A Nigerian Christian pastor, who has been held captive by Boko Haram terrorists for nearly 3 months, praised God after he was released Wednesday evening, hours prior to the given deadline for his ransom, a report says.
Pastor Bulus Yikura of the Church of the Brethren Nigeria, along with around six other hostages, was abducted on December 24 last year during Boko Haram's attack at the Chibok local government area of Southern Borno State, where at least seven people were killed.
Pastor Yikura was freed on Wednesday evening, security sources told the Nigerian media outlet Premium Times. A reporter from the outlet allegedly saw Pastor Yikura being transported to Borno's State Security office on the outskirts of Maiduguri that night.
Boko Haram, according to The Christian Post, is considered as one of the world's deadliest terrorist groups that have performed a number of mass abductions in the past.
The group released a video on Feb. 24, which was obtained by Humangle, wherein the pastor was seen in front of a masked man holding a knife, begging the government and the Christian Association for help, claiming that the terrorist group threatened to kill him if the ransom is left unpaid after the given ultimatum.
This, however, is not the first time the pastor appeared in a video by the Boko Haram terrorists. Pastor Yikura also appeared in a December video last year, days after their abduction, and another one in early January 2021.
"I'm calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and the governor of Borno to help me, because I have been given a one-week ultimatum today, Feb. 24," says Pastor Yikura on the video.
"If you want me alive, I beg you in your capacity as president, the governor, and our local government chairman to save me from this suffering," he added, pleading. "I am also calling on the EYN president to help mobilize help that will rescue me, and also pray for me so that God will make things easy for me here."
"Today is the last day I will have the opportunity to call on you in your capacity as my parents and relatives in the country. Anyone who has the intention should help and save me. Please release me from this pain." Pastor Yikura continued.
Security forces also told Premium Times that the pastor's family, along with the EYN church, have been working on the release of Pastor Yikura since the past week.
Following Yikura's release, Save the Persecuted Christians believes that the EYN church is responsible for paying Yikura's ransom.
When Pastor Yikura was asked Wednesday about his freedom, he said repeatedly, "I thank God, I thank God."
Dede Laugesen, the executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians, gave her statement regarding the release of Yikura in an interview with the Christian Post Thursday:
"We celebrate his release and also the children from Zamfara being released, but the plague of kidnapping for ransom that has been rampant in Nigeria since 2019 has been unaddressed, and [we are] now very concerned that we have seen the increase in the kidnapping of schoolchildren."
She also added that mass abduction or kidnapping for ransom has become more and more rampant in Nigeria, which she described as "a problem that is very difficult to resolve, especially when the government is likely also involved."
"Nigeria is essentially the new headquarters for the Islamic jihad seeking to establish a caliphate ...," Laugesen added. "The Christians in Nigeria and others are very concerned that the government continues to give impunity to Islamic extremists in Nigeria. ... So there's no real accountability coming from the Nigerian government."
According to Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria is the third country to have been majorly affected by terrorism in the world.
Furthermore, Open Doors 2021 World Watch List also ranked Nigeria as the 9th country with the worst cases of Christian persecution.