…Kidnappers reportedly demand US$40m ransom
July 4, 2016 By Victoria Saffa
The fate of Retired Major-General Claude Nelson-Williams still remains unclear, three days after he was reportedly kidnapped in Nigeria.
The former Chief of Defence Staff of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and current Sierra Leone Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria was reportedly abducted along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway by unknown armed men in the early hours of Friday, 1 July, 2016.
Reports monitored from Nigeria say his kidnappers immediately made contact with officials of the Sierra Leone High Commission in Abuja and demanded ransom of US$40m before he could be released.
He was said to be on his way to attend a graduation ceremony at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji, Kaduna.
A press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation confirmed that the envoy was on his way to a military graduation ceremony in Kaduna when he was kidnapped, adding that the Nigeria Government has assured the Government of Sierra Leone that they would do everything in their power to ensure the safe return of the Deputy High Commissioner.
No reason has been given for the kidnap, which according to sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the first involving a Sierra Leonean diplomat since the country gained independence in 1961.
However, it is highly likely that the motive is pecuniary as the kidnappers have reportedly asked for a colossal ransom.
Nigerian newspaper Punch quoted Director of Public Affairs Communication in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria, Clement Aduku, to have said that a Note Verbale from the Sierra Leonean High Commission in Abuja had notified them about the incident.
The newspaper also stated that a retired Commissioner of Police in Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, likened the abduction to an attack on Sierra Leone, and described the incident as very bad and unfortunate.
Tsav was quoted to have said, “The abduction of the diplomat is akin to an attack on Sierra Leone. This is very bad and our security agencies must deploy all necessary intelligence units and ensure that they rescue the envoy alive; this is not good for Nigeria at all.”
The respected newspaper further quoted a security analyst, Ben Okezie, who urged that the Nigerian police and military intelligence be drafted into the rescue operation to ensure the Sierra Leonean envoy is released alive.
He said the abduction would give Nigeria a very bad reputation in the international scene and that the incident would also scare away investors from the country.
A Note Verbale from the Nigerian High Commission in Sierra Leone to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Freetown “apologise” on behalf of their government for the kidnap of the Deputy High Commissioner.
The statement reads: “Be rest assured that the Federal Republic of Nigeria is taking this unfortunate development; a first in our country’s diplomatic community, very seriously. Nigeria it must be reiterated is resolved to most urgently resolve this matter.”
Kidnapping is not a strange incident in Nigeria, where politicians and their relatives, celebrities and their parents are often the target, with the motive most times being economic.
Just last week, three Australians, two Nigerians, a New Zealander and a South African were attacked while traveling in a convoy with armed police officers in Calabar, Cross Rivers State.
The incident saw the death of a Nigerian driver, while five of the hostages were injured. The victims were all workers of an Australian construction company, reports This Day newspaper.