A few hours to Christmas, unknown gunmen have kidnapped the retired primate of the Anglican Church, Peter Akinola, one of the most respected Christian leaders in Nigeria today.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the cleric and his driver were kidnapped in front of the main entrance of the Peter Akinola Foundation's Centre for Youth Industrial Training located along the Abeokuta-Lagos expressway at about 3 p.m.
Mr. Akinola established the centre to give vocational skills to unemployed youth without charge.
Sources said the clergy was returning from the youth training centre after inspecting some ongoing projects when the gunmen blocked his vehicle and started shooting sporadically into the air before forcefully whisking him and his driver away in an SUV.
The spokesperson of the Ogun State Police Command, Muyiwa Adejobi, confirmed the incident, saying the state Commissioner of Police, Ikemefuna Okoye, had ordered a manhunt for Mr. Akinola's abductors.
Mr. Adejobi however said it was too early to conclude that the incident was a kidnap.
"We are aware of the incident but it is too early to jump into conclusion that it is kidnapping," the police spokesperson said. "We were told that some armed men waylaid him and went away with his vehicle.
"But we have seen cases where armed men will steal a vehicle and go away with its owner or occupant for their own safety. Therefore, it's too early to draw the line that it is kidnapping.
"However, we have alerted our men. We have details of the vehicle. By God's grace, it won't be a sad situation. The primate will be safe. The CP (Commissioner of Police) and the Area Commander are out to make sure he is safe."
Mr. Adejobi urged members of the public to assist the command by volunteering information on the incident and other criminal activities in the state.
Meanwhile, a non-government organisation has called on the gunmen to release the cleric without delay.
Gbenga Gbesan of the Nigeria Association for Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NARCO), said, "We appeal for the immediate release of the revered Primate without any condition attached to it whatsoever".
Mr. Gbesan added that the Primate had always fought for the poor and downtrodden and that that was why he set up the Youth Industrial Training Centre to help unemployed youth to acquire skills to enable them live meaningful lives.
Archbishop Akinola, 69, was born in Abeokuta and was Anglican Primate of the Church of Nigeria. He was also Bishop of Abuja and Archbishop of Province III, which covered the northern and central parts of the country.
He is believed by many Nigerians to be one of the most effective and influential presidents in CAN's history.