Nigerian police seek abductors of prelate freed after ransom

Samuel Kanu Uche was freed after the ransom was paid into an account provided by the kidnappers.

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Nigeria’s police on Friday said they are still looking for suspects in the abduction of the head of the Methodist Church Nigeria who was freed in exchange for a ransom of 100 million naira ($240,600).

Samuel Kanu Uche was freed on Monday, a day after he was kidnapped in Abia in southeast Nigeria, the Christian Association of Nigeria said.

Counter-terror and regular police provide security at the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Kano, northern Nigeria Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis,File)

Security forces “are still looking out for the suspects” who abducted Uche, police spokesman Geoffrey Ogbonna said.

“When the incident happened, policemen were deployed to that area and up till now, they are still there,” the police spokesman said, adding that the prelate “went to Lagos as soon as he regained his freedom.”

The cleric described his abduction at a briefing in Lagos this week.

“These people came out from the bush,” Uche said. “They divided themselves into three places; some people were at the back, some were at the center and there was another group in front to make sure that we didn’t run away. They fired shots at our vehicles and they eventually abducted three of us.”

Uche was freed after the ransom was paid into an account provided by the kidnappers, he said. Police have denied knowledge of the ransom.

Uche criticized the government for the deterioration of the country’s security that has allowed kidnappers to flourish.

“The primary purpose of government is to secure lives and property. Any government that has failed in that has failed woefully,” Uche said after his release.

Nigeria’s kidnap-for-ransom business has seen more than $18 million in ransoms paid between 2011 and 2020, according to the Lagos-based SBM intelligence research firm.

Nigeria’s federal authorities have been trying to stop the abductions for some time, most recently through legislation to ban ransoms. The country’s Senate said it would “turn around not only the security situation in Nigeria but even the economic fortunes of our country.”

Earlier this month, federal authorities also barred calls from more than 70 million unregistered phone lines in an attempt to target kidnappers and make it difficult for them to contact the families of those held. But kidnappers have found a way to get around that measure, analysts say.

The prelate’s abduction prompted fresh concerns over Nigeria’s worsening security as there are numerous kidnappings and the military battles a decade-long extremist insurgency in the northeast and widespread banditry in the northwest.

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