The former Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, and his driver were kidnapped by gunmen on 24 December 2013, but released unharmed later that day after he convinced his captors he had no money to pay a ransom.
Press reports from Nigeria have offered a confused account of the archbishop’s ordeal, variously stating a daughter of the archbishop was also taken, that the archbishop was freed after a gun battle between police and kidnappers, and that the police rescue team was led by the Ogun state governor.
What can be established so far is that at approximately 3:00 pm on the afternoon of Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013, the retired leader of the Anglican Communion’s largest province left the offices of the Peter Akinola Foundation Centre for Youth Industrial Training in Abeokuta, the capital of Western Nigeria’s Ogun State.
Shortly after his driver pulled onto the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a car carrying four gunmen cut off the archbishop’s Toyota Primera and fired pistols into the air. The archbishop and his driver were pulled from the car and then forced to lie face down on the floor of the back seat as one of the kidnappers held them at gunpoint while another took the wheel of the car.
The car was driven west towards Nigeria’s border with Benin while the bandit who held the archbishop at gunpoint demanded a ransom payment for his safe release. Archbishop Akinola told the bandits he was a retired clergyman and could not pay their demands.
The kidnappers stopped in a deserted area near the Benin border and searched the car and the archbishop for money. Frustrated at not finding a hidden stash of cash, the kidnappers then released the archbishop and his driver.
In a Christmas Day interview with the Premium Times, Archbishop Akinola said after the bandits’ fruitless search for hidden valuables , “the gang then asked us to go into different directions into the bush.”
“I took to the right hand side, while my driver took to the left hand side, and we had to use our hands to clear the bush, while the gang later left with the car. I just kept praying for safety,” he said.
The archbishop made his way through the bush to a road where he “saw a police vehicle coming and there were gunshots, and the police team later came to rescue me from the spot.”
The archbishop had high praise for the police and for Governor Ibikunle Amosun. “I have to praise them, and I appreciate the governor who left his work to the bush looking for us. It’s unprecedented for a governor to personally lead a team into the bush. He risked his life and yet he didn’t mind that. I’ am deeply touched and impressed,” he told the Premium Times.
In September 2013 the Dean of the Church of Nigeria and archbishop of the Niger Delta Province, the Most. Rev. Ignatius Kattey and his wife were kidnapped as they were driving their car to Port Harcourt in Southeastern Nigeria. The two were released unharmed as police closed in on their kidnappers also.
In September 2010, the Bishop of Ngbo, the Rt. Rev. Christian Ebisike was stopped at a roadblock as he was driving to Owerri. The next day the bishop was released by his abductors on the Ontisha – Owerri road. It is not known if a ransom was paid.
On 24 Jan 2010 the Rt. Rev. Peter Imasuen, Bishop of Benin was also kidnapped at his home in Benin City, the capital of Edo State in Southern Nigeria.
Bishop Imasuen was abducted by armed gunmen who followed home after Sunday services at St Matthew’s Cathedral. As his car entered the walled compound of his home, bandits forced their way inside, overpowering a watchman. The bishop was bundled into a car by gunmen and driven away. A ransom of £200,000 was demanded, and the bishop was released unharmed four days later.
The Church of Nigeria was quick to report the news of the abduction. Shortly after word of Archbishop Akinola’s kidnapping was received in Abuja, the Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh released a statement urging prayers for the safety of Archbishop. Past kidnappings had been met with silence by the church in the belief that publicity would spur further crimes or harm the captive clerics.