is furnished with details.

Terrorism, banditry and kidnapping for ransom have become Nigeria’s major security challenges in recent years with thousands of lives lost to several violent attacks.

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