Nigerian police search for kidnappers of prelate freed after ransom

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian police said on Friday they are still looking for suspects in the kidnapping of the leader of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, who was freed on a 100 million naira ransom ( $240,600).

Samuel Kanu Uche was released on Monday, a day after he was abducted from Abia, southeastern Nigeria, the Christian Association of Nigeria said.

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

“When the incident happened, police officers were deployed to this area and so far 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 during a briefing in Lagos this week.

“These people came out of the bush,” Uche said. “They divided into three places; some people were in the back, some in the middle and there was another group in front to make sure we didn’t run away. They fired on our vehicles and finally abducted three of us.

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

Uche criticized the government for the country’s deteriorating security which allowed the kidnappers to thrive.

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

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

Federal authorities in Nigeria have been trying to stop kidnappings for some time, most recently through legislation prohibiting ransoms. The country’s Senate said it would “replace not only the security situation in Nigeria, but also the economic fortunes of our country.”

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

The prelate’s abduction has raised new concerns about deteriorating security in Nigeria, as there are widespread kidnappings and military fighting, a decade-long extremist insurgency in the northeast and widespread banditry in the North-west.

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