Two footballers – Super Eagles forward Dayo Ojo and Abia Comets’ Benjamin Iluyomade – have been kidnapped while driving on the Benin-Owo expressway.
The pair were travelling from Akure on a break, as the Nigerian league is currently suspended amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
A team-mate of Ojo’s from his club side Enyimba, Emmanuel James, was also in the car, but escaped.
Ojo represented Nigeria at senior level at the 2018 African Nations Championship, and at youth level with the U-17 in 2010.
He is a long-term member of NPFL side Sunshine Stars, famously reaching the CAF Champions League semi-finals in 2012 before joining Enyimba in 2019.
The news of the kidnapping came just hours after the death in a car crash of two footballers from Rangers International – Emmanuel Ogbu and Ifeanyi George, who was also a Super Eagles player.
This is the first kidnapping case in the league since former coach of Northern club side Katsina United, Abdullahi Biffo, was captured and released in January 2019.
Bordeaux winger Samuel Kalu‘s was the latest Super Eagles player caught up in a case, when his mother was released six days after being kidnapped in March 2019.
Former National team coach Samson Siasia also had his mother held in captivity for ten weeks before she was released.
Kidnapping has been a nagging security concern for Nigeria as authorities announced that 685 cases were recorded in the first three months in 2019.
Statement from Enyimba FC
“Enyimba Football Club can announce that midfielder Ekundayo Ojo has been abducted by gunmen along the Benin-Owo expressway.
The incident occurred on Sunday, March 22 as the player journeyed to Akure to observe a break following the suspension of the Nigeria Professional Football League amid concerns over the global pandemic, Covid-19.
Ojo was in the company of Enyimba teammate Emmanuel James, as well as Benjamin Iluyomade, also a professional footballer. While James escaped the attack, Iluyomade was captured alongside Ojo.
Enyimba FC has since maintained close contact with Ojo’s family, as efforts are already in place to ensure the player’s release from his abductors.
At this time, and considering the sensitivity of the incident, Enyimba Football Club wishes to call on members of the media to refrain from reports or speculations capable of jeopardising the player’s safety.
Ojo’s family also wishes to appeal for privacy while enjoining the general public to pray for the safety and freedom of the player.”