NIGERIA: Suspended Priest, Sworn in Governor of Benue State

By Paschal Norbert

MAKURDI, MAY 30, 2023 (CISA)– Suspended Nigerian Catholic Priest, Fr Hyacinth Iormen Alia, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Gboko has been sworn as the governor of Benue State in an elaborate ceremony held at the Public Square, Makurdi, on May 29, 2023.

Governor Alia who was suspended from the Sacred Ministry on May 20, 2022, by Bishop Bishop William Amove Amenya won the Benue State gubernatorial race under the All-Progressive Congress (APC) party with 473,933 votes ahead of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Titus Uba who garnered 223,913 votes in the March 18, 2023, General Elections.

He becomes the second priest after Fr Moses Orshio Adasu to be elected governor of Benue State.

Born on May 14, 1966, in Mbangur, Mbadede, Vandeiky Local government of Benue, Fr Alia is a well-known personality within the Catholic Church in Nigeria due to his charismatic and healing ministry synonymous with his name “Fr Alia’s Healing Ministry.”

He attended St. Augustine’s Major Seminary, Jos, (affiliate of the University of Ibadan) Nigeria, where he obtained a Diploma in Religious Studies in 1987 and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sacred Theology in 1990 from the Pontifical Urbaniana University. He was ordained on July 7, 1990, for the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi before he was incardinated into the Catholic Diocese of Gboko, his home diocese.

According to reports seen by CISA, in 1999, Fr Alia went to Fordham University, Bronx NY, for a Master of Arts Degree in Religious Education (psychology and counselling). In 2004, he studied at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for another Master of Arts Degree in Biomedical Ethics, and further obtained a Doctorate in Biomedical Ethics at the same University in 2005.

The priest turned politician has served in various capacities both at his local diocese and while abroad, and until recently at Bishop Usuh Institute for Learning, Vandeiky, as the Director and Resident Priest at Ikyaator Pastoral Area.

In May 2022, Fr Alia was suspended from public ministry “after a series of admonitions” following his decision to join the Benue State 2023 Governorship race under the APC party.

“The Mother Church does not allow her clerics to engage in partisan politics on their own Ex can. 285,3 CIC. You are aware that my son, your brother and your priest has purchased the party forms to contest for the Office of the Governor of Benue State under the All-Progressive Congress (APC), which is totally against our vacation,” said the bishop in a letter to all priests, religious and laity in the diocese of Gboko at the time.

Although viewed as an outsider with a lack of political and administrative experience, the leadership of Fr Alia is revered as a new dawn for the state riddled with corruption and mismanagement of resources. According to local media, the people believe his priestly formation will anchor a steady growth for the state and be a beacon of his governance in the four-year mandate.

“The name “FATHER ALIA” rings a bell in the minds of the Christian faithful, particularly those of the Catholic Church. The reason is simply that throughout his pastoral work, he was engaged in organizing special masses for the sick and the weary. Father Alia’s Healing Ministry, which is synonymous with his name, has impacted positively the lives of Christians as there had been testimonies of their potency on them and his commitment to this cause has further strengthened their faith in God. Therefore, the governorship of Benue state is a wider platform for Fr. Alia to heal the land. And for the Governor-elect to actualize his lofty dream for Benue, he must not be vindictive. Good enough, he has extended a hand of fellowship to all including his challengers at the polls, to join hands with him to rebuild the state,” writes Terseer Mzuulga of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN).