Nigeria to release British boy, 13

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The Independent Online
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A 13-year-old British schoolboy who has been held captive for a month by the military government in Nigeria was due to be released last night.

The Nigerian authorities told the Foreign Office yesterday that they would free ohn-Paul Mokulou, who is believed to have been held hostage in an attempt to capture his father.

The teenager, who lives in London with his mother, was arrested last month while visiting his father and other relatives in the west African state. Family members in London were said to be happy at yesterday's announcement, but were anxious to see him back home in England.

Security forces raided the house he was visiting in Lagos on 23 April, apparently to seize his father, who is believed to be a cousin of the imprisoned former president Major-General Olusegun Obasanjo.

ohn-Paul was kept under arrest in a security service building on the outskirts of Lagos. At first, representatives from the British High Commission in Lagos reported that the boy was not being held captive, but after intervention by the Labour MP Glenda ackson, who represents ean-Paul, they made fresh attempts to locate him.

During ohn-Paul's captivity no British official was allowed to visit him and only his uncle was allowed to supply him with food and clothing. But the Foreign Office said that efforts by the deputy High Commissioner in Lagos had paid off yesterday when the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that he would be freed.

Foreign Office minister Baroness Chalker said: "I am delighted for ohn- Paul and his family that their ordeal will soon be over. This good news is thanks to the efforts of British officials in Nigeria."

Ms ackson added: "We are delighted. We just hope that he is immediately taken to the British High Commission for his safety and we hope that he will be brought home safely as soon as possible so he can be with his family and friends." She also thanked the Independent for first highlighting the case.

Ms ackson said the family had no reason to believe that ohn-Paul's father was a dissident.

"The present regime in Nigeria is neurotic as well as criminal, and they wanted to question this man. During a raid on his home he got away, but they got the boy. This is outrageous. He is a British citizen born in London, and I believe he had never been to Nigeria before."

The boy's mother, Christine Olukoya, left the family home on Wednesday to fly to Nigeria in an attempt to secure his release. She and the boy's uncle were at the High Commission yesterday when news of the announcement by the Nigerian authorities was broken to them.

Nigeria was suspended from membership of the Commonwealth in November and sanctions were voted against it following the hanging of human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others from the Ogoni tribe. Last month the Commonwealth agreed to tighten sanctions until General Sani Abacha's government showed greater respect for human rights.

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