Official: Police rescue Nigerian journalists held captive in country’s southern delta

By Bashir Adigun, AP
Sunday, July 18, 2010

Police rescue kidnapped Nigerian journalists

ABUJA, Nigeria — Police rescued Sunday four Nigerian journalists who had been kidnapped in the country’s volatile, oil-rich southern delta a week ago, officials said.

The reporters were rescued from the bush early Sunday, said Anthony Agbazuere, the spokesman for the governor of Abia state where the journalists were being held.

Agbazuere declined to give more details.

The reporters were not injured during the rescue and it is unclear what happened to the kidnappers, said Mohammed Garba, the president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists.

Garba said he did not know what prompted the police action but said the government might have been responding to public pressure.

“If you look at the level of condemnation from the public and the media, it was becoming an embarrassment to the government. So I think the government has to be very serious about it,” Garba told The Associated Press.

He said the four journalists are on their way to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

Later Sunday, the Abia state government announced it had arrested a traditional ruler of the area where the journalists were held for involvement in kidnapping and armed robbery there — but not specifically for the reporters’ abduction.

The Abia government also said it had suspended three other traditional rulers in the state and was investigating their roles in kidnappings.

Last week, Nigeria’s Information Minister Dora Akunyili identified the kidnapped journalists as Wahab Obba, chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists; Adolphus Okonkwo, an area secretary for the union; Sylvester Okere, secretary for the Lagos state council; and Sola Oyeyipo, a Lagos-based journalist.

Gunmen seized the journalists July 11 from a bus they were traveling in. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of $1.67 million, which they later reduced to $198,675.

Attacks on journalists are not uncommon in Nigeria. But kidnappings of local journalists are rare, as many are paid only low wages.

(This version CORRECTS date of abduction to July 11, instead of July 12.)

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