On 23 August, the Plateau State Police Command confirmed that the eight persons arrested so far, in connection with the abduction of Pa Michael Obi, father of football star, Mikel, included two serving soldiers and two women.
The Commissioner of Police in Plateau State, Mr. Dipo Ayeni, identified the two soldiers as Sgt Victor Essien with service number 96NA/43/11213 and Private Jaduwa Thloma with number 03NA/54/5527.
Addressing newsmen in Jos, the Police chief said the soldiers were originally of 2 Battalion, but currently on temporary posting to Plateau State, as members of the Special Task Force (STF) known as Operation Safe Haven. The STF was deployed to maintain security in Plateau State, following the surge of ethno-religious violence between various communities in the state.
The Police chief also disclosed that two of the suspects were women. He identified them as Hajiya Awa Abubakar and Nkechi Osai.
The other suspects were four men identified as Ifeanyi Hyacinth, Ndubuisi Friday, Basil Chukwuma and Sule Ibrahim. Ibrahim is a national of the Republic of Niger.
The police paraded the six civilian suspects before newsmen, but said the soldiers were in the custody of the military police. There had been no reaction yet, from the Army headquarters in Abuja or the STF headquarters in Jos.
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 16 August, abductors of the father of Nigerian soccer star and Chelsea midfielder, John Mikel Obi, reportedly made a first contact with his family, confirming that the elder Obi was actually kidnapped.
The victim, Mr Michael Obi, had not been seen since he drove off from his office in Jos, Plateau State, at close of work on Friday 12 August. On 15 August, police authorities in Abuja said detectives were actively investigating his disappearance, but could only treat the case as that of a missing person, until it is established that he had definitely been abducted.
However, the next day (16 August), Mr Obi’s family were said to have received a first phone call from the abductors, who informed them that he was actually in their captivity.
The callers also said they had moved him from Jos to Lagos, the nation’s business capital, about 800km away. But they gave no indication as to why Mr Obi was abducted or what they needed – monetarily or otherwise – as their condition for setting him free.
A few hours later, the abductors reportedly called again. This time, they informed the family of where they had dumped the Mercedes Benz car which Mr Obi was driving when they seized him on Friday evening. Following their directions, the family is said to have recovered the car later in the day.
With the latest development, it is now established that the elder Obi was indeed kidnapped. While police authorities are yet to issue an official update, they must now be focusing their investigations towards tracking down his captors and freeing him. Members of the family are still greatly distressed over their father’s ordeal, but there is some comfort in the fact that he is still alive. And it is expected that the abductors will call again to commence negotiations towards releasing him.
In recent years, several hundred persons had been kidnapped by small local gangs in Nigeria. However, the vast majority of victims had been freed unharmed, usually after family or employers had paid a ransom.
In one related incident, Norum Yobo, older brother of the Everton defender Joseph Yobo, was snatched at gunpoint in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on 5 July 2008. He was freed 12 days later, but it was never certain if any ransom was paid, or how much.
On 12 August, Mr Michael Obi, father of Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi, failed to come home at the end of day and has been missing since then, in Jos, Plateau State.
The online source KickOffNigeria.com reported that the senior Obi, who runs an interstate transport company, did not return home from work on Friday evening and has not been seen since then. Calls to his cell phone were unanswered all of Friday. By Saturday, the phone was no longer reachable. The player’s manager, John Shittu, said it is not yet clear whether this was a case of kidnapping or something else.
Shittu said: “At the moment, we have not heard from Mikel’s father, or anyone else, so we don’t know what it is. At this point, we only consider him missing”.
Reports say Mikel was informed on Saturday morning, shortly before traveling with the Chelsea squad for the Premier League match with Stoke on Sunday 14 August. Shittu said delivering the news to the player was a tough decision. He said: “We were not sure whether to tell him before the game” but that after some consultations, “we agreed that he had a right to be informed of such a serious incident”.
Although Mikel played all through the 90 minutes of the match against Stoke, which ended in a 0-0 draw, Shittu said the 24-year-old player is “totally devastated”.
Nigeria has seen a surge of ransom kidnappings in recent years, but the incidents have been concentrated in the states of the Niger Delta and the south-eastern zone. On 5 July 2008, Norum Yobo, older brother of the Everton defender Joseph Yobo, was snatched at gunpoint with three other men as they made their way home from a nightclub in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. They were released after 12 days in captivity. It was never certain if any ransom was paid to the kidnappers, or how much.
[THIS REPORT WILL BE UPDATED AS FURTHER CONFIRMATION AND MORE INFORMATION BECOME AVAILABLE].