Father of Chelsea footballer Mikel freed in Nigeria

The kidnapped father of Chelsea footballer John Obi Mikel was freed on Monday in a police raid in Nigeria, and he spoke of being beaten by men in military garb during the abduction.

Updated: August 23, 2011 10:16 IST
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Kano: The kidnapped father of Chelsea footballer John Obi Mikel was freed on Monday in a police raid in Nigeria, and he spoke of being beaten by men in military garb during the abduction.

The raid occurred in the city of Kano, the largest city in Nigeria's north and hundreds of kilometres away from where the abduction took place. Police said no ransom was paid.

"Obi was rescued and six suspects were arrested, five men and a woman," Kano state police commissioner Ibrahim Idris told journalists, speaking of Michael Obi. "Obi is here with us as you can see."

Idris said a suspect led police to the house where Obi was being held.

Police did not comment on whether legitimate soldiers were involved in the kidnapping, and none of the arrested suspects were members of the military. While describing the raid, Idris said that "his abductors were captured."

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.

A van in military colour overtook him and blocked his way as he was driving home from work, he said at the police headquarters. Two men in military uniform jumped out and asked him to follow them, according to Obi.

"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 pulp and only stopped when I became very weak."

He said they sought a ransom of 10 million naira ($64,000, 45,000 euros) 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.

One man who claimed to be an ex-policeman said he "was brought from Jos, where I was arrested in connection with the kidnapping. I made some contacts and they told me that the man was brought to Kano."

The man, Jacob Krombu, also said he had only heard about the kidnapping on the radio before his arrest.

Another suspect who said he was from the neighbouring country of Niger claimed he had been hired as a driver.

"I was only contracted by soldiers who told me to drive their four colleagues to Kano and I would be compensated later," Sule Ibrahim said.

In the days after the kidnapping, 24-year-old midfielder Mikel had pleaded with the abductors to free his father.

"All I can say is the country I'm from, Nigeria, I've always tried to help the country in every way that I can, playing for the country, serving the country," Mikel had said.

Mikel played the full 90 minutes in Chelsea's opening English Premier League match of the season, a 0-0 draw at Stoke City on August 14, despite being informed a day earlier that his father was missing.

His management company said he did not want to let down his family and his team.

Mikel is not the first Premier League player to have a family member go missing in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and the continent's largest oil producer.

In July 2008, the elder brother of Everton defender Joseph Yobo was kidnapped in the oil city of Port Harcourt, the capital of the southern Rivers State in the Niger Delta.

Nornu Yobo was released after 10 days but it was never made clear whether a ransom was paid.

Mikel has won the 2009-2010 Premier League title, three FA Cups and one League Cup with Chelsea.

The Chelsea number 12 was named the African young player of the year in 2005.

Jos has seen waves of clashes between Christian and Muslim ethnic groups that have left hundreds dead in recent years, but kidnappings have not been known to occur there.

Scores of abductions have taken place in the oil-producing Niger Delta region in the country's south by criminal gangs seeking ransom payments or militants claiming to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue.

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