Day: January 18, 2018

The Rise And Fall Of Rivers State Kingpin: Don Waney Unmasked

• Inside story Ejima Igwedibia (alias Don Waney), the Rivers State-based oil bunkerer, cult leader, serial killer and kidnap kingpin
• How he made N20m a day from crude oil sale

 

 

 

Don Waney’s name evokes the same fear that the mention of the names of Oyenusi, Anini, Osisikankwu, and lately, Evans, used to elicit in the minds of people. While he lived, he was the lord of the manor who dared to walk where angels feared to tread. It is not every time that you see or hear of bullet-riddled bodies of a big-time criminal being displayed like a trophy, for the viewing of members of the public. But Waney’s own and two of his crime partners had to be displayed recently by men and officers of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, ostensibly in a bid to reassure the public that there is no more cause for alarm over the trajectory their criminal activities had assumed. Long before the 34-year-old kidnap kingpin from Ogba/Egbema /Ndoni Local Government Area, ONELGA of Rivers State, became something of an unmitigated menace to the society, he used to be known as Ejima (Twin) Igwedibia (a name which translates as “Strong Native Doctor”).

Dimension of his criminal activities

Waney, a member of a Niger Delta militant group in the Orashi region of the state, used to be a hitman of Chiboy (one-time leader of Orashi Marine) in Ahoada East Local Government Area. Sources said he became very powerful after masterminding the murder of the Orashi region militant leader, Chiboy, in a fiendish powerplay.

At 26 years, he later took over the entire structure of the militant group and began to run its affairs from his Aligu village. With time, he became very popular and extremely powerful. He demanded and got the loyalty of almost everyone: traditional rulers, religious leaders, youth groups, politicians and multinational oil companies. Accusing fingers pointed at him as the mastermind of the killings, kidnappings and beheadings that went on daily in the Orashi region, a that worsened during the 2015 general elections. When in 2016 he reportedly accepted an offer of amnesty from the state government, Don Waney had debunked all the allegations of killing, kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, cultism and oil-bunkering carried out on the area levelled against him. He had in turn accused multinational oil firms operating in ONELGA of being behind the security challenges experienced by the public. He also accused politicians of causing stunted development in the council. And he pledged to work with the government if it (government) would be sincere. He (together with his gang) was among the militants and cultists that accepted the state government amnesty. Shortly after doing so, he was conferred with a chieftaincy title. And, indeed, for some months, he seemed to have truly sheathed his sword of killings and sundry atrocities. For instance, when in 2017 his mother was abducted and later freed after some days, he vowed that no amount of temptation by his opponents would make him return to his old ways.

Bio-data of the crime kingpin

The man whose real name is Prince Ejima Igwedibia was born in 1983 the first child of the family of Igwedibia in Aligu Community of Omoku, headquarters of Ogba /Egbema /Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA). One of his siblings, a younger brother, is also a member of his gang, a deadly fellow who goes by the name “Obataosu” (literarily translated as “one who causes trouble the moment he walks into a gathering or scene”). Waney, once a student of Community Secondary School, Obigwe in ONELGA, dropped out in Class 3. Thereafter, he followed the path and to mix up with bad gangs.

Mystical powers

Saturday Sun learnt of the strained relationship between Don Waney and his father. It was common knowledge in the community that the reason for the discord was his father’s refusal to support his nefarious activities. In contrast, the same cannot be said of his mother, who, as the rumour goes, introduced him to witchcraft and approved of his criminal venture, her support so absolute she not only lived with him in his mansion but also took charge of the gang’s shopping. Multiple sources claimed she used to buy foodstuffs and needful items for the gang and always went about accompanied by heavily armed men. She lived with him until the military raid on the camp on Tuesday, November 17, 2017. Sources claimed the ‘prince’ attached to his name did not mean he was from a royal family. Rather, the appellate came from his notoriety as a gang leader. Involvement with bad groups, and operations.

After abandoning school and education, Don Waney started his crime career with domestic stealing. Thereafter, he joined cult groups and quickly rose through the ranks courtesy of his viciousness. He graduated from cultism to kidnapping and later became the leader of a gang of kidnappers, the notorious Iceland cult. At a point, politicians became interested in him and he was hired, from time to time for dirty jobs, by the highest bidder. Investigations showed that while he worked in cahoots with unscrupulous politicians, his main job remained kidnapping, bunkering and dealings with multinational oil firms in the local government area.

Group’s emblem

Waney operated like a true gang leader. His gang often dressed in military camouflages, making it almost difficult for a novice to distinguish the difference between them and regular troops of the Nigerian Army. The major difference was in the insignia on their red berets––two guns crossed at a point with a human skull at the centre. Their stronghold was the Orashi River. Some time ago, he told journalists his main camp was across the Orashi River.

How he made his money

While he was alive, he was patronised by multinational oil companies and politicians. Notwithstanding, several sources agreed that he made the bulk of his money from kidnapping long ago before finding his way into the plum niche of multinational oil companies. From one of the oil companies in the area, he got steady incentives like employment slots, contracts and pipeline surveillance. At a point, he went into crude oil bunkering, and reportedly made a lot of money running into millions of dollars. That made him not only stupendously rich but also influential. In the course of time, he became lawless. With the huge chest of money at his disposal, he was able to buy the loyalty of some members of Nigerian security agencies. Several sources alleged that security agencies gave him coverage in his bunkering business. His romance with security agents yielded millions of naira, with a significant portion of his plunder dispensed as largesse that oiled the protection machinery. “He became untouchable based on the huge amount of money he made from bunkering and kidnapping,” a source told Saturday Sun. “He was a warlord.” According to some residents of Omoku and neighbouring communities, Waney’s reign of terror lasted for approximately seven years.

Marriage and family life

Saturday Sun gathered that the slain kingpin had two young wives; the first wife, from Omoku, the daughter of a third-class traditional ruler; the second wife, an Igbo and an undergraduate, who lived in Dubai with her two children.

 

The raid and its repercussion On Tuesday, November 21, 2017, the Nigerian Army raided his palatial home, following the murder of some members of ONELGA Security, Peace and Advisory Committee (OSPAC) by his gang, in a deadly gunfight. Then General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division Port Harcourt, Major General Eneobong Udoh, accompanied by other security chiefs, conducted selected journalists round the Waney den, located in Aligu community. The compound had two steel gates. It took an armoured tank and bulldozers to break them. On the fence of the compound were four dwarf gates that served dual purposes as lookout points and escape routes. One of the exit gates led directly to the Orashi River, where speedboats were on standby to ferry Waney and his gang members away in times of trouble.

Deadly German Shepherd dogs––most of them were killed during the raid––also formed part of his security. His home was a nest of luxury––mini football pitch, lawn tennis and basketball courts, Olympic-size swimming pool, a warehouse of a large amount of foodstuffs and assorted alcoholic drinks, mostly beer. There was, however, a dark side to the palatial home that had a functional fountain, that was a five feet tall double-headed lion statue. During the demolition, human skeletons were unearthed from beneath the edifice. A shrine outside the building was surrounded by shallow graves that harboured decomposing human corpses that were exhumed for journalists to see. Eleven human skulls were recovered from the shrine. Other items included assorted weapons, dynamites, bags of cannabis, military camouflage uniforms, boots and radio communication gadgets. After the raid, the people of Omoku took to the streets in jubilation for the liberation of the town from the stranglehold of Dagon. They mistakenly assumed him to be dead. The joy was short-lived. The sequence of the event did not go down well with Don Waney and his gang, and this according to the Nigerian Army, was what led to the bloodshed that ended in the massacre of 22 innocent individuals on New Year’s Eve. The victims––old, young, male and female––all dispatched by bullets as they returned home after the watch night service.

Don Waney’s last statement

Five days after the carnage, Don Waney spoke from his hideout, denying links to the massacre: “I have been complaining about what the Local Government Chairman is doing in ONELGA. He is recruiting cult boys to join OSPAC so that they can kill other cult people. “Many times, they had provoked me. They kidnapped my mother and later went about killing my boys, one by one. I notified the police about what they were doing to me. I told them that I have embraced the amnesty but OSPAC people are still treating me like a cultist. They even came to my house and shot at me. They thought I was dead. But, I surprised them, because, like Jesus Christ, I have resurrected again. Nobody can kill me.” Those were said to be his last words before he was killed alongside two others in a suburb of Enugu. A statement from the Army gave a blow-by-blow account of his Waterloo. “The authorities of 6 Division Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt wish to inform the peace-loving people of Omoku in ONELGA in particular, Rivers State and, indeed, the entire good people of Niger Delta, that the notorious cult leader, kidnap kingpin and mass murderer, Don Waney is dead. Intense surveillance activities on him and his gang by the Department of State Services (DSS) Rivers State Command, revealed that after committing these atrocities he relocated to a neighbourhood within Enugu Town, in Enugu State, where he rented an apartment and started living among unsuspecting neighbours within the community. “From the relative safety of his newly-rented apartment, Don Waney was already perfecting plans to wrought another mayhem in Omoku in which he was to attack churches, schools, Army and Police locations and the residence of the generality of the already traumatized people of Omoku.

“However, following a successful location of his new Enugu neighbourhood hideout by the DSS Rivers State Command, a combined team of troops of 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Enugu, and personnel of DSS Rivers State Command raided the hideout to arrest him and his other accomplices. “Incidentally, on sensing that the combined team were closing in on his residence, Don Waney, his second-in-command (Ikechukwu Adiele) and another gang member (Lucky Ode) attempted to escape through the back exit of the apartment and were shot down by the eagle-eyed troops in the process. One of them died on the spot while the other two who sustained gunshot wounds eventually died while being evacuated for medical attention.” On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, his multi-million naira estate was demolished on the orders of the Federal Government. The demolition started in the morning and ended before noon, the operation carried out by heavily-armed security operatives.

The estate, located in a lush part of Aligu community, had eight fully furnished and lavishly built bungalows and a mansion sitting atop ten plots of land. Visitors would have to cross four major checkpoints manned by heavily armed men before getting to the main building. Each of the checkpoints is manned by soldiers standing or sitting behind General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) and hidden away by bags of sand used as barricades, from the view of passersby and onlookers. He is said to have property also Enugu, Calabar, Asaba and in Dubai.

Rivers Govt. identifies corpse

Special Adviser to Governor Nyesom Wike on Amnesty Matters, Sir Ken Chinda, visited the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, during the display of the remains of the criminals for public view. Chinda, who chaired the State Amnesty programme that promised amnesty for the warlord and his boys on October 5, 2016, regretted that Waney acted the part of the proverbial stubborn fly that followed the corpse to the grave. “When we had the interface, we told them that the amnesty is not a cover; that, if they go against the terms of the amnesty, they will face the law,” Chinda said. “We are happy and commend the gallantry Army and its sister agencies.

Nobody, who has accepted amnesty, should go back to crime. We will continue to have zero tolerance for criminality and cultism. With the development, there will be total peace in ONELGA now.” Role of local vigilance group, OSPAC ONELGA Security, Peace and Advisory Committee (OSPAC), played a pivotal role in bringing down Don Waney. The local vigilance group, the brainchild of the council’s caretaker committee chairman, Barr. Osi Olisa was set up to tackle security challenges, which had overwhelmed the LGA for several years.

Saturday Sun learnt that some members of the group were former members of Don Waney’s gang and as such, were able to confront him because they knew how notorious he was. Don Waney, had tried to eliminate the threat posed by the vigilance group, by waging an incessant war against the outfit, had some of its members killed at will and once launched a personal attack on Olisa. OSPAC, led by Maxwell Ahiakwo, an “Associate Professor of Mysticism” launched an audacious counterattack against Don Waney on November 19, 2017, in conjunction with personnel of the Joint Military Task Force and the Department of State Service (DSS).

Like a ghost that defies death, Waney escaped the attack though with bullet wounds while 11 members of his gang were killed in the ensued fierce gun battle. The army took over his property after the raid. Reaction of a bereaved husband His death continues to evoke a sigh of relief from relatives of the New Year killings. While his death cannot bring back to life scores of victims he dispatched to their early graves, their relatives are nonetheless happy all the same, if not for anything but for the end of his inglorious reign. Bright Nwokocha, who lost his wife, Joy, in the 2018 New Year massacre is still brimming with resentment. “They killed my wife and shot my daughter and they thought it will be well with them?” he asked rhetorically. “Their punishment has just begun. We all need peace and God will ensure that the blood of my wife and those of other innocent persons murdered are accounted for and bring peace to ONELGA.” Return home, ONELGA boss begs fleeing indigenes.

The caretaker chairman of ONELGA, Barr. Olisa in an interview with Saturday Sun implored natives who had fled their homes in terror to return home. “What has happened is a demonstration of the commitment of the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, to the security of the state,” he insisted “With the killing of the cultist, we can now face development. The people of Omoku are now celebrating.” He went on: “The major challenge we are facing outside this insecurity (which has been taken care of) is the issue of unemployment. When youths are not engaged they join cults, that is what resulted in the challenge we had. We will work to remove the youths from the streets so we will not go back to this situation.” Olisa also disclosed that OSPAC, would be reformed, adding that the main cause of security lapses in the locale has been exterminated. “OSPAC is part of the society and it has to grow along. But, it will be reformed. We will not remove it because we want to make ONELGA safe”, he added. Some ONELGA members who spoke to Saturday Sun, with a strict request not to have their names mentioned, observed that the late terror king made a fortune out of his criminal activities. Obi Nelson, a peace advocate gave a fuller portrait of the fallen criminal.

His summation of the “Rise and Fall of Don Waney” attributed reign to the roaring success of his criminal venture, the reason many boys, who did not have a job, quickly keyed into his criminal activities of kidnapping, oil bunkering and sundry violent crimes. Waney at his peak commanded numerous combatant “soldiers” armed with sophisticated arms and ammunition who could carry out heinous and devastating operations and go scot-free, Nelson said.

Nelson unravelled the conundrum further, with a claim that late kingpin once told him the source of his Don Waney nickname: a Jamaican action movie. “Aside the two goons gunned down alongside him, his other henchmen in Don Waney’s barrack, have been declared wanted as we speak.” Nelson warned that the deadliest member of the gang is still at large: Waney’s immediate younger brother, popularly known as Obataosu. “He knows quite well where they prepare their jazz (charms), the things used and how to go about the things needed for sacrifice,” said Nelson. According to him and other sources, Obataosu was the coordinator of the New Year Eve massacre across four communities in Omoku and its environs. Obataosu was aided in the crossover attack by King Kong, another dreaded member of the gang, who was shot dead in the Army-DSS joint operation.

Speaking further, Nelson said Don Waney went after political enemies, irrespective of party affiliation, especially those troubling or disobeying his orders. “He single-handedly chose who became youth leader or Community Development Committee Chairman, within and outside Omoku. Prominent politicians who could not withstand him fled Omoku and the LGA.

Those who could dance to his tune stayed. “Don Waney is a real don, a traditional ruler for that matter. In fact, he had already been given the title before he was said to have embraced the state government amnesty. His title was “Eze Onyirimba I” of Ogbaland. That title was given to him in 2016, not without regard to his antecedents. “While alive, he made millions of naira daily from multinational oil companies, from oil bunkering and was heavily being protected by security agencies. His products were sold to many filling stations. He made close to N20 million daily from oil bunkering. The kind of mayhem he perpetrated in ONELGA can never be healed because of most of the important persons he eliminated. He sent many families into perpetual hardship. So how can the wounds be healed?”

 

Story by The Sun

Prince William Spots New Shaven Hair Style On Royal Outing

The Duke of Cambridge sported a newly trimmed hairstyle as he visited a children’s hospital.

Prince William revealed the close-shaven style at the launch of the Step into Health programme at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital in Lambeth.

He opted for the military-style cut before meeting armed forces veterans working in the NHS.

Members of the Royal Family have been known to tease the 35-year-old about his receding hairline.

In 2014, the Duchess of Cambridge suggested a tuft of alpaca wool might be the perfect solution for her husband’s growing bald patch.

As they visited the Sydney Royal Easter Show, she was shown the wool, which was a similar shade of brown to the duke’s hair.

The duchess pointed to her husband’s head and said: “You need it more than me.”

Prince Harry has also been known to poke fun at his balding brother. While chatting to a World War Two veteran in Barbados in 2010, he said Prince William “was already bald aged 12”.

Step into Health is a programme that helps former members of the armed forces and their spouses or partners to take up careers in the NHS.

The Duke of CambridgeImage copyrightISTOCK
Image captionPrince William met patients at a central London children’s hospital
Prince WilliamImage copyrightTIM P. WHITBY/GETTY
Image captionThe 35-year-old royal has often been on the receiving of jibes from family members about his receding hairline
Prince WilliamImage copyrightLEWIS WHYLD/PA
Image captionIn 2008, the prince still boasted a reasonably full head of hair

BBC

UK Experiencing Worst Flu Outbreak In Years

The UK is experiencing its worst flu season since 2011, according to figures.

In England, the number of people visiting their doctor with flu has gone up by more than 150 per cent since the start of the year, analysis by the Royal College of GPs has found.

According to a story in The Evening Standard, an estimated 31,300 patients went to their GP practice with influenza-like-illness between January 8 and 14 – a increase of more than 9,000 on the previous week.

There were 17 further deaths from flu in the last week, taking the total number of flu-related deaths this winter to 120, the latest figures show.

Public Health England (PHE) also said there was an 11 per cent increase in the flu hospitalisation rate, along with a 42 per cent increase in the GP consultation rate with flu-like illness compared to the previous week.

Professor Paul Cosford, PHE medical director, said: “Our data continues to show that more people are visiting GPs with flu symptoms and we are seeing more people admitted to hospital with flu.

“In terms of hospital admission, this is the most significant flu season since the winter of 2010/11.”

Professor Simon de Lusignan, medical director at the Royal College’s Research and Surveillance Centre, added: “Unsurprisingly given what we’ve been hearing anecdotally from GPs, rates of influenza-like illness have risen again.

man-in-bed-with-the-man-flu__hero.jpg

“Whilst flu rates in primary care are still within what we term the ‘medium threshold’, the virus does seem to be affecting patients aged over 65 most, with rates moving into the ‘very high threshold’.

“As ever, flu is unpredictable so it remains impossible to speculate how rates will change in the coming weeks – they may increase further, they may level out or even decline.”

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have also seen increases.

Figures from Health Protection Scotland showed that 114 people per 100,000 of the Scottish population were reported as having a flu-like illness in the week ending January 14, up from 107 per 100,000 the week before.

Medical director of PHE, Professor Paul Cosford, said last week that doctors are seeing “a mix of flu types” as he told people it “is not too late” to get vaccinated.

They include a deadly strain of the virus, known as “Australian flu”, A(H3N2), which got its name after circulating in the UK last winter before spreading to Down Under.

The strain particularly affects older, more vulnerable age groups.

Meanwhile cold snap is expected to hit the north of England over the coming days, which NHS doctors say could lead to a further increase in illness.

NIGERIAN ELECTIONS: 2019 IS ROUND THE CORNER. LOOK OUT FOR THE SHITHEAD LEADERS

As the next Nigerian elections loom before us, every lying toad and reptile is tossing their hats into the political arena – salivating at the prospect of becoming a (dis)honourable governor, senator or minister and fleecing the already broke and battered country for every kobo or should I say billion they can get their fat, filthy, grubby fingers on.
 
When medically fit but racist, xenophobic, sexist, spasmodic American president Trump called African countries “shitholes” many of us reacted badly. We called and are still calling him all kind of names under the planet – and none of them nice or complimentary. But mad as a mad hatter that Trump might be, he can hardly be blamed for saying what many of us already know but are refusing to say, out of blind loyalty and allegiance to our party, friends in power and new aspirants or in some cases, out of a misplaced sense of patriotic outrage!
 
Our country, love her or loathe her, has been repeatedly raped, pillaged, looted, robbed, cheated by our so called “servants of the people”. Many of them have been raping and pillaging and looting and robbing and cheating Nigeria for decades and showing no signs or desire of stopping,  while new “servants” and even so called youths (many of them in their 40s) join to follow in their seniors’ footsteps – at every election.
2019-Nigeria-General-Election-Timetable-Is-Out.png

Ordinary Nigerians, New Aspirants and The Old Brigade

Prior to the elections, they will beg, grovel, look and speak nice, attend all community events, offer all kinds of favours, aids and helps to their supporters, promise heaven, earth and everything in-between – if they win at the elections. But as soon as they actually win, their doors are shut firmly behind them never to be seen again until the time for the next elections.
 
And within months of stepping into office – the sheer gigantic scale of the drastic reversal of fortunes of these “newbies” is enough to leave any head spinning. And the fortunes of their seniors get more and more gigantic by the day.
 
And this is while the fortunes of many ordinary Nigerians dwindle smaller and smaller by the day. Citizens suffer from every imaginable injustice at the hands of their own governments while their former neighbour turned senator suddenly becomes “Fatman Larry”, upgrades to Bentleys and private Jets, new mansions under construction, kids relocating abroad, wife becoming “WAG” due to the sudden makeover and change of wardrobe and starts wearing Brazilian hair, fake nails and false eyelashes; and pick side chicks in every city including London, New York, and Maryland.
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Nigerian surgeons operating with help of mobile phone torch lights
 

Nigeria a shithole….or not?

Many Nigerians – God knows just how – simply manage to survive with:
 
  • Unpaid salaries and allowances
  • Pensioners dying while waiting for pension – many years after retirement
  • No electricity even with enforced payment of electricity bills
  • Wells, streams and boreholes (for the rich) instead of tap water
  • Death trap roads
  • High food prices
  • High inflation
  • High fuel costs
  • Unaffordable housing
  • Unaffordable or unavailable childcare
  • Unaffordable or unavailable healthcare
  • Herdsmen killing
  • Armed robber killing
  • Terrorists killing
  • Kidnapping and abductions
  • Spousal killings
  • Daughters turning “runs chicks”
  • Sons turning fraudsters and kidnappers
  • Wives turning side chicks
  • Husbands turning ritualists
(last 4 all due to poverty)
  • Sprawling shopping malls that have become tourist centres and amusement parks – with little or no shopping being done except of course by the rich
  • Many schools resemble war zone buildings, in pathetic states of disrepair
  • Hospitals have become places to die rather than places to be treated
  • Doctors would rather go into politics than treat the sick
  • Lecturers will rather blackmail, bully and manipulate female students into having sex with them instead of actually teaching them
  • Policemen will rather fight with and shoot citizens than protect them
  • Religious leaders who will manipulate and bully their congregation into parting with their cash
 
(You are free to add your own point to this sorry list but I’m sure it is an endless one and you can make up your mind if indeed Nigerians are living in a shithole….or not)
 
Now there are new elections round the corner.
Nigerians are wondering what will be different – while a new breed of dishonourables will join the old brigade of dishonourables to become greedy partakers of the national fortune.
 
Shithed leaders of a desperate shithole nation.
 
But many will disagree with me and accuse me of generalising.
 
However, as far as I am concerned, every Nigerian political aspirant remains a SHITHOLE LEADER AND SHITHEAD (pardon my language) until proven otherwise.
 
And that will mean that you can vow, and stand by your vow not to:
 
**Offer, give, promise any monetary or gift incentive to ANYONE to support or vote for you.
 
**Intimidate or use anyone to intimidate others into supporting you or punish them for not supporting you
 
**Offer to take only half of your entitlements, salary and allowances for the duration of your tenure.
 
**Be prepared to fearlessly speak against your party policies and manifesto if you believe they are unfair and dishonest – yet still remain a faithful member of the party.
 
**Stand up for, protect and uphold the welfare and rights of your constituents
**Not send your kids, wife, yourself or any family member abroad for medical treatment or send your kids to school abroad – unless they are already residents in those countries
 
IF YOU CANNOT SEE YOURSELF DOING ANY OF THE ABOVE, THEN YOU ARE A THIEF AND A SHITHEAD LEADER. INTERESTED ONLY IN ADVANCING YOUR OWN AGENDA AND NOT THERE FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY
 
I dare you to prove me wrong.
 
BJ

Two Americans And Two Canadians Kidnapped In Kaduna Ambush

Two Americans and two Canadians have been kidnapped in an ambush in Kaduna state, northern Nigeria, in the latest abduction targeting foreigners.

State police spokesman Mukhtar Aliyu said that “unknown armed men” seized the four on the road to Abuja at 7pm local time on Tuesday.

“They engaged in a fierce gun battle with the two police escorts attached to the expatriates, who unfortunately lost their lives,” he added.

No further details were given and Aliyu said “every possible means” were being employed to rescue the four abductees and arrest the kidnappers.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Abuja said he had no comment to make when contacted by AFP. There was no immediate response from the Canadian high commission.

Kidnapping has long been a problem in Nigeria’s southern states, where high-profile individuals, including the families of prominent politicians, are frequently seized. Victims are usually released after several days once a ransom is paid.

In recent years the crime has spread across the country as the economy has stalled. A crackdown on cattle rustling has been blamed for rising numbers of abductions in the north.

In October last year, an armed gang seized four British missionaries working for a medical charity in the oil-rich but impoverished state of Delta in the south. One of the hostages was killed while the three other hostages were later released.

Also in October, the Vatican said an Italian priest was kidnapped near Benin City, the capital of Edo state, which borders Delta state to the north. He was also later released.

Last February, two German archaeologists from the Goethe University in Frankfurt were kidnapped from an excavation site in Kaduna state. The site was off the main road linking the airport north of the state capital, Kaduna city, with Abuja, 137 miles away. The pair were freed after several days.

Safety on the Kaduna-Abuja road came under intense scrutiny last year when the federal government announced the closure of the capital’s only airport for essential runway repairs.

The Guardian