The kidnappers of John Obi Mikel’s father have demanded a “sizeable” ransom for his release, the Chelsea midfielder’s representatives confirmed in a statement yesterday.
The Sport Entertainment and Media Group (SEM), however, denied reports that the gang were seeking an ￡80,000 (US$132,000) pay-off for the release of Michael Obi, who was snatched in Nigeria last week.
“SEM advises that reports from Nigeria of an ￡80,000 ransom demand for the return of John Obi Mikel’s father is not true,” SEM said in a statement.
“We confirm that Michael Obi has been abducted and that the kidnappers have been in touch with the family and representatives of the family and that discussions for Michael’s safe release have begun. A sizeable demand has been made,” SEM said.
“Mikel would like to thank his family, friends, Chelsea FC and his agents for their support and, at this time, it is Mikel’s intention to play for Chelsea this weekend, encouraged by his family to do so,” it said.
Nigerian police said on Wednesday they had recovered Obi’s car but the kidnapped man’s whereabouts remained unknown.
Michael Obi has not been seen since Friday when he failed to return home from work at his transport company in Jos.
The 24-year-old midfielder pleaded on Monday for his father’s kidnappers to free him, begging: “Please just let him go.”
Jos has seen clashes between Christian and Muslim groups, but kidnappings have not been known to occur there.
Scores of abductions have taken place in the oil-producing Niger Delta region in the country’s south by criminal gangs seeking ransom payments or militants claiming to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue.