Were Mikel John Obi and his family kidnap targets in Nigeria?

Jack Beresford:

On August 12th 2011, the Chelsea star’s management company, SEM, put out a statement that his father, Michael Obi, who runs an inter-state transport company in the city of Jos, capital of Nigeria’s Plateau state, was missing presumed abducted.

He had failed to return home from work on a Friday and had not been seen or heard during the following four days, despite calls to his mobile telephone.

No ransom demands had been made by the Monday morning, the management company revealed.

In an emotional appeal for the safe return of his father Mikel told Sky Sports News that evening: “I’ve always tried to help the country, this is the time for the country to help me, whoever knows where my dad is should please contact me.”

Mikel was told about the abduction before the previous day’s Premier League match against Stoke City, but elected to play. “I said I would like to play, I wouldn’t want to let the club down and if I didn’t play that game I think my mum would be very sad, she told me to go out there and be strong and make sure I do well in the game,” he said.

SEM said no ransom demand had yet been received but Mikel admitted his father’s kidnappers would almost certainly know who he was. “I think they do know, my family have lived there all their lives so they will know who he is and who I am,” the star said.

Whilst kidnapping is rife in the oil rich east of Nigeria, it is relatively uncommon in the north, where his family lives. “This happens a lot in the eastern part of Nigeria but my dad would probably be the first this has happened to in the northern part which is a very safe place, this is very rare and is surprising everyone.”

Mikel’s club Chelsea put out an official statement supporting the player. “Chelsea Football Club was very concerned to hear that John Mikel Obi’s father has been reported as missing and possibly abducted. We will give Mikel and his family our full support at this most difficult time,” it said.

Ten days after going missing, Michael Obi was found alive on 22 August, 2011, in the Nigerian city of Kano. His abductors were reported to be in police custody.

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