The kidnapped father of Nigerian footballer John Obi Mikel, who plays for English side Chelsea, has been freed in a police raid in the north of the country after being held for 10 days.
Federal police said on Monday that Michael Obi was freed after detectives traced him to Kano, the largest city in Nigeria’s north and hundreds of kilometres away from where the abduction took place. Police said no ransom had been paid.
Obi, appearing worn and with bruises under his nose, described the August 12 kidnapping in the central city of Jos, where he runs a transport company, and said he had been beaten.
By his account, a military-style van overtook him and blocked his way as he was driving home from work. Two men in military uniform jumped out and asked him to follow them, Obi said, speaking at the police headquarters.
“They forcefully pushed me into the van and when I asked them where we were going to, they said I should wait and see,” he said.
“They wound up the window so nobody could hear me even if I had screamed. They beat me to a pulp and only stopped when I became very weak.”
He said they sought a ransom of 10 million naira ($64,000) and eventually drove him to Kano, hundreds of kilometres away from Jos.
Two of those arrested who were allowed to speak to journalists said they had not kidnapped Obi.
Obi’s son, Mikel, said he had received a ransom demand for the return of his kidnapped father in the days prior to the police rescue.
His management company, Sport Entertainment & Media Group, said in a statement that reports in Nigeria of a $130,000 demand were inaccurate but that a “sizable” sum had been requested.
Beatings by captors
Speaking at a press conference at a police station in Kano, about 1,150km from the country’s commercial capital, Lagos, Obi said he was taken deep into the bush.
“I started begging them, yet they beat me mercilessly, kicking me,” he said, adding that the five kidnappers were dressed in military uniforms.
“They pushed me into a vehicle painted in military [colours] and began to drive very fast.”
Ibrahim Idris, Kano state police commissioner, identified the kidnappers as five men, including a former police officer, and a woman.
The accused did not immediately have a lawyer and remained largely silent as police showed them to journalists.
In a statement, Mikel thanked Nigerians, his family and friends, Chelsea and their fans and his agents for their support during the kidnapping of his father.