Chelsea star's plea after father is kidnapped in Nigeria

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The Independent Online

Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel last night appealed for the release of his father, who has become the latest high-profile person to be abducted in a surge of kidnappings in Nigeria.

Michael Obi, a businessman in his fifties who runs a long-distance transport company, failed to return home from work on Friday in Jos, Plateau State.

Mikel, a Nigeria international, said: "I've always tried to help the country. This is the time for the country to help me." He pleaded on Sky Sports News: "Whoever knows where my dad is should please contact me."

The 24-year-old was informed of the abduction before Chelsea's goalless draw against Stoke City on Sunday. He said he had wanted to play to avoid disappointing his club and his mother.

Mikel's management company, Sport Entertainment & Media Group, said no ransom demand had been received. Plateau state police commissioner Dipo Ayeni confirmed the abduction and said a "crack force of detectives" had been put on the case.

Kidnappings have become increasingly common in eastern and southern Nigeria but are rare in northern Plateau State. The trend began more than 15 years ago when foreign workers for oil companies were targeted in the Niger Delta. More recently in southern Nigeria, prominent personalities and their relatives have become targets.

In the commercial capital, Lagos, some wealthy people travel in armoured cars or with security escorts.

In July 2008, Nornu Yobo, the elder brother of Everton defender Joseph Yobo, was seized in the oil city of Port Harcourt. He was released after 10 days. It is not known whether a ransom was paid.

Mikel admitted yesterday that he suspected his father's kidnapping is an extortion attempt. "I think they do know [who I am]. My family have lived there all their lives," he said.