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Kidnap Saga: Deputy High Commissioner ‘received hale and hearty’

July 7, 2016 By Alusine Sesay

Sierra Leone’s Deputy High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Retired Major General Claude Nelson-Williams was on Tuesday, 5 July, 2016 released by his kidnappers after spending five days in captivity, according to Presidential Spokesperson, Abdulai Bayraytay.

“I want to make it official that the Deputy High Commissioner has been released and he is now at the Sierra Leone High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria. He has been received hale and hearty and he is in constant touch with the government and his family,” Bayraytay.

The Deputy High Commission was kidnapped while on his way to attend a military graduation in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria which is about two and half drive.

His kidnapping was announced on Friday, 1 July by the Government of Sierra Leone.

“So sad to report that Sierra Leone Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria Rtd. Major General Nelson Williams has been kidnapped in Nigeria. Our Embassy sources in Nigeria confirmed this. He has been kidnapped sometime on Thursday, 30th June, 2016. He left the Sierra Leone Mission in the Federal Capital of Abuja and went to attend a military graduation ceremony in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria.”

It was, however, rumoured that the kidnappers demanded US$40 million ransom before they could release the High Commission, but government officials in Freetown could not comment as to whether any ransom was paid to secure his release.

Meanwhile, a security official in Kaduna, Yusuf Yakubu Soja, was quoted by the French News Agency, AFP, to have said that they were doing all they could to secure the release of the High Commissioner but that he was unaware of any ransom demand.

“We are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the kidnap. We want to establish whether he had security escorts with him and what happened to them,” Soja said, adding: “I’m not aware of any ransom demand,”

Also, according to the Guardian Newspaper from Nigeria, former Governor of Kaduna State and Opposition Parties’ leader, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, condemned the kidnap of the Deputy High Commissioner and urged the Federal Government to immediately curb the rate of insecurity in the nation, particularly kidnapping, as the phenomenon has now been internationalised.

Condemning the abduction of the envoy along the Kaduna-Abuja highway, Alhaji Musa described it is an embarrassment to Nigeria, as “the war against insecurity seems not to be working.”

Earlier, the Nigerian government assured the government of Sierra Leone that it was doing everything possible to ensure the Deputy High Commissioner’s safe return.

The Government of Sierra Leone, while maintaining a constant touch with the High Commission in Abuja and family of the Deputy High Commissioner in Freetown, dispatched a high-level delegation to Nigeria led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, for the purpose of pursuing collaborative efforts with the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in resolving the problem.

The identity of the kidnappers was not revealed as at press time and government officials could not digress on how he was released – whether it was done by some kind of a rescue operation, negotiation or through other means.

“The most important and sweetest news is that our Deputy High Commissioner has been released and other details would be communicated to you later. We have not received any correspondence with regards ransom,” said Information Minister Mohamed Bangura.

On the current state and status of diplomatic and bilateral relationship between the two countries, Bangura said: “The incident has in no way affected diplomatic relationship with Nigeria. Nigeria has all it takes to protect our diplomats and we still believe the country still has the competence to protect our diplomats.”

It was however not disclosed as to whether the Deputy High Commissioner would be withdrawn after the unfortunate ordeal with kidnappers, which lasted for five days.

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