On 22 August, Mr Michael Obi, father of Nigerian soccer star and Chelsea midfielder, John Mikel Obi, was found alive in Kano, the largest commercial city in northern Nigeria and about 235 km from Jos, capital of Plateau State, where he was kidnapped 11 days earlier.
The Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police Force, Mr Olusola Amore, reports that police detectives had traced the kidnappers to Kano. He said the police raided the area where Obi was held, freed him and arrested a number of his captors. Amore said the police would disclose further details of the rescue operation soon.
Mr Obi, a Jos-based transporter, was last seen on 12 August, when he left his office at close of work but never made it home. On 17 August, his car was found at a spot in Jos, where it had been abandoned. There had been conflicting reports from members of his family and from the soccer star’s representatives – Sport Entertainment & Media Group (SEM) – over contacts with the abductors and demands for ransom.
After his release, the elderly Obi said he was “very stressed”. Sources in Kano said there were apparently no indications of major physical injury to his body, but the BBC’s Yusuf Ibrahim Yakasai said his face showed signs of the beatings he had endured through his days in captivity.
On 17 August, there were conflicting reports over Mr Michael Obi, father of the Chelsea mid-fielder Mikel Obi, who had been missing since Friday 12 August. While the wife of the missing man said the kidnappers had made no contact with the family, Mikel’s representatives and his brother confirmed that the kidnappers had called and made demands.
Mrs Obi: No contact yet, media reports untrue
In an interview with the Lagos-based Daily Sun, Mrs Obi confirmed that her husband’s car, a Mercedes Benz, was recovered around Kwall Falls, in Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau State. But she said the kidnappers were yet to contact the family and that media reports that they had done so were false.
She said: “We have not been contacted and do not know his present location. We have only recovered the car through the assistance of somebody who saw it and reported to us. As it is now, we are still expecting a call from the kidnappers, but we are yet to get any”.
Mikel’s representatives, SEM: Kidnappers are in touch, discussions continuing
Contrary to Mrs Obi’s position, however, a statement issued by the Sport Entertainment and Media (SEM) Group, which represents Mikel, said: “We confirm that Michael Obi has been abducted and that the kidnappers have been in touch with the family and representatives of the family and that discussions for Michael’s safe release have begun. A sizeable demand has been made but, for security reasons, we are unable to release details of the amount”.
The statement added that: “SEM advises that reports from Nigeria of an £80,000 ransom demand for the return of John Obi Mikel’s father is not true”.
Ebele Obi: Spoke directly with kidnapped father, confirms ransom demand
In a similar statement, Ebere Obi, another footballer son of the missing man, confirmed to brilafm.net, that the kidnapprs had contacted the family. He said: “My father is in good health, I spoke with him but I still wonder why anyone has to keep an old man. He is an old man”.
He also confirmed that the kidnapprs had demanded for money; but he said their demand in fact exceeded the amounts that had been making the rounds in the Nigerian media. He said: “They did not demand $130,000 and I can confirm that to you; they asked for more”.
Ebele said that Mikel’s agent, John Ola Shittu, had been contacted and had also spoken with the kidnappers. He said: “Mikel’s agent (John Ola Shittu) has been contacted and he is in touch with the men holding my father and they are still negotiating”.